House of the Dead: Overkill
House of the Dead: Overkill is the anti-hero of modern day videogaming – a reckless vigilante hidden away and shielded from the PG-13 generation swinging their make-believe tennis rackets and cooking their imaginary three course meals. It stands against everything we’ve come to expect from the Nintendo Wii. If games were people and sat eating at the dinner table, House of the Dead: Overkill would be the guy chewing with his mouth open and wiping his hands and mouth with his shirt. Put it this way: there most certainly won’t be an advert involving a family sitting in front of their television playing this with a gleeful smile on their face any time in the near future.
It is without question (for better or for worse), one of the crudest games ever conceived and not for one second even slightly apologetic about it. After all, that’s part of Overkill’s charm. It’s a faithful nod (or middle finger) to those ‘so bad, they’re good’ B movie horrors; think Left 4 Dead sponsored by Planet Terror. It lacks subtlety and finesse in almost every area, not least in its story that acts as the rail by which players move along, shooting whatever comes their way in a strictly linear fashion as we’ve all come to expect. It follows humdrum cops, Agent G who later finds himself attracted to Overkill’s femme fatale, Varla Guns, and Issac Washington, a bad Samuel L Jackson act-alike that’s on a quest for vengeance after villain of the piece, Papa Caesar, killed his father.
It’s classic B movie cheese and its continuing use of self-depreciating humour keeps everything light-hearted and even gives the poor story progression a sort of quaint charm. Each of the seven levels are proceeded by a deep-voiced narrator who introduces them all with a deliberate hyperbolic tonality; it’s a challenge not to at least smirk at some of the level names that range from the eerie swamp known as “Fetid Waters” to the not-so-abandoned police station, “Jailhouse Judgement”. Despite the obscene language becoming a tad overbearing towards the end (it really is relentless in its use of profanities), the actual on rails carnival style shooting is perfectly at home on the Wii – especially if you can get hold of a hand cannon.
And if you’ve ever stepped foot into an arcade and handed over past House of the Dead cabinets your precious pounds/quarters, then it’s as-you-were in Overkill. Players are taken through seven stages with the objective being to blast away at anything that looks even slightly decomposed. It’s a tried and true formula that seldom extends past making as much mess as possible, but there are enough weapons to buy and upgrade to keep matters interesting – and with high scores and potential ‘Goregasm’ multipliers within reach, it’s in your best interests to do your very simple objective as efficiently as possible.
The end of the single player isn’t where the House of the Dead train stops, though. Once you’ve completed it, a Director’s Cut mode becomes available, which is essentially the single player campaign but with different routes to take, less predictable enemy patterns and only three continues as opposed to the unlimited retries of the default experience. You can even run through the game with a friend for a perpetually richer time and you might even find yourself taking on your character’s personal traits; just watch the potty mouth around loved ones passing by. Couple this with mini games to play through and memorabilia to collect, House of the Dead: Overkill is a surprisingly meaty package for a game that’s essentially a one-trick pony.
Visually, the game is a mixed bag. From a technical standpoint, Overkill is about as pretty as a game about shooting groups of the undead could look on the Wii. But there are times, usually during more crowded corridor encounters, that the frame rate can slow down to a zombie like crawl as well as stuttering between cut scenes and new areas. This all happens in the space of perhaps a second, but a shame that it should even make an appearance at all, nonetheless. Its art style, however, is excellent – oozing a Grindhouse quality especially in the menus, and it boasts one of the finest soundtracks of any game released in the last twelve months. Levels contain a host of ridiculously catchy funk rock and electro remixes that make all the bloody slaughter feel exactly how it should do – cool. Effortlessly so.
For what House of the Dead: Overkill lacks in diversity or prudence, it more than makes up for it in style and a sense of humour that dances on the boundaries of acceptability, and at times downright moves it around whilst insolently shouting “na na na na na na”. It doesn’t care if you like it or not; it’s not here to make friends on the Wii. As the adverts have been quick to state, it is “the hardcore you’ve been waiting for”. Overkill is in almost every sense a guilty pleasure – who could have known that the zombie apocalypse would be our saving grace?