Picture yourself in an arcade, say 12 years ago, knees locked in place for an hour, your pockets filled with quarters and your mind unable to compute anything but: Kill Zombies. The House of the Dead series is known worldwide as the mind numbing rail shooter where players can get their fix of shotgun shells and bloodthirsty zombies. Originally released on the Wii, THotD:O is being ported over to the PlayStation 3 later this year, bringing not just Move and 3D support, but also new exclusive levels for you to blow your way through.
Technically speaking, THotD:O is a prequel to the entire series, taking place in 1991 before the protagonist, Agent G, sees any real action in the field. But honestly, who has ever really followed the stories in these games? All we’ve ever really needed to know is 1) Zombies are alive (kinda) and meandering around 2) You happen to have an array of weapons at your fingertips, and 3) Zombies love being shot in the masses. It might as well be the golden rule, and thank your gods that this golden rule is hard to muck up.
Rail shooters can be intense with your action scripted and all character movement kept up at a constant pace. There’s no real downtime to catch your breath, and even in the few minutes I was sitting with it, I was getting wrapped up in the moment. I played through a level with a Move gun in my hand and a pair of 3D glasses glued to my head, and suddenly I was unstoppable. There is no learning curve; it was all instinct that guided my hand as I hit the parking lot and tore through the undead horde without remorse or thought. My equipment started with a single gun and an endless supply of bullets, but series staples made their appearance known early, like additional guns, grenades, hidden collectables, and upgrades, like the “Slow-Mo-Fo” ability. Beyond aim and shoot, the additional controls were a breeze; hit the move button with your free hand to reload, the X button to change guns, and circle to lob a grenade when the outcome looks bleak.
The Move’s perfect response time and flawless screen tracking kept the feeling alive. There was no make believe or suspension of disbelief with what I was doing, the Move was my pistol, and it worked just as my training taught me it would. I played through a few other games with 3D support on the floor, but to be honest, this was one of the best looking titles I saw. Zombies progressively make their way closer to you, or they will pop up to your immediate right. With the 3D, you don’t have to guess at depth, and take time to decide the best course for your survival, it’s obvious. It felt really natural and comfortable… probably too comfortable since I found myself trying to peak around corners and ducking to take cover. It’s hard not to feel slightly ridiculous after that, especially when you’re in front of a line of people waiting to play.
Is THotD:O EC revolutionary as a rail shooter? Debatable. Will it change the genre with it’s existence? Probably not, it’s too hard to tell. However, it offers 3D to rail shooters in what may be the first of its kind, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s implemented very well. The game proves that the genre is far from going stale, especially in a home setting because really, who could ever get tired of introducing a pump shotgun to a zombie’s head with Mom as your backup?
Look for The House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut later this year when it hits shelves on October 25th.