Want to know why Quentin Tarantino is such a success? Because he gives people what they want. Sure, the Hollywood machine may be convinced that viewers have grown out of genre entertainment, and what they really want is ponderous propaganda telling them the war in Iraq is bad. Tarantino understand what punters actually want: guns, gore, monsters, swearing, and boobs.
So do the lads at Sega, because that's exactly what you get in House of the Dead: Overkill. This is not another generic Japanese arcade shooter where two effeminate men in white suits shoot tentacle monsters in a Baravian castle. No. It's a black cop/white cop buddy movie with a lot more swearing... and zombies. It's Left 4 Dead with light guns.
Okay, maybe it's closer to Left '2' Dead, but the co-op makes all the difference. One player gets to control the bookish AMS operative 'Agent G', while the other steps into the soulful shoes of police detective Isaac Washington. Each player gets two different guns and can swap between them as needs dictate. In single player, you can dual wield - nice.
Sega hasn't bothered with anal military detail here. The guns are simply referred to as the AMS Magnum, the Hand Cannon, the SMG, the shotgun and the automatic shotgun, the assault rifle, and the Minigun. Each has its benefits, and some support unique challenges, like finishing the carnival level without using anything but the Hand Cannon, a mighty magnum revolver.
Play is geared towards short, interesting sessions. Each level is on rails, although there is a certain amount of slack for you to lean away from your fixed viewing frame.
Each level has a lot of carefully scripted zombie shooting challenges, with pauses here and there for you to reload. There are several bonuses to collect: health packs, green molecules that slow down the time around you, grenades, and 'gold brains' which are basically collectibles. Some bonuses are only glimpsed between extensive screen clutter for a fraction of a second; the patient gamer who memorises these locations will be duly rewarded.
The graphics are definitely worth mentioning. This is one of the best-looking Wii games to date. Dirt and grain dart across the screen as though you were watching dodgy old film print. It's all very Grindhouse
Level design is tight and imaginative. My favourite level is 'Carny', set in a fun fair being overrun by the undead. The novelty value of blasting zombie clowns with a shotgun is top stuff, and the shooting challenges are quite inventive. At one stage you're standing in front of a pirate ship ride, blasting at zombies on the other side.
Later, you ride on a zombie ghost train, before confronting a Kuato/Master-Blaster conjoined freak: a nine-foot cretin with a midget genius grafted to his belly.
The music and audio is stellar in House of the Dead: Overkill. You can hear Agent G and Washington banter away in the left and right speakers as you play, cursing the zombies, their luck, and each other. But best of all, the game boasts an impressive array of classic 70s music, all with lyrics about zombies.
Everything is played for laughs. Early on, the main villain, Papa Caesar, slaps a wheelchair-bound cripple in the face, knocking his glasses off. After the cut, they're back on his face, and in the cut after that, they're gone again. Yes, they've gone to the trouble of recreating the continuity errors in the dodgy film world of the 70s. The Sega team know what they're doing.
Seven levels of only a few minutes each might not sound like a lot, but believe me, it's plenty. The later ones are tough, and will require multiple attempts to conquer. Then there's playing for high-scores and achievements, and collecting every gold brain.
Oh, and the best part! If you buy the Big Bang Box
set, the game comes with 'hand-cannon' cases for the Wii Remotes. Not only do they look absolutely kick-ass, they feel great too, unlike a lot of other third-party attachments. Also, in the Big Bang Box, players will receive A Prelude to an Overkill
, a 'graphic novel' starring the sassy Varla Guns.
HotD:O is a great party game, too (provided all of your friends are above 15). Even if you get used to the game, every newcomer to your house will enjoy the novelty of playing this surreal, sweaty romp for the first time. Put simply, this game is the embodiment of fun, put on a disc.
The only downside that I can pin on this gem is that on-rails shooters might not appeal to a lot of gamers. That, and it's a bit too difficult for some. However, I find the difficulty refreshing for the Wii. It's nice to finally have a game that frustrates us. The difficulty level just makes it all the more satisfying when you, say, fight through a speeding train and ventilate the giant mantis that rips of its roof.
5 Things I Love About: OVERKILL
Unlike titles such as Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Overkill does not take itself remotely seriously. This is game is good, dirty fun.
I can't remember the last time I heard so much cursing in a video game. I stopped counting at 200 f***s.
One of the main characters, Varla Guns, is a gun-totting prostitute. Why? Because!
A custom 70s mix of funk, acid rock, and country and western, all with lyrics about zombies.
All of the voice-overs (and there are a lot of them) sound like they're the intro to a bad 70's movie trailer. It's great!
Every US stereotype you can imagine is in here. I've never shot so many fat people in one game!