Review by Larcen Tyler
A decent compilation, but lacking in some areas.
The House of the Dead has been a common name in the video game world since 1997, when Sega released it in the arcades, mixing the concept of survival horror with a rail shooter similar to their Virtua Cop game. Ever since then, we've made it through four games pretty much, each following the similar premise of blasting the undead while protecting innocent civilians, and taking on bosses that take their names from tarot cards. Now Sega has given us the ability to play two of those games with their latest compilation release for the Wii. While the arcade ports are mostly spot on in terms of looks and sounds, it's still a bit dead in some areas.
Graphics: 8/10 (HOTD 2) 7/10 (HOTD 3)
The graphics for House of the Dead 2 are nearly nine years old, but even then they're still fairly detailed for the most part, meaning that when you shoot a zombie, you'll see realistic damage wherever you hit it. If you shoot an arm, it'll come off, while if you shoot it in the head, it'll go flying off. Some creatures, however, don't seem to have as many realistic damage spots, meaning that a little more detail could've been provided. In addition, while the zombies vary in appearance based on their abilities, most of the time you usually end up fighting the same generic group over and over. The scenery is a rather unusual one, in that it looks like an older European city , almost looking like ti's from the dark ages, but it's set in the present day.
As for House of the Dead 3, the backgrounds are a bit more modernized, and a lot more detail has been provided to them, meaning that they look more realistic. You can even see dirt stains and other notable things of that nature on various objects. The monsters, however, seem a little less varied than before, and there isn't as much realistic damage as there was in the previous game. While there are some spots where if you shoot at them, they'll show damage, you won't see flying heads as much as you did in the previous game. In addition, the blood looks more like sludge instead of actual blood. For once you might consider playing with the blood colored green!
Sounds: 6/10 (HOTD 2) 8/10 (HOTD 3)
One of the things the second game was notorious for was its awful voice acting. Unfortunately, that has been preserved here all too well for the most part. While I don't remember Amy having a European accent in the arcade game, the other voices are still the same. The characters speak with very little emotion, and their dialogue is very poorly written. For example, you've got a man in a car who's got zombies on the windshield, causing him to drive out of control. After you shoot the zombies off and he comes to a stop, he just looks at you and casually says, 'Thank you for rescuing me.' While waving to you. On the positive side, the sounds of things like gunfire and the undead groaning are a bit more noticeable and more realistic. The sound effects of the bosses are also well done too. To top that off, the music for each level sets the scene well, plus a well composed track for the boss fights really gets your blood pumping.
House of the Dead 3 is slightly better in the dialogue department, in that the voices are done with a bit more emotion, and while there are a few cheesy bits here and there, most of it is pretty much on par for the general game. The music is a little less noticeable than the previous game, but that's not much of a loss. The sound effects pretty much retain their same quality from the previous game, where they sounded very realistic.
Controls: 6/10 (both)
Mind you, I haven't tried this with the Wii Zapper accessory, so I can't testify for how it works. As it is, though, the Wiimote should make aiming and shooting a breeze, but there are times where it seems you try to aim for a corner, only to end up pointing off screen and reloading your gun when you want to shoot. While it's nice to be able to point off-screen and reload quickly, it becomes annoying when you reload when you want to shoot, or vice-versa. In addition, while you do have crosshairs available if you want them, sometimes you may find that they're not as accurate as you hoped they would be. A Wiimote calibration option is available for those who need it, and you might be spending a lot of time with that.
Story: 7/10 (HOTD 2) 8/10 (HOTD 3)
While the general goal of each game is pretty much blast the undead away from you while you try to figure out the cause of the outbreak, there are some slight differences in the game play. In House of the Dead 2, you play as AMS agents James and Gary, who, along with their colleagues Amy and Harry, are attempting to control an undead outbreak within the city. During your battle, you will encounter civilians within the area. As the general rule of most shooters like this goes, accidentally shooting one will result in loss of one life mark as a penalty, while rescuing them may unlock different paths or even bonus lives.
House of the Dead 3 takes place nearly twenty years after the second game. Thomas Rogan, the protagonist of the first game, is investigating a mysterious facility which he believes will hold the answer to rebuilding the decaying world, which resulted from the numerous outbreaks that happened over the years, when he abruptly disappears during his investigation. After that, G, an ally of Rogan's, goes to investigate along with Rogan's daughter, Lisa. While in the first two games you were armed with hand guns, in this game you're armed with shotguns, and it's a good thing, too, since you've got more dangerous enemies to deal with. This time, instead of encountering civilians, one of the player characters may get cornered by enemies at certain spots, and you'll have a chance to rescue them by shooting the invading zombies. If you succeed, you may get a bonus life. If you fail, you get nothing, but your partner won't be harmed. Unfortunately, there aren't as many path branching options available as in the previous games.
Replay: 6/10 (both)
There isn't much in terms of unlockable secrets, and the branching paths in the games are the only things that will really keep you coming back for more. While House of the Dead 2 does offer a boss rush mode, an original mode with special items available, and training missions, House of the Dead 3 only offers pretty much a time attack mode and very little in terms of unlockables. Unless you're a big undead blasting fan, you might not find a lot of reason to come back and play this game. Furthermore, why did they only include two games on this one? Sure, the original House of the Dead may seem dated, but with some touch-ups and new features, it would've made for a great unlockable. And why no House of the Dead 4?
If you like blasting undead, or enjoyed these games in the arcade, then you might consider picking the compilation up, since it's only $30, which is a bit of a bargain, granted that you only get two games. If not, then probably a rental will suffice. Either way, let this be a lesson to Sega to put more effort into attempting to resurrect something like this from the dead!
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return (US, 03/11/08)
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