House of the Dead E3 2005 Hands-On

We hit Sega's E3 2005 booth and attempt to gyroscopically control this campy shooter.

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Eschewing a dedicated Sega Mobile booth this E3, Sega placed a paltry mobile section--consisting of three unattended Japanese handsets--behind its main presence on the show floor. One of these games, however, looked very, very cool. Saturn and arcade fans will remember House of the Dead, a campy, zombie-themed shooter set around and within a creepy mansion. When the game initially hit Sega Model 2 cabinets in 1997, it was the perfect counterpart to the slow and stilted Resident Evil, then only a year old. The mobile version seemed like a direct port of the original and was running on a top-tier Japanese handset with gyroscopic control. It was therefore possible to move either with the navigational pad or by physically turning while holding the phone. The latter method wasn't working reliably, however.

It should be news to no one that Japanese handset technology is highly enviable. Japan's phones, with their fast processors and high-speed networks, are much closer to being the ultraportable computers mobile phones have been billed as since the first SMS message was sent. The graphical quality evidenced by House of the Dead would be absolutely unattainable on current American handsets. It looked as though the game was using models and textures culled directly from the Saturn version of the game. The sound was unintelligible on the noisy E3 floor.

Although it was possible to move by exploiting the phone's gyroscopic sensors, we had much more success with the tried-and-true navigational pad. Gyroscopic control remains a promising gimmick at this point, but we're eager to see how its successful implementation might increase the immersion factor in a shooter such as House of the Dead.

A few years ago, no one could have guessed that this cult classic would inspire both a mobile game and a cinematic release. We frankly still find it hard to believe. We were impressed with the overall quality of this port and hope for a US release. Given current handset technology, however, we could be waiting a while.

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