Like most good things, House of the Dead: Overkill starts things off with a stripper, this one standing on a podium and wearing a cowboy outfit that’s not totally dissimilar to Jessica Alba’s in Sin City. It’s a great way to grab the player's attention, especially as it has next to nothing to do with the game itself. This isn’t a zombie stripper.
What it does have something to do with though is the way that the game is presented – grainy video with deliberate flaws, continuity errors and gratuitousness. The whole game riffs off the 1970’s blaxploitation genre and it does it extremely well.
Take the two new main characters, for example. There’s Varla Gunns, the hooker with a heart of gold and who wields dual shotguns while she rides her motorbike, and Detective Washington, a badass Louisiana cop. Washington in particular makes a great first impression, bursting onto the screen and declaring that he’s going to rip someone’s balls off.
All of this stuff is handed over in just the first few minutes of the game, so before you’ve even got into the game itself you know that this isn’t a game for the faint hearted. Developer, Headstrong Games, has taken the House of the Dead franchise in a totally different direction – there’s swearing, gore and nudity a’plenty. There should be a sticker on the front of the box that reads “Not Suitable for Daily Mail Readers.”
Story-wise, House of the Dead: Overkill is as ludicrous and convoluted as you might expect and hope. It’s a prequel to all the other games in the long-running series, with series protagonist Agent G (who coolly and constantly insists that he won’t tell no mofo his real name) coming just out of the academy and thrust into a crowd of Zombies in the deep south.
Sorry, did we say Zombies? We meant Mutants. According to Headstrong, the House of the Dead games aren’t allowed to refer to the enemies as Zombies because the idea just doesn’t go down well in Japanese culture. It’s something that G and Washington mention too, poking yet more fun at the so-serious roots of the arcade classic.
It’s this constant irreverence and startlingly modern, western take on the series which goes a long way to making House of the Dead: Overkill feel so fresh and new. Just another House of the Dead remake or retake would have been OK for a short time, but by taking an entirely new and more adult perspective on the series Headstrong has managed to make the game feel more alive than ever.
Again though, it really does need to be hammered home that this isn’t a game suitable for children. Frankly, it’s startling that Nintendo would even let it on the console – this is the company that once censored Mortal Kombat, remember? Now here they are with a title that has swearing, boob-shots and gory dismemberment of zombies mutants.
That’s not all either – none of that is as bad as the boss at the end of the first level. He’s a wheelchair-bound boy who’s been deliberately made to resemble Harry Potter and isn’t only brutally euthanized on-screen, but is referred to more than once as “a pathetic cripple.”
If it weren’t for the fact that it’s so obviously tongue-in-cheek and laden with post-modern humour then it’d be dangerously close to crossing into the realms of poor taste.