Review by kiriyama2
"The dead rise for the fourth time"
The House of the Dead series has always been my second favorite light gun shooter for arcades (second only to Virtua Cop). I've always been able to enjoy the simple pleasures of perforating the living dead with handguns (cause sometimes I like to rock it using both guns), or shotguns as the case was with House of the Dead III. Then one day when I happened to walk by the local arcade I noticed in addition to an Initial D arcade game they had gotten one of the large House of the Dead 4 machines. Initially I was ecstatic, because it was a new House of the Dead, then I thought it had just come out very recently. A short time later I found out that the game indeed came out about a year ago, which threw me for a loop. But enough of my fanboyism, onto the review.
As a general maxim I never really expect arcade games to have more of a story than the basic: bad stuff is going to happen and you and someone else (or four people in some button masher cases) have to save the world/city/whatever. At any rate the game takes place about three years after the Goldman incident in House of the Dead 2 (so it takes place about thirteen years before House of the Dead III), and casts the player(s) in the role of James Taylor and Kate Green, agents of the AMS. Fans will remember James as one of the two player characters in House of the Dead 2. The pair is in the fifth floor basement of the AMS European building when an earthquake strikes stranding them underground for three days. The plot is pretty flimsy and deals with James' feelings that the Goldman incident isn't over. Which strikes me as odd since it's been three years since the end of the Goldman incident, you'd think if it weren't over it'd have continued a week or two later, not three years. Also it turns out that someone's intent on launching nuclear missiles, presumably to end the zombie pandemic. But whatever, I'll not judge it too harshly on its story.
The graphics in the game are fantastic and look great. It's on par with the 360 and the PS3 in terms of visuals. The zombies are greatly rendered, and the character models of James, Kate, and the other human characters are all fantastic. The version I played was a huge widescreen set, and maybe that's why the graphics were so amazing. All the usual onscreen detritus is there, ammo bar, life flames, that sort of stuff. The zombies are amazingly zombie looking, they have a nice decayed look about them, complete with tattered and/or musty clothing. There's still the swamp-thing Wookie looking zombies that are always in these games. There's also an enemy in this game that looks like a dime store version of the Marvel hero Iron Man. The bosses in this game are pretty good looking, if not terribly imaginative. The game's first boss looks like the El Gigante from Resident Evil 4, only with an extra set of arms. There's then the ubiquitous spider boss that permeate a large number of this type of game. Overall the graphics in this game are quite superb, which I suppose isn't saying much given the amount of graphical prowess games these days are capable of.
The sound is one of the highlights of this game. In an amazing turn of events House of the Dead 4 has some pretty good voice acting. I recall the voices in previous House of the Dead games to range somewhere from terrible to adequate. Sure House of the Dead 3 had decent VO, it just wasn't very good at all. Sure I can understand why developers of an arcade shooter wouldn't put its priorities on the voice acting, but come on, put a modest effort into it. That being said however the voices of Kate and James are actually pretty good, sure it's not the greatest voice acting in the world, but it's quite good. Gone are the horrible voices like the little flying enemy from House of the Dead 2, and now there's voice acting that sounds close to Ashley's voice in Resident Evil 4. The zombies sound decidedly zombie like, they make the appropriate grunts and moans like they should, in a word, it sounds realistic. The music is also a suitably action oriented soundtrack, with some pretty nice rock-like sounds. Complete with what sounds like a real sub-machine gun. The boss creatures sound pretty good as well, even though it's usually just the typical growl, snarl, and shrieks that bosses are prone to making in this sort of game.
Gameplay wise the game really isn't that much different from the previous House of the Dead game. You put in your tokens, and then grab the plastic light gun and shoot at things. This time however, instead of pistols, or a shotgun you've got a sub-machine gun with which to dole out death. A welcome addition to House of the Dead 4 is the fact you get hand grenades this time. Which comes in handy with the sheer volume of enemies the game throws your way. Unlike previous House of the Deads, which had less than ten enemies onscreen at any given time, this one throws a sizeable number at you. Another interesting mechanic added to the game is the fact that on occasion the game requires you to vigorously shake your gun to either escape from an enemy (zombie or boss), or to open/close a door or gate. The game also changes the reload mechanic from the others, to reload in this game instead of shooting outside of the screen, you're required to shake the gun forward then back, I suppose to add realism. It adds a bit of interactivity to the usual, just hold down the trigger and perforate the living dead gameplay prevalent in the other games. Taking a cue from House of the Dead 3 the game occasionally offers you a choice as to where to go next. Granted that the choice is mainly just a gesture, because regardless of which path you take it all takes you to the same place. Still it's nice to have a choice, and to offer the illusion of free-roaming gameplay. In something that I find amazing the game is actually pretty long, totaling roughly an hour in length. Multiplayer in the game is fundamentally the same as playing the game solo, the only difference being the number of enemies the game tosses at you, also they seem to be a touch smarter than playing alone. In terms of price the game isn't the most expensive game to play, it's roughly seventy-five cents, which I find to be a fair price. Depending on the location (and overall price the arcade charges) the game could cost you around five dollars to play to completion.
At the end of the day House of the Dead 4 is a very enjoyable shooter that if you can find it is worth playing at least once. It rivals Time Crisis 4 as one of the better arcade shooters that's come out in the year 2006. In addition to the remarkable length of the game it offers multiple endings, which as far as I know is the only arcade shooter that's done this (I could be wrong, I don't know). In the end House of the Dead 4 is a welcome addition to the long-running series, and is one of the series best, second only to the Typing of the Dead spin-off.
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Overall: 9 out of 10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/26/07
Game Release: The House of the Dead 4 (US, 12/31/06)
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