The pessimistic of you may have long written-off the seemingly undead (ooh, tough crowd) House of the Dead franchise a while back as merely the change-hungry fodder of inner-city bowling alleys, seeing as Sega have been rolling out a steady stream of the cheesier-than-stilton lightgun shooter since 1996. It stands to reason, then, that after 13 years – and a recent Wii-release (and the puns keep coming!) – British developer Kuju Entertainment (those behind the underrated Batallion Wars games) has released a stunningly dynamic reinvention of the franchise.
See, for this instalment (the ninth, if the synapses are working today) Kuju have opted to style the game in the image of the recent (overlooked) cult Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino horror double-bill Grindhouse, to the extent that I’m tempted to hand things over to Xander [then resident film editor] a few pages back. The game is bedecked in a wickedly accurate retro look straight out of the ‘70s, complete with appropriate film poster art (similar to that which was recently seen in Valve’s Left 4 Dead) and magnificently grimy score underlining the brutally ridiculous proceedings. Heck, even the instruction manual follows a similar approach (one especially gorgeous line – “never forget that you are the peak of a rigorous AMS training program; sleek, muscled, well-trimmed with good, strong thighs).
And, indeed, this is one of the most genuinely funny games released in years. Chronicling the infinitely odd misadventures of professional Samuel L. Jackson impersonator Det. Isaac Washington (complete with repeated references to the vile act of maternal coitus) and whiter-than-white G-Man, Agent G as they investigate the vile deeds of notorious South American beard-grower Papa Caesar (“for that is his name”). Sincerely laugh-out-loud funny and laced with innumerable references to various horror films, especially funny being the hideous shout-out to Dead Alive.
Though the game may suffer from the odd technical stutter, frame-rates suffering between particularly heavy actions sequences whilst the graphics are hardly inspirational, even for the Wii, for some strange reason its easy to overlook such problems and instead allow them to contribute to the overall murky aesthetic the game maintains. Trashy, funny and always disgusting (oh, and best played with the Venon Light Blaster gun), House of the Dead: Overkill just goes to show that there is something to be got out of flogging an undead horse (exit stage left, even).