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The classic on-rail shooter returns to Wii, but with something of a re-invention...
Joining an increasing number of zapper compatible games, SEGA's House of the Dead: Overkill is the latest title to cement the Wii's position as the sole upholder of the old-school, on-rails arcade shooter tradition. A return to SEGA's former heavyweight arcade franchise is unsurprising given that the first two titles of the series were niftily compiled for the Wii in the shape of House of the Dead 1&2 Return - it didn't prove to be too successful. Undeterred, the zombie (sorry, mutant) series takes another shot with the release of House of the Dead: Overkill - however this is a House of the Dead quite unlike any other.
Granting Headstrong Games creative control to do whatever they pleased, the outcome is a hilariously witty homage to B-Movies and pulp fiction. After the bold proclamations of the announcer, House of the Dead: Overkill follows the attempts by the pragmatic Agent G, the hot-headed Isaac Washington, and delectable Varla Guns to hunt down the seemingly sinister Papa Caesar. It's classic B-Movie territory throughout as you give chase, killing countless zombies, defeating bizarre bosses, and delivering wisecracks along the way, but there's nothing hackneyed about the effort Headstrong Games has made to the characters, story, and presentation of this stylish homage.
Split across seven stages Overkill's on-rails action is immediately entertaining for all audiences. The implementation suits itself naturally to the Wii Remote, with the slight degree of additional camera movement providing a slightly stronger sense of immersion than on-rails shooters typically provide. The combo system is unremarkable in itself, but at least manages to add a satisfying reason to encourage skilful shots instead of the all guns blaring approach. With different combo levels bellowed by the game's overstated announcer, the setup helps to maintain a sense of urgency to the proceedings as you carefully try to avoid being hit, don't miss a shot, and uncover subtle strategies such as the significance of when to reload. A selection of guns can be purchased with hard earned points, and upgraded across numerous characteristics to provide a much needed sense of reward and progress.
In the arcades these types of titles were designed to entertain in small doses and keep the coins flowing. To remove any frustrations for the Wii audience however the Story mode avoids the irritation of limited credits by replacing it with a punishment that splits your points tally in half whenever a continue is required. This provides a satisfying challenge while ensuring everybody can have fun; however, it is the first indicator of a series of inherited problems that Overkill shares with its arcade forefathers. Overkill's seven stages can easily be finished in just over a couple of hours. The promise of unlocking the Director's Cut mode fails to offer any extra appeal beyond completing the game again under the challenge of a limited number of credits. So quickly it seems that Overkill wants to show you all it's got and get you out the door, that even the vast majority of the art, movies and screens are unlocked within the first couple of hours.
Even hardcore gamers that dedicate themselves to perfection and beating scores will find the game lacking, as a fully upgraded shotgun quickly kicks any challenge or difficulty into touch – with the only genuine test being whether you can maintain the 'Goregasm' combo throughout the entire game. Beyond that, the inclusion of three mini-games to test trigger fingers for up to four players are simple yet mildly addictive, but can't change the fact that Overkill's value feels little more than a few quid well spent in the arcades.