The House of the Dead: OVERKILL is the first console exclusive mainline entry in the long running series, as well as the first House of the Dead game not developed by the original team at Sega-AM1/WoW Entertainment/Sega WoW. The game was developed by London-based Headstrong Games after the success of Sega's Wii ports of Ghost Squad and House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return.
But while the game has new gameplay mechanics and a new developer, the most important change of all is the game's tone. The House of the Dead franchise is no stranger to humor; previous entries have become cult favorites, be it for comically bad voice acting or bizarre visual gags and surreal gameplay. OVERKILL, instead, follows in the footsteps of Quentin Tarintino & Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse and emulates the vibe of American B-horror and exploitation films from the 1970s (many of which were, ironically, only obtainable through illegal channels in England - where developer Headstrong Games is based - after being classified as "video nasties" and banned). As such, the game revels in intentionally cheesy acting, cutscenes with poor editing and visual gaffes, a funk-influenced soundtrack, hyper-sexualized femme fatales, massive amounts of violence, and expletives. Lots and lots of expletives.
House of the Dead: OVERKILL is formerly the Guinness World Record holder for the most profane video game of all time, with the word "fuck" appearing 189 times in the game's script. It has since relinquished this title to 2K Czech's Mafia II.
OVERKILL features the same on-rails gameplay as previous games in the series, but also adds new features and slight tweaks to the formula not seen in previous House of the Dead titles. For one, the player can now choose between a selection of guns and customize their loadout, whereas previous games in the series limited the player to one type of gun. Before beginning a chapter, the player must choose two guns to carry (though can only carry one if they choose), and can switch between said guns at any time by pressing the 1 or 2 buttons on the Wii Remote. New guns can be purchased from the "Gun Shop" screen before each chapter using cash obtained by completing chapters and in-game challenges and achievements, and these points can also be used to upgrade these guns and increase their various stats (see the "Weapons" section for more information).
Furthermore, the player has limited control of their field of vision, and is able to moderately pan or tilt the camera by moving the cursor towards the edge of the screen; this can be used to find hidden items or to get a better shot on enemy zombies. The game also brings back House of the Dead 4's contextual melee attack that forces the player to shake the Wii Remote to knock back certain enemies that can grab the player before they can do too much damage.
As the game is the first mainline House of the Dead title not to see an arcade release, it also tweaks elements of the health, scoring, and continue systems to make the game more friendly to console-gaming standards. Instead of giving the player a finite number of lives that can be increased by finding hidden health boosts or saving civilians, the player is given a ten-segmented health bar that shrinks as they take damage. Finite continues, too, are done away with, as the player is able to continue at any time at the cost of half of their score when playing Story mode. Finally, OVERKILL adds a combo system that awards the player bonus points and multipliers for consecutive hits, with bonus points awarded for headshots; like comparable combo systems, the combo is lost as soon as the player misses a shot.
Finally, OVERKILL features elements of The House of the Dead 2's item collection system. In addition to the requisite health packs that replenish two sections of the player's health bar if shot, the player can collect golden brains strewn throughout the levels that unlock bonus points and in-game achievements if all are collected. On the offensive side, OVERKILL features an item that briefly engages a bullet time-style mode (humorously titled: "Slow Mo-Fo") and grenades that can be thrown by pressing the Minus button on the Wii Remote.
Other than that, OVERKILL is pretty much like any other game in the series - shoot monsters, save civilians, fight bosses, watch ridiculous cutscenes, you know the drill.
Upon finishing the Story mode, the player unlocks Director's Cut mode, in which the levels are longer and contain new areas and extra enemies and continues are limited. Completing this mode unlocks a Dual Wield mode a la Raw Thrill's Target: Terror.
OVERKILL is a prequel to the rest of the main-series games. Set in 1991, seven years before the events of the first game, players assume the role of Special Agent G, a rookie fresh out of the AMS academy working on his first case. G is sent to investigate a small town in Louisiana named Bayou City and apprehend Papa Caesar, a ruthless criminal who has been experimenting with a mutant formula. There, he meets Detective Isaac Washington, a local cop who plays by his own rules. The fictional backwater swamp town is infested with mutants, and it is up to these two to resolve the situation and bring the man behind the madness to justice.
