A lifeless, zombified PS3 port
Back in 2009, an arcade classic was in desperate need of a makeover—and, of all places, it came from the Wii, surprisingly enough. The House of the Dead: Overkill served as a prequel for the immensely popular lightgun House of the Dead games and explained, sort of, both the origins of Agent G (the series’ main protagonist) and the zombie-causing formula he’s fought for 15 years—all wrapped in a ’70s B-movie setting with over-the-top voice acting, tons of sex and swearing, and cheesy moments galore. Looking to capitalize on that surprising success, Sega’s ported the game over to the PS3 with some upgrades in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle with a new audience.
Unfortunately, anyone who played through the original House of the Dead: Overkill will note Extended Cut for PS3 just feels…off. For as many problems that have been fixed from the original—like repetitive zombie skins and short game length—new ones seem to have cropped up. And the most glaring is way the game looks.
See, the poor graphics were actually part of the original’s charm. Throwing in a film grain to cover up the Wii’s weaker processing power was a masterstroke that helped give Overkill a B-movie look that fit perfectly with the depraved humor and unabashed, over-the-top moments. Bringing the game into full HD on the PS3 actually takes away from the original experience and shows that film grain and great graphics just don’t mix. But the visual changes don’t stop with the HD upgrade—Extended Cut also includes added 3D. Enemies chuck weapons in order to add a few 3D moments to the experience, but it feels forced and unnecessary the whole way through, and it’s just another knock on these new-and-“improved” visuals.
Another flaw comes with the controls, since most players don’t actually own a PS Move—and that’s how this game is meant to be played, with the Move serving as a makeshift lightgun to help re-create that arcade experience. If you don’t own a Move, the controls don’t translate to the DualShock, since you’ll more than likely try to overcompensate with the reticule and overshoot your target, making the game’s multiplier combos almost impossible. Looking back, the game worked so well for the Wii because the Wiimote’s essentially designed as a light gun to begin with.
Extended Cut includes two new levels that follow zombie-fighting stripper Varla Gunns when she’s not with Agent G and Isaac Washington, and those definitely add some replay value and extra humor—though the spotlight still shines on the relationship between Washington and G. These areas introduce new characters while also bridging what some might consider plot gaps—but I just think of them as part of the charm.
In the end, I can’t believe I actually found myself pining for the Wii version, as this PS3 incarnation found a way to use technology to suck out all the fun and charm of the original and deposit it in a steaming pile of disappointment on my living-room floor. If you’ve never played the original House of the Dead: Overkill and happen to own a Move, then this game might be worth checking out. Otherwise, I hope you’re ready to dust off your Wii—because I’d actually recommend that version, which you can probably find in the bargain bin these days, to get the better overall experience.
SUMMARY: It may sound preposterous, but you’d be better off checking out the far-better Wii version of this PS3 port.
- THE GOOD: Two new levels extend the campy, on-rails romp
- THE BAD: HD graphics with a film-grain effect is like a visual oxymoron
- THE UGLY: The Mother boss in full 3D