Saturday, August 28, 2010

Game Review: The House of the Dead: Overkill

It’s funny, it’s trashy, it’s grimy, and it’s brilliant.
The House of the Dead: Overkill (in future I’ll just say Overkill) is one of a group of video games brought out by Sega in recent years to go in the direction of adult video games, other games including Madworld, Bayonetta, Condemned amongst others. Sega as a video game publisher has proved in the past that it’s not just about Sonic the Hedgehog, but can actually publish heavy themed video games and entertain the adults as well. But this isn’t the first in the series; in fact it’s a prequel of four House of the Dead games that came out between 1996 and 2005, with only the first two coming out on Sega consoles, being the Saturn and Dreamcast respectively. The latter two were only available in the Arcades, with Sega going bust console-wise. So The House of the Dead series has a relatively decent cult following with the Sega and Arcade fans, popular enough for two films to be made (they’re supposedly bad, I’d avoid).

For years things were quiet, and it never looked like another HOTD game would be made, so Sega decided to port the second and third games to see how interested the Nintendo fan base would take to the games on the Wii, with its Wiimote function a rail shooter would be ideal for its console. The reception was decent, and pressure was made by fans for a new HOTD game to be made. This is where Overkill comes in.

Overkill is set 7 years before the first game, where it seems the origins of the zombie (sorry, mutants) outbreak seems to stem. Agent G, who is a regular character in the game series, is a young rookie agent on his first assignment. After a tussle with Detective Washington, who is basically playing the typical foul mouthed black cop role, they agree to work together to find Papa Cesar, one of two main antagonists of the game, who is responsible for the outbreak. Along the way they also meet Varla Guns, an ex-stripper with a quick wit who also has her personal vendetta against Cesar. There is the second antagonist that I will not name for spoiler reasons, who is the best character in the game, and is a complete nut job, and is one of the most controversial characters in recent video games.

I’ve said the above paragraph in a very serious tone; however this game is not serious. In fact, it’s one of the funniest games I’ve ever played. The game is set to a Grindhouse theme, so if you are a fan of the 1970’s horror films, or most recently, the Grindhouse film series by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, and it fits in perfectly. The game has the imperfect film rail look, with lines and blurs appearing in the film frame, the places you go to are all Grindhouse specialists, like the hospital, the carnival and of course, the swamp. This added with all the cheesy bad acting the incredulous amount of gore and a swear-a-thon, make it a game not for the faint hearted. In fact, this game apparently uses the word “fuck” 189 times, and holds the record for the most use of the word in video game history. The constant bickering between Agent G and Detective Washington is just absolutely hilarious, and Varla Guns adds to the fun when she is around. To add more to the overdramatic tone of the game, we have a narrator who deep voiced and sarcastic, who makes the game complete in terms of giving us the most cheese I’ve ever seen in a video game. And that actually, is what separates this from the original game series, the other four games had terrible acting (especially the second), but was unintentional. This is as obvious as can be, and it’s fantastic.
I'm sure I've seen him in Portsmouth somewhere.
Now onto the game play, this is a rail shooter so your path is predetermined, and you shoot on screen any mutants that appear with the Wiimote. The simple controls make the game very easy to get a grip of, but difficult to perfect. You see, there is a meter appropriately called Goregasm, which you will climax if you get a certain amount of shots landed on mutant flesh in succession. Reaching Goregasm is difficult enough, keeping the Goregasm meter full is even harder. What does getting Goregasm do? It gives you maximum points for hitting mutants. You may not be that bothered about your high scores, especially if you are playing it for the first time, but trust me, this game is one of the few games around that makes a high score system proud again. Competing with your friends for the high score is one of the fun things to do if you have done most of the things in the game.

That being said, there is a lot to do. There is the basic storyline, which follow the same format of “railing” through all the mutants, listening to the bickering between G and Washington, getting to the cut scene and beat the boss. As simple as that sounds, Overkill do it so well and the bickering is so funny you won’t get bored. There are other things to shoot besides mutants, like golden encrusted brains which give you a bonus score, health and grenade packs which speak for themselves, but most entertainingly, something called “Slo-Mo-Fo Mode”, which slows down the video game and increasing the air in mutants heads so you can shoot them there and hope for them to pop off with ease. Slo-Mo-Fo mode is absolutely satisfying, seeing all the heads pop or the limbs drop (I sound really sick but who cares!) in slow motion. It’s also great so you can reach Goregasm quicker, so they walk hand in hand. All of this is in one level, and you have many to complete the game, so that’s the main thing.
Harry and Dave hate fare dodgers, especially with guns.
As I said there is a lot to do, if you complete the storyline, you can do many other things, like buy and upgrade your weapons all that specialise in doing different things, you can play minigames with up to four players. You can unlock art and music; you can view the cut scenes from the game. But the best thing that is the Directors Cut and More Mutants options. The Directors Cut is exactly what it says on the tin, it adds more layers to your levels to make it longer and the parts that it includes aren’t in the original rail. More Mutants simply adds more to the game, so all together you can be playing a longer version of the game, get more points than you did in the first place. It also is more difficult naturally.

My favourite thing about this game is actually the soundtrack. It follows the same Grindhouse theme, and it’s just brilliant. I’ll go as far as to say it’s possibly my favourite original soundtrack I’ve ever heard. When you’re playing the game the songs are all instrumentals, however the same songs in their entirety are played in the menu screens and listening to these songs with the lyrics are just so funny. The best song is the Carnival song because it’s a typical Country song with horrible lyrics, it’s just wickedly brilliant. So there are two ways to listen to each track because even as instrumentals the songs are good.

One thing I’d like to bring up is the ending. This ending is very controversial, it’s sick and twisted, and I’d recommend you really consider the game rating if you were to play this game, I don’t think any game can say their ending is as controversial as this. I’m surprised they got away with it. That being said it works well with the theme and if you don’t mind gore and the controversy then you’ll be fine.
I swear, that's not my One Eyed Monster!
One thing I’d like to say is this game didn’t sell tremendously, Sega games without the name Sonic don’t nowadays, which is disappointing. As I said Sega have been publishing solid games recently in the adult sections, yet they don’t sell. Sega as a brand name doesn’t sell which is really poor; they are making good games and deserve more recognition for their efforts. Because of this you can find this game quite cheap now, because it didn’t sell well enough, but in a certain way it’s good because now it won’t be such a financial risk to go for it. I believe if this game did sell more, the controversy surrounding the ending and the amount of swearing would have been under a lot more scrutiny.

Overkill is my favourite game on the Wii, it’s so cheesy and over the top you can’t help but love it, if you don’t mind the more controversial elements. It plays very well, it’s funny, it’s trashy, it’s grimy, and it’s brilliant. The only flaws are the fact that it won’t appeal to a wider audience, and once in a while you will get a glitch, like a mutant stuck in the wall or a hitch in time frame, but it steadies itself past these very quickly. Apart from that, this is close to perfection; I doubt you will play a more satisfying rail shooter than this.
Rating: ****1/2

1 comment:

  1. Nice review - glad you liked it!

    We've taken note of all the things reviewers and players didn't like so much, as well as the things they loved. We'll be addressing all of those in future games.