House Of The Dead: Overkill – Extended Cut Review

by on November 8, 2011

House-of-the-Dead-Overkill-Extended-Cut-ReviewGame: House Of The Dead: Overkill – Extended Cut

Developer: Headstrong Games

Publisher: SEGA

Available on: PlayStation 3 only

Headstrong Games have brought their hit Wii title, House Of The Dead: Overkill to the HD realm of the PlayStation 3. The original game was an obscenity-laced slice of Grindhouse style, with a topping containing the schlock horror cheese that the House Of The Dead faithful is used to; resulting in a refreshingly different Wii title that remains one of the best titles on the system. It brought back the classic arcade lightgun gameplay from the 90s and added a sick sense of humour to proceedings; a homage to the previous House Of The Dead games,while dragging it kicking and screaming into modern times.

Now an Extended Cut version has arrived to take advantages of the PlayStation 3’s obvious technical advantages, boasting updated graphics and accurate Move controls. So in the spirit of House of the Dead it is time to find out if it is a mother-f*****g great game, or a fetid pile of s**t?

STORY: When you have a game where the boxart promises “More blood…More gore…More strippers…” it is pretty damn obvious that you aren’t going to be involved in an epic quest; but with House Of The Dead: Overkill, that’s kind of the point.

Serving as a prequel to the House Of The Dead lore (if you can call it that), the game centres around protagonists Isaac Washington and (HOTD mainstay) Agent G. Homicide Detective Washington is a badass muther-f***a, straight from your typical blaxsploitation movie and is as “superfly” as you can get; all guns blazing and F-Bombs flying, while AMS Operative Agent G is the straight man; all business and procedure.

HOTD Overkill - Flaming Mutant

There is little in the way of back-story and from the very first level you are thrown immediately into action, as Washington and G investigate a mansion owned by crime lord Papa Caesar. With the place overrun by zombies mutants, both of our heroes fight for their lives in order to taken Caesar down. On the way they meet Varla Gunns, a gun-toting stripper (think Cherry Darling from Planet Terror and you’ll get the idea). With all three heroes having their own reasons for taking Caesar down (Isaac & Varla; for revenge, Agent G his duty), what follows is a wonderfully mindless series of events, taking place in all sorts of stereotypical zombie mutant locations including; creepy carnivals, an abattoir and a hospital, amongst others.

The entire game is framed within a Grindhouse movie style premise (for more recent examples of this, check out Planet Terror & Machete), with each stage being an individual movie of sorts; complete with it’s own movie poster and a cheesy trailer voiceover at the beginning of each level. It’s a very unique premise and works very well within the House Of The Dead series, in that the narrative and dialogue is so bad that it’s entertaining.

This new Extended Cut version of the game features two new levels that weren’t in the original Wii version, centred around Varla Gunns and her (annoying) colleague Candi Stryper. These sequences add very little to an already threadbare narrative, but as said earlier; the story isn’t the part that draws you into the game, it’s the general premise.

GRAPHICS: Now to talk about the biggest improvement this Extended Cut has over the original; the dull coloured,  low-resolution Wii visuals have been upgraded to be more detailed and vibrant (and in HD). Don’t get me wrong, the original was one of the better looking Wii titles, but it suffered from terrible framerates and awful clipping issues.

HOTD Overkill - Hospital Exterior

This time around, Headstrong Games have made a brilliant effort to improve the visuals to take advantage of the PlayStation 3’s power. More detail has been put into the environment and assets, better lighting effects are added (making for a more vivid and visually interesting game) and the slowdown problems appear to be a thing of the past. I can honestly say that Extended Cut looks like an entirely new game compared to the original and Overkill’s zombies mutants have never looked so disgusting and putrid.

Speaking of putrid, what I always loved about the game was the enemy designs. Over the course of the game you are pitted against all manner of bosses; I don’t want to say too much about them, as part of the fun is recoiling in horror at the sheer grossness of these enemies. They’re both funny and disgusting at the same time, gradually getting more shocking as the game progresses.

