There is a button that reads "More Mutants."
While scientists theorize as to why the dinosaur went extinct, nobody will ask any questions as to why the light-gun shooter is on the endangered species list of genres. Nor will PETA or the WWF have any remote interest into saving the breed of zombie/terrorist shooting simulators. The arcade, their natural habitat, was deforested by the loggers of Time. Their unwillingness to adapt to modern standards made the public bored in their cause, and left them to be devoured by their evolutionary superior, the first person shooter. The few strays were made to find shelters and cages within the confines of touch screen-based systems, phones, or overpriced bundles with gun controllers. Fortunately, the Wii makes a logical petting zoo for the last remnants of the species to exist, and House of the Dead has managed to breed with some kind of mullet-toting redneck to produce Overkill, the most gloriously bizarre shooter in years.
House of the Dead: Overkill is meant to play homage to 70s B-movies of the most offensive kind. Though I have doubts that many players, let alone the developers at Headstrong games (and certainly not me) have seen these films. So let us call it a tribute to the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino Grindhouse movies that served as a tribute to said flicks. However, those tribute movies feel a bit too serious in comparison to the excess-driven Overkill. Here, a mysteriously dorky Agent G teams with blaxploitationary cop Isaac Washington and gun-toting biker/stripper Varla Guns to stop evil scientist Papa Caesar and his legion of mutanted humans.
Along the way, you’ll find intentionally bad movie editing, raucously excessive voice acting, an overflowing spleen’s worth of gross out humor, film grains, overexposure, all the errors that go wrong at a low-rent theatre and a fantastic 70s soundtrack of dirty funk and dirtier country music. The production values are the rotting, half-eaten heart of Overkill. The South Park-esque humor pervades every aspect of the game and is really something that has to be seen and cringed at for youself. Overkill is a game that has one goal, and that’s to have fun by any means necessary, and this often means taking good taste and choking it with its own fallopian tube.
Reverting back to the other half of Overkill’s family tree, the gameplay is your typical House of the Dead. The Wii sensor is used to aim and B is the disembowel-button. Your other control options are limited to: switching weapons, using the rare grenade, reloading, pausing and the Home button because your fiancée thinks this game is disgusting. It’s a rail shooter, meaning you shoot at the zombies that appear, they become a bloody mess, Isaac Washington yells out profanity, the camera moves on to the next set of zombies looking for a lead transfusion, repeat. Even the bosses follow a simple pattern of “shoot the part of their body that we’re circling here”, followed by more swearing. There’s a bit of an adjusting curve to the camera, as it makes sudden movements like, say, you’re looking through the eyes of an actual human head and not a slow-moving camcorder, but it all helps to give the game a frenetic pace.
If there’s something about Overkill that threatens to bring the experience down, then it would be (ironically) the guns. Money earned from playing the game can be spent to purchase and upgrade guns. And really, anything besides your standard handgun is just too much power and masculinity for these mutants to handle. Shotguns dispose of the undead with a wide firing range with automatic weapons turn your prey into ground undead beef. Likewise, if you’re playing co-op with a friend, then you’ll be doing a rain dance of bullets on your adversaries; it’s fortunate that the game has a button that reads “More Mutants” to somewhat remedy this, but even with this option helping to motivate the zombie menace, light-gun pros will still sweep their way through the main campaign.
Said campaign is about 3-4 hours long by itself, decent by rail-shooter standards but brief when pitted against bigger and more evolved games. Also, in an acute case of the Bioshock Syndrome, your only penalty for running out of health is a points deduction. Thus, beating the default game is more of a formality than an accomplishment.
Once you’ve beaten the game, the much better “Director’s Cut” is unlocked. Here, the levels are longer, continues are limited and the zombies have devoured the flesh of caffeine addicts and will spring at you with full energy. This mode is the way Overkill is meant to be played; however the same problem with gun upgrades reducing your enemies to rotting rubble reoccurs. To combat this, play through as much of the game as possible with your handgun. Thus, progress becomes earned and your reflexes and accuracy will be tested.
Being a light-gun game, the spinal column that holds the experience together is the desire to top your own high scores. In this case, aiming for high scores should be considered a patriotic duty. Earning a high enough score multiplier will have the narrator proclaim that you just had a Goregasm and responds by waving the American flag above your health bar.
You really have to play House of the Dead: Overkill, in some form or another. I’ll understand if the economic crisis has rendered you unwilling to buy a game you can finish before your scabs dry, or if you have some kind of innate grudge against having a good time. But at least rent Overkill if you’re still on the fence. The game is infectiously fun, a wonderful parody, and it lets you kill a lot of things in the simplest way possible. And really, isn’t nine-tenths of gaming all about sense violence anyways?