|Dev: Headstrong Games|
|Release: October 25, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language|
by Adam Dodd
It's been over two years ago since Overkill managed to surprise many of us by taking the longstanding House of the Dead series and giving it a fresh coat of paint. I can't tell you how many hundreds upon hundreds of quarters I sank into those House of the Dead arcade cabinets with some friends back when that was still something that kids actually did. This has never been a stunning series in any regard; it's never looked great, the story's always been deliciously cheesy, no one can remember a single character from the entire series, and the gunplay has always been limited to on-rails shooting. Then came Overkill, a game that, while still on-rails, managed to breathe new life into an aging franchise.
Overkill brought with it a Grindhouse-inspired aesthetic, local co-op, zombies, and swearing. Seriously. This game has quite possibly the foulest mouth I've ever heard in a video game. For the first third of the game, it isn't too distracting, but after the hundredth or so f-word, the language stops appealing to that childish humor-loving side of your brain and starts grating on the nerves. Most of the language comes from Isaac Washington, a ladies' man who's looking to avenge his father's untimely death. Washington takes center stage here because he's a stereotypical career cop persona who can't say a single line without sprinkling it with a few expletives. He also has the miraculous ability of saying exactly what you're thinking at the time, only with a few profanities thrown in.
Like the rest of the series, Overkill follows a pre-determined path infested with tons of bizarre enemies and the occasional boss fight. Many staples return, including saving civilians, cheesy dialogue, and a score that is affected by how well you perform. You can rack up points by chaining kills, getting headshots, and completing optional objectives. Even though this is a rail shooter, you have some limited control over your character. You can move the camera around a bit to find the myriad of hidden items like health packs, grenades, and the fittingly titled "Slow Mo-Fo" powerup that temporarily slows down time.
Your score will prove very important, as it influences how much cash you'll earn at the end of each level; the better your performance, the more money you'll receive that can then be used to purchase new items and upgrade your equipment at the Gun Shop. Once you're done with the story, you can go at it again in the Director's Cut, which delivers more powerful enemies, longer levels, and an assortment of other tweaks that make the game a little more difficult. The Director's Cut will likely end up being the mode you return to, since the campaign is actually pretty easy, especially in co-op where you have someone covering your back.
One of Overkill's best features is its co-op. Sadly, though, it's limited to local play so you won't be able to take it online. Even though only one of the playable characters takes the spotlight—in this case the excessive personality Isaac Washington—Overkill is a game that was built from the ground up to be a cooperative experience. Much of the fun is watered down if you try and go through it alone, so if you have the option of sharing this memorable experience with a friend, I highly suggest you do so.
Overkill is far more varied than its arcade predecessors, giving players the chance to sift through its impressive selection of weapons, items, enemies, bosses, and environments. House of the Dead isn't necessarily a series that's known for its varied gameplay so it was refreshing to see the game excel in this department. You'll continuously be pitted against frightening—and sometimes comedic—new enemies, some of which will require a unique strategy before they'll go down. Then there are the boss fights, which make up some of the better sections of the game as you and your partner struggle to survive against some of these monolithic monstrosities. When it comes to mowing these creatures down, you have a solid selection of weapons to choose from; you can also dual-wield to take them out more quickly and pistol whip those that get a little too close.
For as foul and hyper-violent as the game sometimes gets, Overkill does it with a cheeky smirk on its face and a tip of the hat to the exploitation flicks that inspired it. The Grindhouse inspirations perforate every aspect of the game, from the grainy filters to the narrator to the excess of gore. Oh yeah, gorehounds will not leave displeased; Overkill has more than enough of those squishy red giblets, flailing limbs, and brain matter to satisfy even the most insatiable of gory appetites. Everything about Overkill is pulled off in style, and that's something previous games in the series have generally lacked.