While the majority of clipping issues from the Wii version have been fixed, there are still a few instances where enemies and objects appear out of nowhere, occasionally the game does tend to lack the polish of other titles, but this is just a mild annoyance rather than something that detracted from my enjoyment of the game.

The game does have a variety of options for 3D gaming too. The choices ranges from full 3DTV support, to old fashioned Anaglyphic 3D support (with the option to use the classic Red & Cyan glasses or Magenta & Green); adding options to choose the intensity of the 3D image and tell the game what size of television you are using. As I have not jumped onto the 3DTV bandwagon yet, I had a little go with using a pair of Red & Cyan glasses I had lying around; the result being relatively successful. While I don’t think you could play the game in its entirety this way, I believe Headstrong Game should be commended for the efforts in providing so many options for 3D displays.

HOTD Overkill - Meat Factory

SOUND: The sound in Overkill was always something not many people talked about. While the game’s sound effects are pretty generic and forgettable (consisting of your typical gunshots, zombie groans and squelching noises), the dialogue of the game is obviously the focal point. Some would deride the script for being too full of obscenities, but honestly, it adds to the humour. Much like the rest of the game, the F-Bombs and other swears that fly from every direction aren’t meant to be taken seriously – Extended Cut even recognises the ridiculous amount of obscenities, with some bonus content.

Like the visuals, sometimes the dialogue lacks polish; a lot of the time the dialogue doesn’t match with the characters’ mouths moving.  This is a small cosmetic problem, but it’s very noticable and something that should have been fixed – We shouldn’t be seeing this kind of thing happening in the modern console era.

The best part of House Of The Dead: Overkill’s aural delights is the fantastic soundtrack, consisting entirely of licensed tracks from unknown bands. They’re all funky 70s-style grooves that fit incredibly well with the game’s content, plus many of these tracks have the most hilarious lyrics I’ve ever heard. If you’ve ever wanted to hear a story of a love between man and zombie mutant, or a series of soundbytes from the most alternative critics you could think of, then check it out! It is unfortunate that the awesome background music fades when in-game dialogue occurs, as it isn’t done very well and is incredibly jarring when this happens.

There has been a number of improvements made to the audio in general though and while the dialogue, music and sound effects remain unchanged from their Wii counterparts, their sound quality has been noticeably improved, everything is now a lot more clearer. Now there is also proper 5.1 Surround support (as opposed to the Wii’s paltry Dolby Pro Logic II 2-speaker Surround solution), the added directional mixing improving things somewhat – it’s actually quite cool to hear Isaac & G’s banter coming from different directions.

HOTD Overkill - Hospital

GAMEPLAY: If there’s one thing you expect from a title in the House Of The Dead series, it’s a highly playable, fast-paced arcade light-gun game, of the kind that SEGA excel at creating. I’m happy to say that the core part of Overkill doesn’t disappoint in this regard. You point your cursor at a zombie mutant, you pull the trigger and it dies – it doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.

As you would expect from a lightgun game, Extended Cut takes advantage of the Playstation Move controller. As a veteran of the original Wii title I was looking forward to playing the game using the more advanced Move solution, but for some reason the Wii remote feels more accurate (which is rather puzzling, to say the least).

For those without a Move controller, there is the option to use an old fashioned DualShock 3 controller. Using a standard controller is perfectly functional, and you’ll have no problems in regards to playing the game (and doing well at it too). But if you are thinking of getting the game and not getting the Move controller, then you are really missing the entire point of the game (and a lot of enjoyment).

The majority of the game is spent gunning down tons of enemies (and in classic lightgun style, avoiding innocent civilians), with every stage culminating in battle against one of the hideous bosses I mentioned earlier. These bosses are usually defeated via a handy weak spot (as always), which is usually revealed to you on a diagram during the loading screen before the fight (much like earlier House Of The Dead titles). Previously on the Wii the weak points were highlighted within a red circle mid-game; this has been removed from Extended Cut, which is a welcome change.

HOTD Overkill - Naked Terror

Of course it would be unrealistic to give you just a pea shooter to tackle this deadly mission. Wads of cash are littered around each stage, grabbed using the unorthodox method of shooting them. This cash can be used to either upgrade your weapon, or purchase other firearms (which of course can be upgraded). Two weapons at once can be taken into each stage and further weapons can also be unlocked through game progress and other means. Grenades are also obtainable for explosions and insane damage.

