NYCC ’09: The House of the Dead: Overkill
The House of the Dead: Overkill for the Wii features three major firsts for the venerable light gun zombie shooter. Overkill is the first House of the Dead title to be developed by a non internal Sega team (Headstrong Games). Additionally it’s also the first canon House of the Dead title to be designed specifically for console. Lastly, Overkill serves as a prequel to the original Model-2 light gun shooter, along with offering a look at Agent Gs first mission.
After waiting in line briefly, the Sega PR guy wiped down the Wii-mote and set me up with the demo. After briefly explaining the controls, aim with the Wii-mote, trigger fires and waggle to reload, I was free to blast my way through the battered plantation house of the Overkill demo.
The first thing I noticed in Overkill is that it really doesn’t feel like a House of the Dead title. I mean sure it has zombies, it’s a “light gun” shooter, and it even has Agent G, but the game feels extremely generic. Sega and Headstrong have been trying to create an almost ‘Grindhouse’ aesthetic for the game, and while it works in the presentation it fails to show through during the actual gameplay. Outside of the filter that gives the game its grainy look, most models and architecture just seem rather bland.
As I made my way through the demo I rarely felt like I was in any actual danger. Zombies would rarely attack in groups greater than two and most could be easily dropped with only a couple of pistol rounds. Additionally, you have the ability to switch between the standard pistol and a shotgun, which makes one-hit kills pretty much the norm no matter where you hit the enemies. Unfortunately, the game’s health system only reinforces the lack of danger by giving you a whopping ten points of health, tripling the amount you’d start with in any of the arcade versions.
Along the way through the plantation you’ll find various power ups to shoot including a green strand resembling DNA, a golden brain and the standard health recovery items. The DNA will slow down time allowing you to be a little more precise in your shot selection, while the brain apparently makes all head shots not only lethal, but extremely messy. Both items mix up the gameplay a little bit but really don’t add anything notable to the overall experience, in fact they both further reinforce the lack of difficulty found in the demo.
Ultimately the Overkill demo left me fairly underwhelmed. The series has always been known for not only its great light gun gameplay, but for its boss encounters, bizarre character design and its slew of shock value scares. The Overkill demo was conspicuously devoid of all of these things, leaving me unsatisfied after blowing away dozens of zombies. Hopefully the demo area isn’t indicative of the entire product, but if you’re finding yourself bored while shooting the undead, then something has gone terribly wrong.