Sprucing up the House

Hot damn, kiddies—now this is how you pull off a revival.

Hot damn, kiddies—now this is how you pull off a revival.

After years of languishing with fine-but-typical House of the Dead games, SEGA’s premiere zombie blasting series returns with a vengeance in House of the Dead: Overkill, an original installment built from the ground up on the Wii.

What makes Overkill stand out from the crowd is that it’s the first House of the Dead game in years to actually have some personality injected into it (aside from parts of the original, and the Dreamcast’s brilliantly goofy Typing of the Dead spin-off).

See, in Overkill you’re treated to the origins of series regular Agent G, who, as it turns out, went on a grindhouse-esque undead-shooting spree in the ’70s while teamed with a blaxploitive, over-the-top bald muthafucka by the name of Isaac Washington.

From the second the game loads (even before the title screen is up) you get a feel for what SEGA is trying to do here. The familiar blue logo shows up on a shitty-looking, scratched up film reel, and two seconds later, some grainy footage of an exotic dancer (with a “Wii-mote”) is playing, complete with funky porno/house music.

The choppy exploitative feel of the game immediately grabs you, from this opening movie to Overkill‘s menus to the game itself, which is laid out as a series of grindhouse pictures.

The other thing you’ll immediately notice is the ridiculous amount of f-bombs the game drops, even in the first few minutes of the action. Everything about Overkill is hilariously overwrought in true b-movie style, adding a shade of color to what could have been a very black and white affair.

Oh, there’s also a pretty decent zombie light-gun game in here, too. Using the “Wii-mote” to aim, a la the Resident Evil spin-off The Umbrella Chronicles, you aim and shoot zombies hordes (or as the game calls them, “muthafuckin’ mutants”) preferably in the head.

Power-ups and collectibles are scattered throughout the levels and there’s a nifty combo system that rewards nice shootin’ with higher scores. The swarming enemies are well detailed and vary per level (beware the zombie clowns) and the gore is gratuitous, with arm and leg chunking fun to be had alongside your typical brain-splattering headshots.

Overkill isn’t terribly difficult, or long, although missions clock in at around 20 to 25 minutes each—longer than most arcade shooter levels. But to its credit, the game isn’t really about simply beating the game.

Instead, the value of Overkill lies in replaying its levels to perfect your score, unlock a harder “director’s cut” mode, collecting things and maxing out your guns. SEGA even included a few shooting mini-games and two player co-op to spice things up a bit.

The game may be unapologetically straightforward, but in the end, it’s violent fun with style and wit to spare (the banter between G and Washington had me laughing out loud) that harkens back to SEGA’s more creative Dreamcast days.

Overkill is certainly unexpected, but it’s a hell of a lot better than a port of the comparatively wooden House of the Dead 4.