The House of the Dead: Overkill Updated Hands-On

Yes, it's another House of the Dead game. No, it's not "just another" House of the Dead game.


We know what you're thinking. The second you read the title of this story you considered moving on to another page, or even shutting down your browser altogether, right? Another House of the Dead game? How could that be interesting to anyone? We hear you, but trust us when we say that despite some similarities to previous series entries, Sega's upcoming The House of the Dead: Overkill is a fun-filled retro reboot of the long-running zombie-blasting series that looks to be one of the early highlights on the Wii in 2009. And if you don't believe us, you can just $&@# our &#*@.

OK, sorry about that outburst. You see, it's this Isaac Washington guy. He's one of the heroes of Overkill who, along with the mysterious and handsome Agent G, does his best to rid the world of infected mutants (read: zombies) one bullet at a time. He's also got one of the foulest mouths we've ever seen in a video game--or at least on the Wii--and his racy commentary is just one of the highlights in Overkill. Toss in a grainy film look and an entirely cheesy grindhouse feel to the cutscenes that bookend each of the levels in Overkill, and you've got a charming package that's equal parts zombie-blasting action and chuckle-worthy one-liners.

Mutant zombies? Scary. Mutant zombie back-flipping clowns? Friggin' terrifying.
Mutant zombies? Scary. Mutant zombie back-flipping clowns? Friggin' terrifying.

The back-and-forth between Washington and Agent G is always engaging, but of course it's the gameplay that means the most in Overkill. While the game's look and feel might be decidedly retro, the nuts and bolts of blasting zombies by the bushel are still intact. This is still rail shooting at its heart, with a constantly changing first-person perspective and zombies coming at you from every angle. Your goal is to blast anything that moves by aiming with the Wii Remote and pulling the B button to let loose with your weapon of choice (and reloading with the A button).

Power-ups in Overkill will help you along in your two-man battle against the horde of infected zombies. These include basic health packs, grenade pickups that come in handy when things get crowded, a power-up that lets you temporarily slow down time, and a brain-shaped power-up that acts as a points multiplier. Points play a particularly important part in Overkill's gameplay; when you die, you'll spend a chunk of the points you've earned along the way to resurrect yourself. If you run out of points, you'll run out of lives.

Nearly as helpful as points is the cash you'll earn for completing levels. In between each mission, you can head to the gun shop where you can spend money on upgrades for your current weapon (such as increased damage or a larger clip) or buy an entirely new weapon. You start off with a standard pistol but can upgrade to a submachine gun, shotgun, assault rifle, and more.

The missions we played in Overkill seem to follow an overarching plot of sorts, with Agent G and Detective Washington on the heels of a bad guy known as Papa Caesar. The duo start off in an abandoned house before taking the fight to a hospital overrun with zombies and, later, to a circus complete with a bevy of undead backflipping clowns, which, coincidentally, happen to be the scariest things our minds can conjure. Each mission ended with a boss fight, including one boss that seemed remarkably similar in design to the witch in Left 4 Dead. Presumably the game will feature a big showdown between the duo and Papa Caesar, and the game gives you the option to add extra mutant enemies to a level, which should give it some replay value.

Three minigames will find their way into Overkill, two of which are mildly amusing. Stayin' Alive is a survival-type game that challenges you to defeat wave after wave of zombies. Victim Support challenges you to protect fleeing civilians from mutant freaks; the more civvies that escape, the more points you'll earn. The final, and least inspired, minigame is called Money Shot II and is a standard carny shooting game, with moving targets and a time limit--shoot as many targets as you can within the time limit. If time runs out, it's game over.

So, there are a few things to take away from our time with The House of the Dead: Overkill. First, Isaac Washington is in the early lead for best new character of 2009. Second, the game's '70s feel and outrageous dialogue will keep you giggling in between the gameplay that feels pretty much exactly like the House of the Dead games of the past. Finally, the game is due out in less than a month, so get ready to lock and load.

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