House of the Dead: Overkill
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-03-17 Wii FPS M (Mature) Headstrong Games / Sega

After earning a fairly poor reputation among the "hardcore elite" faction of gamers as a console solely for children and soccer moms, Nintendo's Wii could stand a little blood and guts. Helping douse the flames of hatred is Sega's House of the Dead: Overkill, the first truly new installment in the series to be released on the Wii.

Like those that came before it, HotD: Overkill is a rail shooter (movement is not player controlled) set in a first person perspective that follows unlikely partners Agent G, the seemingly straight-laced but talented rookie secret agent and the gambling, fun-loving Detective Isaac Washington as they make their way through the bayou region of Louisiana investigating the appearance of an undead army of zombies (our heroes call them mutants, and so should you, as the game will repeatedly remind you).

The game is designed as a nod to classic exploitation films - those over-acted, predictable B-movies that grindhouses were famous for. The game's dialogue is a hilarious combination of one-liners and an overabundance of cursing. Practically every sentence contains some sort of F-bomb, but the entire game is done in such an over-the-top, cliched and stereotypical way that there's no time to be offended by the language; rather, you'll probably find yourself laughing like a madman (or madwoman) at the absurdity and genuine humor of it all.

Chronologically speaking, Overkill is set in 1991, and is in fact a prequel to the original House of the Dead, making it a perfect option for players who hate jumping into franchises in the middle. A light gun shooter, Overkill allows you to hold the Wii Remote like a gun and control an on-screen crosshair, which turns from white to red when you are targeting either a mutant, or one of many item pickups, like sparkling brains (which give you extra points), grenades, or health boosts.

As one would expect, the best way to tackle Overkill is by turning the Wii-mote into more of a light-gun proper by way of either the Wii Zapper (an awkward choice in my opinion, being that the nunchuck is entirely unnecessary) or a 3rd party "gun" like the NERF N-Strike Switch Shot, or even the game themed "Hand Cannon" magnum accessory that can be purchased by our friends overseas. And while you can play through the entire game sans accessory, obviously the addition of a peripheral will allow for better control and accuracy of shots that by going it alone.

Each of the game's seven levels takes you through a different part of the bayou: an old plantation, a carnival, and even a correctional facility being amongst the locals. Mutants come in the form of basic rednecks (the game's technical term for them), nurses, prison guards, and other "human-like" entities, but are (specifically during the boss fight at the end of each level) joined by a cast of incredibly deformed or otherwise mutilated, disturbing creatures the likes of which are truly hard to describe, but can most easily be compared to the various mutated creatures found throughout the Resident Evil franchise.

If you find yourself overcome by mutants, you can quickly spend a pre-determined amount of your points earned to jump back into the action at the exact spot where you died, or you can choose to restart the level from the beginning. After completing each level, you are given a grade based on how many times you died, your firing accuracy, body count, etc.

You also receive cash for completing in-game tasks like retaining a certain firing accuracy throughout the entirety of a level, hitting a certain amount of mutants with leg or head shots and so on. These funds can be used to either purchase or upgrade new weapons, like the incredibly satisfying machine shotgun, or your standard issue magnum.

After making your way through the basic story mode, you can play through the Director's Cut mode of the game, which adds deleted scenes to the same basic story, along with additional unlockables, more enemies per chapter, and an overall heightened level of difficulty.

For those who can't get enough of the light-gun action, three mini-games are available from the main menu which entail saving a certain number of survivors from mutants, surviving as long as you can on your own, or even challenging yourself at a carnival target-practice midway game.

Tying the entire experience together is the aforementioned B-movie theme, which gives the game a grainy texture, complete with film reel lines and dots that appear during cutscenes, with the over-exaggerated mutant blood loss being the proverbial icing on the cake. The soundtrack itself is an upbeat smorgasbord of creepy tunes, and with lyrics concerning cannibalism (among other less tasteful topics), it only serves to complete the experience.

House of the Dead: Overkill is one of those titles that definitely doesn't take itself seriously, but is still a seriously solid shooter. While the basic story mode is quite easy, and can be finished within three hours, the Director's Cut mode adds considerable challenge and extra content to keep players coming back for more. Add to that the option for co-op gameplay and a storyline so outrageous that you can't bear to look away and you have one experience that's set to give the Wii a fighting chance in the mature gaming market.

Special thanks to Aaron Palacios and Sega for providing a copy of this title.