The game is broken up into seven "features," each beginning with their own "trailer." The story for each chapter is as follows:
Papa's Palace of Pain
Agent G and Isaac Washington meet as adversaries outside of Papa Caesar's mansion; G has come on behalf of AMS to arrest Papa Caesar "by the book," while Issac, seeking revenge on Papa Caesar for murdering his father, has his own plans. The mutant outbreak forces the duo to reconsider their antagonistic relationship, if only for a few hours. The unlikely allies fight their way through Papa Caesar's mutant-infested mansion, eventually making their way to his lab in the cellar. There, G and Isaac stumble upon Papa Caesar and his crippled paraplegic assistant Jasper. Jasper, being forced to work for Caesar in order to keep him from attacking his sister, injects himself with the "zombie" virus he worked on in order to regain mobility over his crippled body and kill Caesar. However, Caesar manages to escape, leaving Jasper to attack G and Isaac in his mutated form. After wearing Jasper down, G "helps" him ease his pain by putting a bullet in his brain. Just then, Varla Guns, Jasper's sister who was forced to become an erotic dancer after their parents' death to help take care of her crippled brother, runs into the room. Upon seeing Jasper's dead, mutated corpse lying on the floor, she vows to avenge her brother and kill Papa Caesar before running off again. G and Isaac, meanwhile, give chase in G's car (on account of Isaac's car mysteriously exploding as they approach it).
G and Isaac follow Caesar to the hospital deep in the heart of Bayou City, which has become overrun by mutants. After fighting their way through the ravaged hospital and disposing of the hideous Screamer, Caesar's mutant designed specifically to dispose of G and Isaac, a phone starts ringing... from inside the fallen enemy's stomach. Isaac forces G to retrieve the phone (not wanting to ruin his manicure), who answers the phone before giving it to his partner, telling him: "it's for you." Papa Caesar's is on the other end, revealing that he is about to detonate the hospital that they are in. Upon this announcement G and Isaac sprint away from the hospital as fast as they can.
Outside the hospital, the duo reunite with Varla. With G's car having just been miraculously blown up, the three of them decide to go on the pursuit of Papa Cesar together on Varla's mother cycle, with Varla driving, G sitting behind her and Isaac cramped up in the tiny sidecar.
After barely avoiding an accident, the trio briefly stop outside a carnival on the outskirts of town. Left without transport after Varla ditches them, G and Isaac are forced to fight their way through the infected carnival to find a new ride. But what they end up finding is not quite what Detective Washington has in mind, as the duo, after finishing off the (further) mutated conjoined twins Nigel and Sebastian, continue their trek in a commandeered ice cream truck, where they proceed to have an argument about the merits of country music versus funk.
G and Washington reach the train station, where they find Varla about to shoot Caesar. Isaac wants to kill Caesar himself, but G insists they allow him to take Caesar into custody. While the trio bicker, Caesar makes his escape, climbing aboard a train. G and Isaac follow him on, leaving Varla behind. Like many vehicles the two come in contact with, the train crashes and explodes as the chapter ends, though Caesar manages to escape.
The Fetid Waters
Some time later, Varla finds the two unconscious in the swamp. Suddenly, Caesar appears out of the blue pointing a gun at Varla and forces her onto her motorcycle. Caesar tells Isaac that he is truly like his father, saying that he has once again missed his chance for revenge. He then throws a cassette at Isaac's feet; Isaac asks if it was true that Caesar killed his father, but Caesar does not answer and instead tells Varla to bring him to the County Prison. Varla tells them that they had better come and rescue her and then rides off with Caesar holding her at gunpoint in the passenger seat. Isaac points out to G that the quickest way to get there is through the swamps and heads off in front; G picks up Caesar's cassette and then follows.
Once they arrive at the County Prison, they meet Clement Darling, the prison's eccentric warden. After fighting their way through the prison, G and Washington find Clement, Varla and Caesar in the basement, the latter two strapped to electric chairs. Clement reveals that he was responsible for the mutant outbreak, and used Caesar to get the compound. He then introduces his loudmouthed, abusive mother (with whom he shares a relationship so intimate it would make Freud's head hurt), whose life he wishes to sustain using the mutant compound. After his mother causes a fuss about the size of Varla's breasts, Clement electrocutes Caesar, robbing Isaac of his chance for revenge. He then departs with Varla.
Armed to the teeth and seeking retribution, G and Issac blast their way through the secret lab beneath the prison. They hear Varla screaming in terror over a speaker, giving them further reason to press forward. After fighting their way through the lab, they discover Clement and Varla, whose brain has been removed and replaced with that of Clement's mother. With no other choice, G and Issac shoot "Varla" into a vat of the mutant formula, transforming her into a hideous, gargantuan monstrosity with sagging breasts and a long uterus-like appendage. G and Isaac find some miniguns and defeat the monster. Clement wishes to atone for his sins and asks Isaac and G to allow him to "return to the source." G consents, and Clement heads of to be "reborn..." by crawling inside his monster mother's vagina to curl up inside her womb and die. As G notes that Isaac never once called Clement a "motherfucker" despite throwing the term around with reckless abandon throughout the rest of the game (and Clement actually being a "motherfucker"), he (carrying Varla's brain in a jar) and Isaac escape in a helicopter, while Isaac reflects over how the events of the game were an indictment of contemporary feminism. As they fly off into the sunset and a "beautiful friendship" begins, the credits roll and the song "Suffer Like G Did," in which G reflects on the case with his mother and tells her about his new girlfriend (obviously Varla's brain) plays.
