In a recent panel interview with noted gaming journalists N`Gai Croal and Stephen Totilo, Bethesda’s Todd Howard compared the Wii to a “Teddy Ruxpin toy.” Now, a game like Fallout 3, without a doubt, offers an amazing journey to undertake. However, sometimes gamers just want a quick burst of entertainment that requires almost no commitment of time or emotion. With The House of the Dead: Overkill, SEGA and Headstrong Games prove that Wii is no mere child’s plaything, while simultaneously offering gamers “the hardcore they’ve been waiting for!”
Overkill is an unapologetic, immature, vulgar ride through guilty pleasure. We love it! The story follows early events in the career of Agent G (the protagonist from past games in the series) and Detective Isaac Washington…and a stripper. They’re a rag-tag team of foul-mouthed hotheads who are out to save the world from a mutant outbreak. The story is completely ridiculous and 100 paces past irreverent, but Overkill is good fun no matter how you slice it, grind it, or mince it into zombie meatpie.
If you haven’t been following the series these many years, The House of the Dead is an on-rails, light-gun shooter. You need not worry about controlling the movement of your character or managing ammo and supplies. For the most part, it all comes down to simply pointing and shooting. That said, Overkill offers plenty of entertainment and replay value.
The main game is broken up into short vignettes, each with a different theme and locale. You’ll begin your adventure in Papa’s Palace of Pain and eventually make your way through a hospital, swamp, carnival, and more. The camera mostly moves on its own, but the panning is choreographed to mimic how you’d expect the characters to realistically move. The two main characters, Washington and G, are constantly trading banter as you make your way through levels, and the over-the-top cutscenes tie everything together to give the game a wonderful, B-movie-from-the-70s feel.
Overkill requires only the Wii Remote (though you can also use the Wii Zapper control set-up), and you simply aim at the screen and fire with the B button. The A button reloads your weapon, and there is infinite ammo. Occasionally, you’ll find grenades, and you can lob those by pressing the minus button. There are health packs, as well as slow-motion power-ups, and any time you want to collect or use one of these items, you just need to shoot it. Every now and again a certain creature or boss will grab hold of you, and you’ll have to waggle rapidly to get free. But, (thankfully) motion control doesn’t play a large role in Overkill.
Though the gameplay is very straight-forward, it’s one of those games you’ll want to keep coming back to; that’s mostly because of the game’s reward system (not to mention its utterly gratuitous nature). The more accurate you are with your shooting, the more your combo meter grows. If you can continue to hit enemies without any misses between shots, you’ll eventually reach a “Goregasm,” which maxes out your multiplier. The points you earn in the story mode are later converted to cash that can be spent at the gun shop. There’s a healthy selection of guns – each offering a different feel and level of power – so there’s plenty of incentive to keep going back into chapters to earn points.
In story mode, you can play together with a friend right from the outset. However, you will have to complete the story mode before unlocking the director’s cut, which offers a few extra gameplay tidbits, as well as a tougher challenge overall. There are also a ton of achievements, and though not all of the unlockables are noteworthy, there’s still plenty here for folks who love to scrounge for endless stuff.
Wrapping up the gameplay package are three mini-games that can be played with up to four players. The first one is a timed shooting gallery; then there’s a survival mode where you simply try to stay alive for as long as possible, facing wave after wave of mutants; and the last mini-game tasks you with protecting as many civilians as you can before a timer runs out. The mini-games are a nice extra, but they wear thin pretty quickly. We’d much rather have seen some type of online multiplayer, no matter how simple or abbreviated.
The presentation for Overkill, however, packs a real punch, and it’s almost as fun to tinker with the menu presentation as it is to play the actual game. You’re first greeted by a pole-straddling stripper as the opening credits roll. The menu selections are pop-up stills of various characters and creatures from the story mode, and there’s plenty of novelty here for B-movie buffs.
The in-game visuals are a bit of a mixed bag. Most of the character models are really gnarly looking, though some lack detail and animate a bit stiffly. There’s a visual noise filter that mimics artifacts from old film, and though it’s a neat touch that helps nail the 70s motif the game seems to be going for, it would have been nice to have the option to turn it off. The framerate definitely jumps around a bit, and we missed a golden brain (which gives you extra points) here and there due to occasional bouts of lag. That said, framerate drops never caused any real frustration, and the game has a fun, grimy look overall.
In many respects, Overkill is like a really exciting rollercoaster that hasn’t been inspected thoroughly. There were certain areas of the game where mutants got hung up on environmental objects, and some bugs might even cause folks to have to restart chapters from time to time. Additionally, a few areas in the game get so dark that it’s almost impossible to see enemies until they’re right up on you. But, the game’s blemishes – even if unintentional – almost serve to add even cheesier flavor to this ridiculous lampoon fest.
The game’s soundtrack stands up a fair bit better. The music is simply perfect alongside the rest of Overkill’s presentation, and you can unlock tunes for playback in the game’s jukebox. The voicework, though, is truly the aural centerpiece, and though Washington is neither believable nor necessarily likeable, he’s always good for a laugh. The “F” word is purposely overused, and the two characters come off as overgrown tweenies letting loose while no grown-ups are around – but it’s also part of what makes the game so undeniably endearing.
The House of the Dead: Overkill isn’t an epic adventure, and it actually lacks a fair bit of polish – purposely or otherwise. However, it’s just the breath of putrid air the Wii needed, and in many ways it speaks to exactly what the system is all about: short bursts of great entertainment. The straight-forward, arcade action offers both a wonderful novelty for old-time gamers and an easy entry for mature newcomers. Though it’s a bit light on content, there are plenty of incentives to keep you coming back, not least of all is its subversive charm. Overkill is raunchy, morally comatose, and about as thematically deep as Debbie Does Dallas – almost everything you want from a game like this.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
The game is both technically impressive and disappointing, but overall, it achieves the 70s-drive-in-movie look and feel it’s going for – very entertaining. 4.4 Control
It’s a light-gun shooter, so there’s not much to it. However, reloading is smartly mapped to the A button, the moderate use of waggle is appreciated, and IR control works great.S 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Sound effects and music are cheesy and repugnant – simply a perfect match for the gameplay and presentation. However, the sound effects emanating from the Wii Remote made the guns often sound like toys. 3.7
Overkill is a definite “buy” for those folks into this sort of over-the-top, shooting action, but for the price, it’s still fairly light on content.
3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.