Like the 2009 Wii iteration before it, House of the Dead: Overkill – Extended Cut for PlayStation 3 is a reintroduction and re-tuning of a genre that survives in youthful memories of arcades, movie theaters and shopping malls. The on-rails shooter, like its inherent design and real-world inspiration, moves steadily forward through time and generations in such a way that missing one stop on the train doesn’t mean picking it up at the next won’t get a passenger to the same destination. One makes the most of the trip, and though the scenery tends to blend, some routes are more appealing than others.
As did the light gun games of my youth, Extended Cut moves through homes, buildings and streets, run amok with mutants and zombies. Laden with cursing and intentionally corny dialog, Extended Cut harkens back to the days of the ‘60s and ‘70s B-movie genre, which lends itself well to the campy game genre. The game is what one might expect, and apparently there is a story, but most probably won’t give it a second thought. The primary and consistent objective is to be escorted room to room, space to space, unloading on anything and everything that moves (or doesn’t). When all’s quiet, move on.
Where precision is so integral to the experience, the PlayStation Move makes it seamless. First, I tried my hand using standard DualShock controls. Believe me, this isn’t how this game was intended to be played. One might make progress, but it’s honestly not any fun. The Move feels like a light gun on an arcade cabinet. Memories resurface; the train is a familiar, comfortable ride.
Comfortable – safe, even. But this is an on-rails shooter with a survival-horror theme. Until finishing the game to unlock difficulty adjustments, the game strikes neither fear nor panic into the player. Is this heresy? Is it heresy that I enjoyed the ride? Swiss-cheese-ing the place the whole way through, putting holes in everything, hardly contemplating my demise was actually enjoyable. I could adjust the difficulty later, making the ride as smooth or as bumpy as I liked.
That’s what the rail-shooter – any arcade game – is about. Clear a stage, rack up points, and go another round for a higher score. Iteration is visible, tangible, not only in the game’s design, but in the player’s subsequent rides.
House of the Dead: Overkill – Extended Cut is just fun to play, which is likely what Headstrong was going for, and what arcade players are looking for. Would you feed your quarters into a machine at the mall if it wasn’t? What about your 13-year-old self?