House of the dead is the latest in a long line of light gun shooters to come out of Sega's arcade development teams. Previous shooters like Virtua Cop have been big hits in both Japan and the western markets so it's only natural that Sega would seek to carry on and improve upon their success. With AM1 developing the code and Model 2 technology at it's core, House of the Dead has a lot going for it. Is that potential well used ... I think so. Read on to find out why.
The story behind House of the Dead is pretty straight forward. Something has gone wrong in a medical research facility and now a horde of crazed zombies is running rampant through the country side. As a government agent you must try to rescue as many people as possible and exterminate the zombies in the process. It's a rather shallow plot but who cares! This is a shooter, if I wanted a deep story I'd play an RPG. Besides, zombies seem to be the in thing these days.
The graphics in HOTD are very dark and evil looking. It reminds me a lot of those old horror movies that most stations show at two in the morning. The buildings are old and spooky and the weather looks like it's about to rain all the time. It's very atmospheric. In this department HOTD seems to have borrowed a lot from the Virtua Cop series. The characters and backgrounds are completely 3D with texture maps added in for detail. For the most part this works quite well, but it's not perfect. Some of the characters are not as detailed as they could be and look blocky from up close. However, apart from this minor detail I can't complain. The frame rate is smooth and it's all in High Res. You won't have much time admire the scenery anyway.
Sound / Music
The sound FX in House of the Dead are about average. The voice acting is good but there's not much of it, the zombies just seem to groan and snarl all the time. The music is also good but it's not spectacular. To tell you the truth, I couldn't hear it all that well with the back ground noise of the arcade, but it sounded ok.
Control / Playability
This is where House of the Dead really shines. I have never seen a more intense light gun shooter in my life. Right from the get-go you're besieged by all sort of hell spawn with barely enough time to aim and shoot before another appears. Fans of Virtua Cop may find this game a little frustrating at first because the zombies don't go down on one shot like they do in VC. More than once I've put a couple rounds through someone's chest and turned to take down another without realising that the first one was still alive. From what I can tell AM3 have programmed the enemies to have certain vital spots that must be hit before it actually dies. This adds realism to the game (you can't kill someone by shooting his hand) but it requires some adjustment for Virtua Cops like me. Overall though, the game play is very similar to VC. The camera leads you along a pre-determined track with zombies appearing in the same places each time. Your gun can hold six shots and you point off screen to reload. There are secret weapons to find and a boss at the end of each mission. If you've played other Sega shooters you know what to expect.
Variety / Difficulty
House of the Dead is not an easy game. The enemies come fast and furious and it can be a little disorienting at times. The fact that the game follows a fixed path with zombies appearing in the same place helps though. After a few tries you start to learn the timing and then things get easier. Before long you'll be mowing down the undead like a helicopter blade in a tornado. As you progress farther the game changes in subtle ways to keep the action fresh. You can ride up and down elevators and blast your way through a good variety of locations. I haven't seen the whole game, but I liked the sections I did play.
So, now for the final verdict. I can honestly say that House of the Dead is one of the most gratifying games I'm played in a while. It's very intense and a bit gory at times but that all adds to the fun. If you've got some change to spare and some stress to work out this is the perfect game for you. Check it out sometime.
The conversion is quite disappointing, as it features no real significant extra features, and atrocious graphics. However, the gameplay remains intact. As a fan of the original, I really really like this game, and it is a worthy addition to Virtua Cop 2 in your collection. If you can see past the graphics you can see that HoTD remains a great game. But is it stunning? Not if you count the cut corners Tantalus have made.
Review By: Sheridan Hortness