It’s not just the presentation of Overkill that’s shifted away from the original games either – the actual gameplay and structure has taken a turn for the better too.
The credit system especially has been redone to make it more relevant to play-at-home gamers. The dilemma of paying to continue your game after death in an arcade is all very well and good, but when you’re at home that’s not an option and the alternative of just ploughing on forever or repeatedly being booted to the Game Over screen is about as attractive as the undead themselves.
Headstrong has come to a rather eloquent solution then by replacing the credits system with a score-based one. Progressing through the game earns you points which, at the end of the level, are turned into cash for you to spend on upgrades and new guns. Shooting certain items and saving civilians earns you a bigger score too – as does racking up combos and continuous headshots.
Your score can come into jeopardy though if you aren’t careful, as you can only resurrect yourself after death if you’re willing to sacrifice about half of your score – stripping you of later upgrades.
The challenge then isn’t just on surviving the levels, but on getting through them with the most points possible. If you rack up enough direct hits in a row without missing or being hit then you can even switch into ‘Goregasm’ mode and start to reap some insane bonuses, though that’s very hard to do.
Balancing all this difficulty out though are a few things that tip the balance in the player's favour. There’s drop-in co-op for those than need an extra gun-hand, plus power-up items like the ‘Slow-mofo’ power which puts everything into bullet time for a little bit. There’s the usual health kits laying around too – the ones that strangely need to be shot at if you want to use a bandaid. Later in the game the really big guns come out too. Dual mini-guns make the whole thing a much more laid-back experience.
If you’re after more of a fight though then you can tip things the other way thanks to the Extra Zombies option, or the Director’s Cut mode that extends the levels and ups the difficulty further. There’s a tonne of achievements to aim for too, each of which unlocks concept art, movies and music that’s more explicit than a rapper who’s just stubbed his toe.
Despite all that extra content though, House of the Dead: Overkill’s one real weakness is still a lack of any real length. There are less than ten levels in Story Mode and, while each is sufficiently different and hilarious (you can shoot everything from Silent Hill-esque nurses to evil clowns that remind us of Blood), you’ll still chew through them in less than five hours. We've also got to point out that the game can stutter occasionally. It's only slight and generally only when the view rushes from one area to another, but it is there and it is annoying.
Granted, there’s a trio of minigames to satisfy you murderous compulsions (is it murder if they’re already dead? – Ed.) and each of these can take up to four players, but that’ll add an extra hour or two at best. Overkill has an awful lot going for it, including what is easily the best Wii-mote gun adaptor we’ve ever seen if you want to pick one up, but it’s still not very long in the tooth.
Then again though, that could be for the best. A huge amount of Overkill’s appeal comes from its novelty and shock value – things that by their very nature are neither sustainable or great for revisiting. On the plus side, it does make the game great for sharing with good-humoured or easily offended friends. This is a game that’s great for playing when you’ve come back from the pub, which is arguably the only time the Wii sees much action from hardcore audiences anyway.
House of the Dead: Overkill may not have a huge amount of longevity in it for single players, but that’s not what the series is really about. As long as you can approach the game with that flaw in mind and you aren’t going to be massively put off by a bit of swearing and un-PC teasing then Overkill is a great game to buy or rent.