Review by horror_spooky

"Home Sweet Home"

Everyone has memories of playing light gun games at the arcade or at least playing games like Duck Hunt on the NES using Nintendo's gun controller. One of the most popular light gun series ever is the House of the Dead series, which everyone has at the very least heard of. Hell, there's even a movie or two about the series! With the release of the Wii Zapper, on-rail shooters have been released for the Wii like madness, with titles like Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and Ghost Squad, which is a game that, like the House of the Dead games, was created by Sega.

The concept of an “on-rails” shooter can only be so fun for so long, so developers have to spice things up to keep gamers interested. Well, there's a very easy way to do that and that's by making branching story paths. In House of the Dead 2, the story will branch off in different directions depending on if you shoot a key in time or if you save a certain civilian. In House of the Dead 3, you simply get to choose the path you go on. Branching paths really makes a game a lot more interesting and makes constant retries much less boring. House of the Dead 3, though, doesn't focus as much on the branching paths, but instead lets you choose what order you fight the bosses in. Instead of saving civilians in House of the Dead 3 you will sporadically have to save your partner from a couple of zombies, and if you do, you will get some extra health.

In each game, you really only get one weapon: a pistol in House of the Dead 2 and a shotgun in House of the Dead 3. You reload just like you do in the arcade version, which is by aiming your weapon off-screen. A lot of the environment is destructible, which makes causing mayhem that much sweeter. Sometimes you'll find an item that was hidden inside a destructible object, like a coin or a diamond that you can shoot for some extra points. In House of the Dead 2 on Original Mode, you can also pick up items that you can equip onto yourself like items to let your weapon hold more ammo or to have two extra credits.

Simply put, some people just aren't that good at on-rails shooters, and if you are one of those people who are constantly losing, the game will actually give you more credits to play with, not to mention up the amount of health that you can have.

In House of the Dead 2, there are multiple modes of play than just the version that was on the arcade, though you can play that version. There is an Original Mode that I've mentioned before that lets you use items in order to make the game a little easier and there is also a Boss Mode which lets you fight any boss you want, as long as you've been to their level. A mode that I found to be a little more interesting was Training Mode which gives you little objectives to do like “only use 30 bullets” or “save all the civilians” which definitely reminds me of the “Events” in the Super Smash Bros. games. You can also view tutorial movies that can give you some advice that is surprisingly helpful.

For some reason, House of the Dead 3 has less gameplay modes than House of the Dead 2 does, which is pretty stupid. House of the Dead 3 doesn't let you play in “Original Mode”—only Arcade Mode. There is no Boss Mode, but there is a Time Attack Mode which lets you see how far you can get into the game without running out of time and rewards you by getting quick and accurate kills. Time Attack Mode feels pretty much like a little training for the game since in House of the Dead 3 you are ranked based on your accuracy and quickness Devil May Cry style. If you earn an “A” ranking at the end of the level, you get some health back. There is also one other mode available in House of the Dead 3 which you can unlock by beating both of the games, but I won't ruin what it is for you (it's actually pretty fun, too).

If you get to the last level in House of the Dead 2, you unlock a mini-game that you can play once you try to play House of the Dead 2 again. This mini-game puts you in an elevator and you simply gun down as many zombies as you can before the elevator doors shut. The more zombies you gun down, the more items you earn to use in House of the Dead 2's Original Mode.

With two games there is two different stories, but if you didn't play the first game, you'll feel kind of left out from everything. The story in House of the Dead 2 is abysmal, but the story in the third game is actually a little bit more than decent, which is surprising for an on-rails shooter. There are some pretty sweet moments in the game that are pretty dramatic as well, and the beginning of House of the Dead 3 has a cliffhanger right off the bat so you won't want to stop playing until you figure it out.

Of course, you can't expect much graphically from a port of a game, so House of the Dead 2 looks just as ugly as it did on the arcade. It still looks cool to blow the limbs off of zombies, though, but for some reason the game's default setting for the blood is “green” which is dumb. The bosses look phenomenal and the character models actually aren't all that bad. House of the Dead 3 on the other hand has very nice graphics, very nice character models, and even a wider variety of enemies to face. There are some cooler special effects in House of the Dead 3 as well, with lighting that would make an Xbox 360 game jealous.

Oh boy…the audio is the most mixed bag I've ever heard. In House of the Dead 2, the voice-acting is so unbelievably terrible that it makes the voice-acting in the original Resident Evil look Oscar-worthy! The characters sound like freaking robots…it's really pathetic. Also, whose idea was it to name one character “Gary” and another character “Harry”? It makes the game seem ridiculous. There was one instance where a civilian was being chased by a zombie and when he was running, he sounded like a little kid, but after I saved him, he had a voice deeper than the Mariana Trench! Also, I just have to say that I'm pretty sure one of the main character's, who are all grown men and women, was played by a kid. I'm not even joking. However, the audio in House of the Dead 3 is much better, with voice-acting that isn't so dreadfully awful and there's even some sweet music. However, the game is not free from some corny lines and sometimes Lisa or G says some things that doesn't make any sense at all or get totally out of character.

Despite all this, the simple fact is that both games are fun and addicting. There's just nothing that's really boring about them and it's even hard to get frustrated at losing all the time—they're just that much fun. Even though both games are very, very short they can end up lasting you a long time as you work to master them and beat them. With the extra modes to play, plus a couple of things to unlock, it will take a long time to get bored. With a co-operative mode available, the games are that much more fun.

It looks like Wii owners are going to have to get used to playing on-rails shooters since more and more developers are dishing out games that take advantage of Nintendo's gun peripheral the Wii Zapper. Hopefully, the developers that are making these on-rails shooters take some notes from the House of the Dead series when they are coming up with ideas for their games…if they do, the gaming world will be a much more enjoyable place.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 03/31/08

Game Release: The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return (US, 03/11/08)

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