Review by TOPolk
SEGA misses a headshot with this bare bones port
If there was ever a game to use as an example of how not to market a game, House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return (from here on abbreviated as HotDR) would be it. Released the same week as Super Smash Bros. Brawl (which sold 1.4 million copies out of the gate) to no fanfare, HotDR was overlooked by everyone, and rightfully so. While SEGA is selling consumers two games for the price of one, those two games are nine and six years old. With no extras or updated graphics working in its favor, HotDR is a hard sell to make -- even at a budget price of $30.
Thankfully someone at Circuit City realized this and marked it down to $20. Every gamer knows that $20 is that magical sweet spot where anything looks like a good purchase. That combined with the fact that I actually wanted this game lead me to picking up a copy a few days ago. HotDR is a decent enough game, but unless you're a hardcore fan of the series or just have money to burn, picking up the game on a discount is essential to getting the full enjoyment out of it. That's never a complement for a budget title.
The problem with the game is that time has not been kind to half of the package. House of the Dead 2 is a direct port from the Dreamcast build -- and it shows. Graphics that were marginally good at best in 1999 look downright horrid in 2008. They're so bad that they're almost painful on the eyes. The audio isn't anything to write home about either. HotD2 is so full of horrible voice acting and that brand of "ass rock" that only SEGA makes that you'll be reaching for the mute button on your remote in no time. On the bright side, HotD2 does play well. The Wii Zapper controls superbly well, so you'll have no problem busting some zombie ass. The action is a little slow at times but with the difficulty of the whole affair you won't be wishing that the game was faster anytime soon.
The other half of the package, House of the Dead III is a complete 180 from its older brother. The game is a carryover from the original Xbox, and while the graphics and sound aren't even on par with most of the games that were on that system, they're a helluva lot better than what's offered in HotD2. HotDIII shares the same spot-on controls as HotD2, which is great as the game speed is faster than most shooters and requires responsive controls. The Wii Zapper will never be as fast and precise as shooting zombies with an actual light gun, but it's an extremely adequate replacement.
As a whole, the package of House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return is a fun diversion from rounds of Brawl or in between play sessions of Super Mario Galaxy. SEGA made the right move in making it a budget title, but a $30 sticker may be to high. At $30, you're effectively paying $15 per game, and $15 for House of the Dead 2 is just too much. However, as I said at the beginning, finding the game on sale is essential -- I purchased the game at $20 and have no qualms with that price. At that price point you could look at it as paying $10 per game, which isn't bad, or you could do as I do and look at it as paying $15 for House of the Dead III and $5 for House of the Dead 2 -- which is an awesome value.
All things considered, I recommend House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return but I do so with reservations. Those new gamers that Nintendo brought into the fold via WiiSports and WiiPlay may enjoy this title, but they'll be more likely to just stick with the free Link's Crossbow Training that's packaged with the Wii Zapper. More seasoned gamers, especially those of us who grew up on games like Hogan's Alley, Lethal Enforcers, Area 51, and the original House of the Dead, will enjoy this collection -- but we'll grumble about the lack of bonus content the entire time we're shooting away.
Which honestly speaking, won't be long -- both games can be finished in about an hour and a half.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return (US, 03/11/08)
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