If You Haven't Heard of This Game Before, Chances Are You've Never Been to The Arcades
The game does have a plot although you don't really notice it when playing. The year is 1998. After receiving a distress call from his fiancée Sophie Richards, AMS Agent Thomas Rogan and his partner G are sent on a mission to investigate a series of disappearances at the Curien Mansion and of course, rescue the damsel in distress. The mansion acts as the home and laboratory of Dr. Roy Curien, a gifted scientist who goes insane after becoming obsessed with the very nature of life and death. Once he perfects it, he unleashes his experimental subjects in to his property and plans on world domination. It's as cliché as it gets.
In the PC version, players control the crosshairs with the mouse, keyboard or control pad. The first player plays as Rogan and the second as the mysterious G. You fight your way to countless monstrosities by pointing to the enemies and fire away- just like any other rail shooters. The enemies are dumb but they're definitely not weak so it's important that you shoot them in the head or the limbs to make the body count more effective. The mutants (They're not called zombies- that's a fact!) also have ways to inflict damage by immediately throw projectiles on you or hit you with something deadly when you least expect it so quick reflex is key as well. The bosses are one of the highlights of the House of The Dead series because of their awesome appearances and the fact that they're named after tarot cards. Each bosses have their own strategic weak points and thankfully Agent Rogan and G so happen to have in possession of a book that illustrates each weak points. How convenient.
There are four chapters in total and it doesn't take long to complete each of them. Your health is displayed as torches and you start the game with three to five torches depending on the settings you choose. There are three difficulty settings and playing through Easy mode is definitely a cinch especially if you're playing with a friend. Thanks to the game's generous option menu, players can make the game a breeze by simply setting the continues to nine and health torches to five. And if that's not enough, there's also the auto-reload setting where you can fire away without having to worry about reloading manually. This make the game a cakewalk but compare to having putting coins back in the arcade days, you feel thankful to have this feature.
For the most part, you can easily fire away anything you see but there are occasions where you have to be careful not to shoot innocent bystanders who are in need of your help. Shooting them will result a minus to your health and rescuing them will allow a health item and extra points. The House of The Dead also features branching path system where you have access to multiple paths in the stages depending on your action. For example, if you manage to save a particular civilian, you'll have access to the front door but failing to do so, it leads you to the sewers instead. This system has been implemented in the sequels.
The audio has its plus and minus. On the positive side, the music and sound effects are original and classic. It has that arcade feel to it which makes the game very lively and nostalgic. On the negative side is the voice acting. The series is well known for its terrible yet hilarious voice work where each characters speak in the most unrealistic and stiff manner. It's totally out of place and it contradicts with the core violence in the game. You have to see it to believe it. It's absolutely amusing.
Completing the game will only keep your scores and nothing else, but that doesn't mean it has no replay value. Believe it or not, The House of The Dead has multiple endings and it all depends on how good you are. The good ending is probably the hardest one yet as it requires you to shoot enemies without a miss, save every civilians you can and not to use any torches and continues. Achieving the good ending allows Sophie to live and she gets to reunite with Rogan, but failing to do so will result her to be dead or be an undead. Bummer.
The House of The Dead may have outdated graphics and awkward voice acting but it's a classic no matter how you see it. The PC version is a solid port although you may have trouble installing it. Just be sure to set its compatibility to Windows 95 and the game should run smoothly. In conclusion, the House of the Dead is a true rail gun shooter with many nostalgic moments and competitive gameplay, what a typical arcade game should be. It may be a short lived experience but it will grow on you for the rest of your life.
Replay Value: 8
Game Score: 7.6