Five years ago, I would have told you that the last thing the world needs are more light-gun shooters. I mean, what arcade didn’t have at least two House of the Dead or Time Crisis machines, with their weird, often grimey and orange-coloured plastic guns holstered on the front of the arcade cabinet? I guess it just goes to show you that what was once popular will eventually be relevant again. House of the Dead: Overkill takes the light-gun experience and beautifully transitions it to the Wii with a funny and mature-minded Grindhouse style, as well as a bunch of cool extras. By taking this arcade experience into your living room, Overkill achieves a remarkably high-quality experience, with plenty of B-movie cheese to entertain between the relentless shooting segments.
Just like in previous instalments of House of the Dead, you play as Agent G, although he’s quite a bit different in this new game. Clearly inspired by Grindhouse-style exploitation films (including Tarantino’s and Rodriguez’s celebration of the genre a year or so ago), everything is done up in a fun-loving, B-grade way. It’s actually a pretty ingenious direction to take; arcade shooters have always had awful voice acting performances – why not do it on purpose and be celebrated for it? G is paired up with a token black sidekick, Isaac Washington, who has to set a new watermark for the use of the word motherfucker within a video game.
The two of them are after the hilariously-named villain, Papa Caesar, who essentially leads them through a bunch of different “films,” each of which starts with the classic narration we’ve come to recognize as satire of the 1970s era. Of course, beyond the worn-looking filters on screen, jarring cuts between camera angles, and missing reel gags, we have wildly entertaining light gun gameplay.
You use your Wii remote in place of the plastic guns at the arcade, of course, and it works just like you’d expect it to. You point, you shoot, and Papa Caesar’s mutant army splatters in a shower of gore in front of your eyes. You can shake the remote or press ‘A’ to reload, and use one and two to flip between weapons. Like any self-respecting game of this type, there’s also some power-ups you can shoot throughout levels; some slow down time, while others add to your score. Others, like grenades, can be stored up for later.
The coolest thing about Overkill, though, are all the extras it adds to the home experience. Cash from levels can be used to purchase new weapons or upgrade the stats of existing ones, improving reloading speed, clip size, damage dealt, and more. A ‘Director’s Cut’ mode opens up once you finish the two-or-so hour story mode, adding additional scenes, more enemies, and limited continues to the mix. In all, it’s a pretty solid value, especially if you and a friend get really into it.
Look, obviously a game like House of the Dead isn’t rocket science. You shoot dudes and they go boom, and that’s probably exactly what you’re expecting from it. Just know that Overkill does it better than most, and with a bunch of neat frills and extras. You could pick at the game a little, for sure; the character models for the human characters look really bad, the lip-synching is awful, among other things. It’s certainly not the most engaging thing you will ever play, either. When it comes down to it, though, none of that stuff really matters in the face of a funny, solid shooter such as this one. Try not to laugh at the ending.