After the credits, the contents of Papa Caesar's cassette are revealed, giving an ominous message about the future of the mutant formula and revealing that Isaac's father is still alive.
House of the Dead: OVERKILL features seven different weapons that can be purchased, upgraded, and assigned to the two available weapon slots per level. Each weapon features five attributes:
- Recoil - determines the amount of kickback and how steadily the player can aim.
- Fire rate - determines how fast the player can fire.
- Clip size - determines how many bullets the gun can hold before needing to be reloaded.
- Damage - determines how much damage each shot will do.
- Reload - determines how quickly the player can reload.
These attribute are rated Gold, Silver or Bronze (Gold being the best and Bronze being the worst). The player can spend the cash earned from completing levels and achievements to upgrade these attributes, though some weapons will come pre-loaded with upgrades. The seven weapons are:
- The standard issue pistol.
- Unlocked from the start of the game.
- A pump-action shotgun.
- Purchase Price: $1,800
- A quick-reloading combat shotgun with a large rate-of-fire and blast radius.
- Purchase Price: $6,500
- A submachine gun with a low barrier of entry and lightning-fast fire rate.
- Purchase Price: $1,225
- A rifle that mows mutants down when the SMG won't cut it.
- Purchase Price: $4,600
- A Dirty Harry-style magnum that packs a devastating punch.
- Purchase Price: $5,500
- Can only be purchased after completing the game on Story mode.
- The minigun used to fight the final boss. Possesses a cooldown meter instead of a clip, so it never needs to be reloaded.
- Purchase Price: $15,000
- Can only be purchased after completing the game on Director's Cut mode.
- All attributes are Gold at purchase; cannot be upgraded.
The game features a completely original soundtrack that, like the rest of the game, embraces its seventies B-film roots with funk riffs and more wanton cursing. There are twelve unique vocal tracks in the game--some of which contain lyrics in addition to random voice clips from the game, and all of which can be unlocked and played at will in the game's jukebox--with seven of them featuring both an instrumental and arranged version (the former unlocked by beating a level in Story Mode, the latter unlocked by beating a level in Director's Cut mode). These songs include:
NOTE: songs with a plus next to them also have an instrumental version in the game that plays during game levels. Also, all the "bands" these songs are attributed to are fictitious; all vocals are done by song composers John Sanderson and Nadeem Daya.
In addition to these main themes, there are also numerous incidental music tracks such as for boss fights and cutscenes. Despite many fan requests, an official soundtrack has never been released.
To help promote the game, Sega released the following items:
Prelude to an Overkill
"Prelude to an Overkill" is a short comic given to those who preordered the game from selected retailers in North America and the PAL territories, as well of those (in UK) who bought the HMV Exclusive Collectors edition from the UK entertainer retailer HMV. The comic stars game protagonists Isaac Washington and Varla Guns and tells of the events shortly before the first level of the game, giving the reader a glimpse into the average day of the playboy cop and devoted sister/apathetic erotic dancer as the mutant outbreak slowly begins. The comic, like Frank Miller's Sin City, is black and white (and filled with nudity and profanity, albeit censored in Prelude) with red used to highlight blood. While North American preorderers were given the comic with the game, the game and comic were packaged together in PAL territories in an exclusive, specially-designed slipcase. Copies of "Prelude to an Overkill" were also handed out to visitors of Sega's booth at New York Comic Con '09, where OVERKILL, in addition to other Wii-exclusive games, was on display.
The Hand Cannon
Produced by French game publisher and peripheral developer BigBen Interactive in cooperation with Sega of Europe, the Hand Cannon is a revolver-shaped Wii Remote shell modeled after the game's eponymous unlockable gun that was released alongside OVERKILL. Much like Nyko's Wii PerfectShot, the Wii Remote fits into the top of the Hand Cannon and is locked into place by guards at the top and bottom of the controller. A button on the left side of the shell (near the top of the handle) opens a hatch that can be opened to make loading and unloading the Wii Remote easier, as well as store the connector for the Nunchuk; the Nunchuk wire feeds through a small hole by the shell's "hammer," and can be placed into a grooved opening down the center of the gun handle. The Hand Cannon was exclusive to PAL territories (i.e., Europe and Australia) and usually sold separately from the game, though a bundle released only in Australia (shown left) packaged the game with two Hand Cannon controller shells, whilst in Europe only one shell was available per box.