Game Review: 'House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut'

My love for SEGA and Headstrong Games' House of the Dead: Overkill is well-known here on FEARnet.  Taking the deliciously simple rail-shooter genre and adding a devious dollop of grindhouse grain and gore to create a sleazy stew was a stroke of evil genius.  The game was irreverent, infantile, and irresistible in its single-minded salaciousness, pushing the boundaries of good taste on what was and still is considered a "kiddie system."

Now, with the Wii's once-revolutionary motion controls being aped on the Playstation 3 with the Move, Headstrong has re-released House of the Dead: Overkill in an updated and upgraded version called House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut, allowing a new segment of the population to get their hands dirty—so very, very dirty—with Detective Isaac Washington and Agent G.

The main game itself is virtually unchanged in gameplay from its Wii counterpart, with up to two players running through a series of b-movie inspired levels blasting mutants and monsters in pursuit of the sadistic Papa Caesar.  Where the Extended Cut adds to the experience is in its lean but no less appreciated additional content.  In addition to some moderately upgraded HD graphics which retain the aesthetic of the Wii original while adding some nice spit and polish to the lighting and textures, there are two new levels that follow the murderous misadventures of vengeful vixen Varla Gunns and her knee brace wearing stripper sidekick Candi Stryper.  "Naked Terror" sends the pair through a flaming strip club after the missing keys to Varla's motorcycle, and the absolutely revolting "Creeping Flesh" takes place in a stomach-churning slaughterhouse where the duo must face off against a monstrous mutant-cow hybrid simply dubbed Big Katie.  The rest of the game, for those who may not have played the original, runs a similarly gross gauntlet, with fantastic dialogue (Agent G's reflections on the word "motherf*cker" is still one of my favorite monologues in any media) and amazing trailer-style narration ("Get ready to be titillated, tantalized, and teased by tassel-tittied temptresses!") elevating this game to a work of sleazy art.

There are other differences as well.  The levels have been tweaked and polished to maximize challenge—quite effectively, I might add—and the end-level bosses have been all but rebuilt to similar ends.  What results in a game that is markedly more difficult than its prototype, but even more satisfying with the wealth of unlockable content that rewards those with quick trigger fingers.  Everything from 3D models to comic book pages to soundtrack songs are available, and there's an immense feeling of accomplishment pulling off the lightning fast maneuvers necessary to collect them.

However, the updated challenge is twofold.  On top of the game's tweaked difficulty is the slightly "off" feel of the Playstation Move.  While the combination of camera and lighted wand allow for greater precision than the Wii's simpler infrared setup in theory, I never felt like the system was calibrating properly, leading to missed shots and frustration.  Maybe it's the peculiar lighting of my apartment, or the placement of the Playstation Eye portion of the Move, but it's a problem that rears its head more often than it should.  More often than not, though, the Move is an excellent replacement for the Wii Remote, tracking just as accurately, if not more so, than the Nintendo equivalent.

In spite of the occasional control problem, House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut is the definitive version of the title and worth every penny of the re-buy.  There's something to be said for a game that makes me stand in my living room wielding a clown-nosed gun while wearing cardboard 3D glasses (did I mention the game now supports 3D—both anaglyph and stereoscopic?), but has me enjoying every damn minute of it.