There is nothing better as a gamer than a reminder of just why you are into games in the first place. Sometimes the simplest concept, with the proper loving care from a developer who knows their stuff, can flourish and grow into something much bigger, something that you can have hours of fun with no matter how much time you have already put into it.
House of the Dead: Overkill, developed by London-based Headstrong Games (formerly Kuju, the minds behind Battalion Wars) and published by Sega, is one of those reminders. As you blast your way through levels infested with mutants and abominations of science, listening to your partner spew forth obscenities like he’s paid by the curse while catchy music plays in the background, you will realize that you are having an obscene amount of fun.
Feb. 10, 2009
Obscenity is the name of the game in Overkill, the latest entry in the House of the Dead series that was built from the ground up for the Wii. This isn’t a port, like House of the Dead 2 & 3 Returns was, as Headstrong went into this wanting to utilize the IR functions of the Wii Remote while also delivering the mature-starved Wii audience the hardcore game they had been waiting for. Overkill doesn’t break its promise either, as it’s so over-the-top in every way that you’ll find yourself glued to the television enjoying everything it has to offer for hours.
You play as Agent G in this prequel to the House of the Dead series, and your partner, who you just met as shown by the first cutscene, is Detective Isaac Washington. Agent G is out to find Papa Caesar as a member of the AMS, as he needs to be arrested for his crimes, while Isaac Washington wants to find Caesar in order to exact revenge for the murder of his father. Things get a bit tricky once they kill the brother of the voluptuous Varla Guns, who had been forced to help Caesar in his scientific experiments. The three develop an odd relationship that develops as the story unfolds, and it’s entertaining to watch and listen to the chemistry (or blatant lack of it) amongst the trio.
The three characters have plenty of dialogue throughout the levels and during cutscenes, and instead of being hilarious for being terrible like much of the dialogue in the past arcade titles, the one-liners and quips are funny because they are well-written and perfectly reflect and parody that grindhouse style. For those of you who aren’t aware, Headstrong was inspired by grindhouse movies (think the recently released tribute to grindhouse, Planet Terror), and their tribute perfectly captures that vibe.
Each level begins with a movie trailer that is meant to unveil more of the story and also set you up for the next area you are visiting; each of these levels also has a grindhouse style movie poster that I wish were available in a form outside of the game, because they are absolutely wall-worthy. It’s clear Headstrong had fun making this game, at least as much fun as you will have playing through it.
Visually, Overkill also captures that grindhouse aesthetic. There’s a filter running that makes the game look as if you’re watching it on grainy film with burn marks and holes in it, and it adds to the feel of the game. This is also a gory affair, with gallons of blood and puss spewing from the holes you make in the mutants with your weaponry. You will make holes in your adversaries as well, because the enemies react to where you shoot them; blow off an arm, and watch the mutant stumble back, or kneecap him and when he or she hits the ground, blow their head off with a well placed shot. You will want to string together shots like this too rather than just trying to kill everything that moves with a headshot, as the more consecutive hits you put together, the higher your combo and point totals go, until you reach “Goregasm”, a statistic that tracks how long you can go without missing a shot.
Your weapons start out weak, but by putting together higher scores, clearing levels and reaching certain achievements (finish a level without dying in the more difficult Director’s Cut mode for instance, or kill 50 mutants in a level “gangsta style”, with your gun cocked sideways as you fire) you earn cash that helps you pimp out your weapons, giving you more time and firepower to clear a level more successfully. There are plenty of weapons to choose from as well, with various forms of pistols, shotguns, machine guns, rifles and the like at your disposal, just waiting for you to purchase them.