At some points in the original Overkill, an enemy or boss would grab you, prompting a frantic Wii remote-waggling session for a few seconds. Thankfully these have been removed in Extended Cut and replaced with sequences involving moving targets that must be shot at to avoid taking damage. Unfortunately, these new sections are now overly long and create an annoyingly slow break in what is usually a fast-paced game. It doesn’t help that the mid-level sequences play out the same way every time, with you grappling with the exact same zombie mutant, hitting the exact same targets and dispatching the fiend in almost the exact same way every time. It’s an unnecessary distraction that is even more annoying than the Wii’s wagglefest.

MULTIPLAYER: House Of The Dead: Overkill’s Story Mode can also be enjoyed as a co-op experience, with a second player joining in with either another Move controller or standard DualShock 3. A few more enemies are added when playing with a friend, but other than that there are no changes from single player. Like other arcade light-gun games (and alcohol), Overkill is best when enjoyed with friends.

There are also three mini-games that can be enjoyed by up to four players. These are all separate from the main game, and consist of: Money Shot II (A typical Carnival style shooting gallery), Stayin’ Alive (A survival mode where the aim is to live through 10 waves of increasingly difficult enemies, all while against the clock) and Victim Support (a sort of escort mission mode where you have to protect civilians of your designated colour while they escape hordes of zombies mutants. These mini-games aren’t going to keep you glued to the screen; they are simple party modes, nothing more – but they are welcome additions to an already feature packed game.

HOTD Overkill - Skinless Mutants

LONGEVITY: You’ll be done with Story Mode within 4 to 5 hours (especially with unlimited continues) which isn’t bad compared to a lot of similar games. But once you’ve gunned your way through all nine levels (two are exclusive to Extended Cut), further modes are unlocked. There is an unlockable Director’s Cut, which adds new areas, more collectables, tougher enemies and limited continues (plus new challenges that have been added since the Wii version). Extended Cut adds even more new modes to be unlocked, such as Extra Mutants (it does what it says on the tin), Dual Wield (use two Move controllers like a badass), Classic Mode (only the AMS Magnum is available), and Hardcore Mode (Only headshots will drop enemies, nothing else counts!).

A brilliant addition is “Shoot The S**t! – where Story Mode cut-scenes turn into a mini-game of their own, as you race to shoot profane language before it is uttered by the characters. It’s silly, but amusing for a few minutes, plus this unlocks other things.

Each stage also has its fair share of collectable items; shooting severed heads will unlock viewable 3D models of the game’s assets, shooting comic books unlocks pages of the Overkill prequel comic (originally a bonus packed in with the Wii version Collectors Edition), shooting posters unlocks various pieces of concept art and shooting Golden Vinyls unlocks the game’s soundtrack for listening to at your leisure. As this is the PlayStation 3, there is Trophy support, adding even more replayability for those who are interested in going extra mile and unlocking everything.

This is the kind of game you can just pick up and play for an hour or two. If you are willing to, you could chip away at this game for months (The Wii version is 2 years old and my girlfriend and I still pick it up every so often). There are enough new editions to justify a purchase for even the most experienced of Overkill fans. At the end of the day, you’ll get from Overkill what you put into it.

VERDICT: What we have is something that feels like an entirely new game, with all new content and enough changes to keep things fresh for those who enjoyed the Wii version. What’s more, this is a genuinely good PlayStation Move game. I was all set to sell my launch day Move hardware; then this arrived and I’m happy to keep the kit just to play this. While that’s probably more to do with the Move’s lacklustre library, I don’t want that to detract from what is essentially one of the best Move titles to hit the market.

While Extended Cut occasionally lacks polish and core gameplay longevity, it makes up for it with oodles of playability and new content. It is obscene, misogynistic, crass, gross, funny, mindless, gory; but good fun for those looking for an old school arcade experience at home and with friends.

House Of The Dead: Overkill - Extended Cut Score 8/10

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