At its beginning, the House of the Dead series was a bit of a Resident Evil rip-off. A big house with lots of secrets, tons of zombies, even the final bosses were similar. The series has become a quite a franchise with versions of the game on every generation since the Sega Saturn, and multiple side games with twists on the original game most notably being Typing of the Dead. After watching the Robert Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" as part of "Grindhouse", the developers decided to turn the whole series upside-down, bringing new life to the series with House of the Dead: Overkill.
Just like "Grindhouse", this game is filled with a story and presentation that seemingly comes from 70s horror films. The main character, Agent G, is a rookie agent from AMS (a government agency that investigate the paranormal) who's been a major character of the HotD series since the beginning. This time around, G has been sent to Bayou City in order to investigate some strange disappearances. Behind it all is a crime lord named Papa Caesar. G's partner this time around is Detective Issac Washington whose father was killed by Papa Caesar. What follows is a night of unholy terror as these two shoot every moving mutant to uncover what the hell is going on.
HotD: Overkill is a first person rail shooter just like the previous games. Once you select a stage, you and another player (or use two Wii remotes/Zappers to dual wield like the badass you think you are) will have to blast through an army of mutants (G doesn't call them zombies and ask other's not to use the "Z" word). With your Wii remote or Zapper, you will have to be guided through a stage, clearing areas of enemies to progress further, meeting with a boss at the end of each stage. At the beginning of each stage, you will have a full life bar that will be depleted whenever an enemy attacks you which can be done in various ways. If you take too much damage, you will die and can continue with the game if you have gained enough points within the stage. Throughout the stage, multiple powerups that you will have to shoot at to help you out including health packs, grenades that can be saved to take down a large amount of enemies in an area, and a green atom looking thing that will slow down time allowing you to take carefully aim with little worry about being attacked. Killing multiple enemies without missing a shot or getting hit begins a combo. The longer the combo, the higher the score you'll receive. Once a stage has been completed, your score will be tallied along with various other score influencing factors like saving civilians and hitting special golden brains that are spread throughout the stage. The higher the score, the more money you get that can be exchanged for other weapons or upgrades to weapons.
While the main game is the story mode, Director's Cut mode becomes available once you beat the game. In Director's Cut, you play through the game on a harder difficulty with only 3 continues to use in each stage. Aside from that, it plays the same as regular story mode. Both story mode and Director's Cut have several unlockables available for those that want a challenge. Ranging from taking no damage, acquiring a certain amount of money, or even holding your gun sideways while playing, there are plenty to unlock such as weapons, music, and videos. A nice treat are the multiple mini-games that are available. These games support up to 4 players are good distraction on their own. There's the Money Shots, a skill based shooting game that's similar to something you would play at a carnival; Stayin' Alive that has you survive wave upon wave of zombies; and Victim Support will have you protect several civilians.
Time and time again, when you hear about this game, you will hear about its similarities to "Grindhouse". Before each level, a little trailer will playing showing the two heroes, G and Issac, talk about the situation at hand. Each stage itself is an homage to classic horror movies with such backgrounds as a big haunted-looking house, a hospital, and my personal favorite, a carnival where you ride a haunted house ride while shooting zombies. GENIUS!
In the game, G has a bit of a nerdy attitude while Issac is a straight motherfuckin' clone of Samuel Fuckin' L. Fuckin' Jackson. Each stage has its own cheesy name similar to a name of a B movie like Papa's Palace of Pain and Scream Train. While some people may consider it lame to do such a blatant rip-off of the style that Quentin Taratino went with in "Grindhouse", it's such a great change from the traditional House of the Dead series. It just goes to show that an entertaining idea can transcend different mediums as long as it's done right which House of the Dead: Overkill has done.
Along with keeping the style of the movie, the developers have a soundtrack that fits so well. While filled with a lot of unknowns artists, the music ranges from 70s fuck music to some Johnny Cash-esque country and some straight up rock-n-roll. Possibly the funniest track is the Johnny Cash wannabe song that has a talking intro between a father and son that you have to hear for yourself. Other unknowns are the voice actors but that simply doesn't matter because they've done such a good job. Issac Washington's voice alone is on par with any voice actor for any badass character in videogames.
As good as everything sounds, there is a downside to it all and that's the graphics. Yeah it's for the Wii and the Wii ain't that powerful so I wasn't expecting much. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised that HotD Overkill looks better than a PS2 game. The problem comes with the frame rate in that it slows down just too much. There's even this weird glitch that happens where you kill a zombie, and they reappear on screen for a second then disappear. It almost seems like it's another homage to B rated movie to go along with the grainy screen and other old movie effects, but I highly doubt it considering how often it happens. What we have is a game that looks about average but even then, the pitiful power of Wii can barely keep up with these average graphics.
Light gun games have always been fun in the past because there were so few of them on previous systems. With the Wii, light guns have become more of a stand but like everything else on the Wii, there's so much crap you have to wade through to get something good. If you want a game to show off your shooting skills while being entertained, House of the Dead Overkill is a game to get.