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Nintendo Wii Review: House of the Dead: Overkill

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Light-gun shooters have seen a bit of revival on the Wii, with the light gun being replaced by the Wii Remote pointer controls. Most have been met with middling reviews and tepid sales, with the notable exception of Resident Evil: The  Umbrella Chronicles. In that crowded market, House of the Dead: Overkill tries to distinguish itself by going further over the top with gore, language, and story.

The game’s presentation is based on 70’s exploitation flicks. There are film scratches,  exploding zombie parts and plenty of cursing.  The story is very similar to another recent take on 70’s exploitation films, Planet Terror. A crazed scientist has created a virus that has a caused a zombie-like outbreak. The game’s protagonists, Agent G and Detective Washington, are tasked with stopping this outbreak.  Each level is presented as a different exploitation movie. For example, the swamp level is titled “The Fetid Waters” and the prison level is named “Jailhouse Judgement”.  Like the plot and locales, the dialogue also sounds ripped from a Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez film. The emphasis on semantics and the particular style of cursing heard in the game is most often heard in those directors’ movies.

The game’s controls and game play boil down to basic on-rails shooter mechanics. The Wii pointer controls are used to aim. The B-trigger shoots. The A button re-loads or you can shake the Wii Remote. The 1 and 2 buttons switch weapons,  and the minus button is used for grenades. Health, score, and time slowing bonuses can be picked up by shooting them.

The game has a variety of zombies including exploding ones, ones on fire, ones in riot gear, bird zombies, and more.  The end of level bosses are giant mutants. The tactics taking on a boss are a little different, but not very complex.  Each one has a weak point that you have to hit. To get to the weak point you have to shoot the boss at certain times while avoiding the objects and other enemies the boss sends at you.

The game is not very difficult,  but if you lose all three of your lives, you have to start a level over. I only had to restart a level about once during each play through.

The enjoyment of the game comes through its point system. You get points combos for stringing together killing shots. This is where the risk/reward of the game comes in. You can blaze through most levels without ever dying or losing much health, but you will not be rewarded much just for surviving. The strategy of the game is deciding when you to pick your shots and continue to extend your combo and when you need to kill enemies quickly to preserve your life. You are awarded cash at end of a level based on your points and other in-level performance. You can use the cash to buy new weapons and weapon upgrades. There is also an achievement-like system in the game that rewards reaching certain milestones with Concept Art, 3-D Models,  Videos, and Music.

The graphics of the game are good, but not great. Obvious effort went  in to the look. The character models and locations have a more realistic look than most Wii games. It looks good for a Wii game, but it does not compete with other current-generation games. The backgrounds have a nice sense of detail and variety. This is one of the things that keep the game from becoming repetitive.

But there are issues with the look as well. There is some fuzziness on the character outlines and clipping problems sometimes arise. Fire, explosions, and fog look very last-gen.  

The sound in the game is very good. The voice acting is some of the best heard in a Wii game, and there is much more voice than in most. The background music perfectly matches the mood of the game. More could have been done with the surround sound in the game.

You would think that a light-gun shooter would have limited replay value, but I have played through the game three times. After beating the normal story mode of the game, the Director’s Cut unlocks.  The Director’s Cut levels are longer and have more enemies. After beating the Director’s Cut, Dual-Wield mode unlocks, which allows you to use two Wii Remotes at once. Purchasing new weapons and upgrading your existing ones has more meaning in this game because the effects are more apparent. 

If you want to extend your playing time through multiplayer, you have a few options. You can play through the campaign mode with another person or you can play a few mini-games with up to three other people. My friends and I tried out the mini-games and they were not too exciting. It was hard to tell what was going on with that many people playing at once.

I really enjoyed House of the Dead: Overkill and it is hard to explain why. The story and presentation of the game was interesting but I was not caught up in them. The game did not shock me with its violence or cursing, even though it tried its best. I think I found the game so compelling because it is pitched at a perfect difficulty. You can switch your brain off after a long day at work and blaze through some zombies, or you can obsess over getting to goregasm (the highest combo) and plan your shots carefully. The game’s control also fit perfectly on the Wii, this game is one of the best examples of the Wii’s capabilities. 

If you are a fan of light-gun shooters or looking for some violence on the Wii you must play this game. If you are looking for a light-gun shooter to buy for the Wii, buy this one. If you are easily offended by extreme violence and language, you should avoid this game.

House of the Dead:Overkill is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore,Intense Violence, Partial Nudity,Sexual Themes, Strong Language. 

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About Mark Kalriess