The box says House of the Dead, but House of the Dead: Overkill is a huge departure from the series of arcade games. Developer Headstrong Games made House of the Dead: Overkill specifically for the Wii which gave them liberties Sega Japan didn’t have when making the four other arcade games. There is a limit of how much gore you can display in public that Headstrong Games could ignore. House of the Dead: Overkill goes past the “extreme violence” warning on House of the Dead 4 and shoots for a “goregasm”.
Zombies, mutants, or whatever Sega is calling them now die in more graphic ways like exploding into pools of blood with limbs scattered on the floor. Sticking with the grindhouse theme Agent G is partnered up with Detective Washington who doesn’t hesitate to shout one-liners laced with swear words. House of the Dead: Overkill never tries to take itself seriously and the over-the-top feel makes the game a lot of fun as long as you don’t think much about it.
The stages are a tour through B-rated horror movies. You visit hospitals, abandoned train stations, and a haunted carnival complete with zombie clowns. Part of the carnival stage takes place in an arcade with Sega games like Space Harrier II and Ghost Squad. Sega fans should get a kick out of this. I think I saw Altered Beast too, but it’s difficult to keep track of arcade machines when mutants are grabbing a hold of you. Taking a cue from House of the Dead 4 you can shake zombies off by shaking the remote when they latch on. In this stage players also jump on a haunted house ride which is, of course, on-rails like the rest of the game. A sideshow freak waits at the end of the carnival level. Just like the other House of the Dead games you’re told the creatures weak point before it tries to stomp on you.
Don’t worry about paying attention too much. House of the Dead: Overkill grants players infinite continues from the start of the game. This was a brilliant design decision since players don’t have to “grind” through the opening levels over and over to earn more credits. If you continue you have to sacrifice your points which are used to unlock and upgrade weapons. The drawback is subtle if all you care about is shooting zombies right away. Most players will want to new weapons like a machine gun for crowd control and a shotgun for more damage. House of the Dead: Overkill lets you switch between two of them. Beat the game and you unlock the real challenge, remixed stages in Director’s Cut mode. This difficulty level also has zombies with tougher skin and a continue limit so you can’t credit your way to the end. Past directors cut mode there are other hidden items to find like golden brains.
Extra challenges are nice for players that want to stretch the value of their dollar, but House of the Dead: Overkill, like most light gun games, is a short ride. You can get through story mode and see most of the game under four hours. OK, so this is a very short ride. Short, but very sweet since Sega didn’t pull any game extension tricks. Sega and Headstrong Games have earned a bag of lollipops for a job well done.