An Obsequious Ovation for House of the Dead: Overkill

I couldn't let this one go without posting something about it: This month marks the second anniversary of the release of Sega's House of the Dead: Overkill, a gory, campy rail shooter, for the Nintendo Wii system.

While the Wii will never be known for noteworthy contributions to the first person shooter genre, it certainly breathed new life into the rail shooter genre through innovative usage of the Wiimote, effective graphics, and creative game scenarios and features. Overkill ranks among the best of the Wii rail shooters, along with Dead Space: Extraction and the Resident Evil shooters, The Umbrella Chronicles and The Darkness Chronicles.

Yet what makes Overkill such a great addition to any horror gamer's video game library is that it lives up to its name on so many levels. There is no such thing as "too much" in Overkill, which leaves a lot left over to admire even after you beat the game multiple times. Read on for a full rundown on what makes Overkill a classic, and why you should run out to a video game store RIGHT NOW and add it to your Wii collection if you haven't already.

Overkill is a prequel to Sega's House of the Dead rail shooter games. If anything, the House of the Dead series was Sega's response to Capcom's Resident Evil series (sort of a Resident Evil lite for the coin-op arcades), complete with similar plots about convoluted corporate/government conspiracies that lead to an outbreak of zombie hordes, horribly mutated animals, and a wide variety of monstrous freaks of nature. Sega ported House of the Dead 2 and 3 to the Wii in 2008, almost a year before Overkill; unfortunately, the first House of the Dead game and House of the Dead 4 have yet to be ported to the Wii.

Even though Overkill is a House of the Dead game in that it's a rail shooter that features some of the same characters and a whole lot of zombies, it couldn't be more different from the other entries in the franchise. Unlike the other games in the series, Overkill is not so much as zombie video game as it is a video game that emulates old "grindhouse" horror movies and also happens to feature zombies. Much like the 2007 Grindhouse double feature of Planet Terror and Death Proof that inspired it, Overkill has all of the trappings of grindhouse movies from the 60s and 70s: inconsistent audio tracks, hokey plot logic, obvious visual continuity errors, missing reels, sexual themes, a record-setting amount of profanities, grainy and scratched film stock, and explicit violence.

The extent to which Overkill seeks to emulate the grindhouse experience is truly herculean, making it a must-play for anyone who loves trash cinema. Overkill even has different movie "posters" for each of the levels--as if each level was a complete movie unto itself--and a complete retro soundtrack to add to the game's atmosphere. (You can listen to many of the these tracks on YouTube.)

This is not to undersell the zombies in Overkill. They come in all stripes: zombie rednecks, zombie doctors, zombie nurses, zombie patients, zombie football players, zombie prisoners and prison guards, zombie train passengers, and even zombie clowns. (Yes, you read that correctly--ZOMBIE CLOWNS. It's a true fact that I just made up: Overkill is very therapeutic for sufferers of coulrophobia.) Each of these zombies can be blown apart via the impressive selection of firearms you can purchase in the game and the three types of shots you can perform: head, limb and torso, with the head shot being the bloodiest and most splatter-intensive of the three. If you shoot a certain neon green icon during the course of a level, you will enter "Slow Mo-Fo", a brief shift in game play allows you to shoot zombies and see them burst into a multitude of squishy pieces in glorious slow-motion.

Best of all, you can satiate your beastly bloodlust in three different ways:

  • You first play through the game in Story mode;
  • If that isn't enough when you are finished, you can play the “Director's Cut” mode, which features additional areas in each level and many more zombies to kill;
  • If that still isn't enough, you can also play both the Story and Director's Cut modes in “Dual Wield” style, blasting down zombie after zombie with a Wiimote in each hand. (It helps to have two of Nyko's Perfect Shot accessories, one for each Wiimote, when playing Dual Wield style in Overkill.)

I could go on and on and on about how supremely incredible Overkill is, but it wouldn't change the fact that if you love video games, grindhouse movies and zombies, then there's no reason for you not to have played this game at least once. There's a sequel rumored to be in the works for release sometime this year and the official House of the Dead: Overkill poster generator Web site is still running, so you can go there and apply your trashy visual tastes in a number of depraved of ways. All hail Overkill!


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