It takes a lot to shock us when it comes to controversial games. Usually when a game tries to be edgy it ends up simply being filled with lots of swearing and gore and not much else. Yes, House Of The Dead: Overkill has insane amounts of bad language and masses of gore, but it's got more. So much more.
When we watched a particular cut-scene at the end of the first level our mouth dropped open in disbelief. "Did they really just say that? That's, ummm, a brave move." These thoughts continued throughout the rest of the game as we got progressively more surprised by what we were seeing and amazed at what they were getting away with, right up to the ending. THAT ending. It'll be pretty clear to you within ten minutes of booting it up, but let us make it clear right now: House Of The Dead: Overkill is certainly NOT for children or those of a sensitive disposition. There's a very good reason it's been given a BBFC 18 rating.
Guns On The Run
Of course, controversy aside, the important thing here is how enjoyable the game is. Thankfully it doesn't disappoint. Despite being handled by a different developer than the earlier games (Headstrong Games, who previously developed Battalion Wars 2 under the name Kuju), it still retains the classic House Of The Dead formula - loads of zombies, loads of gore and loads of incredibly cheesy voice acting.
As you'd expect, the gameplay consists of the sort of classic on-rails lightgun stuff you'd get in the arcades. You travel along a set path through seven different levels as countless zombies appear and you blow them to bits with your trusty hand cannon of choice. There are several different guns available which you can buy throughout the game, all of which can be upgraded with a faster fire rate, more bullets in each clip, a faster reload time and so on.
Naturally, the problem with arcade-style shooters is that when you're playing at home and aren't limited to the number of £1 coins you have to put into the thing, the challenge is greatly reduced and you'll find yourself completing the game pretty quickly. And yes, when you first play Overkill, this is exactly the feeling you'll get, since whenever you die you simply get to hit continue (albeit with your score halved) and carry on. As a result, if you play from start to finish non-stop, you'll have the game's seven levels beaten and seen the end credits in two or three hours.
Developer Headstrong has done everything in its power to extend the game's lifespan though, and it's succeeded as well as it could have. For starters, once you complete the game you unlock a special Director's Cut mode. This mode is a much harder version with many more zombies and a strictly limited number of lives. The levels are also substantially longer, taking you to newer (and at times grimmer) areas. In all, it's about a third longer than the standard mode. What's more, if you manage to complete the Director's Cut you then unlock another nice feature that makes the action even more enjoyable.
Combo Number Five
If you finish the Director's Cut and no longer find that a challenge, the game also implements a combo-based scoring system that's much more addictive than we'd expected. It's a similar idea to that in games like Link's Crossbow Training and the shooting mini-game in Wii Play, only spread throughout a proper, full game. The more zombies you shoot without missing or taking damage, the more your combo meter builds up, meaning you can eventually rack up huge points if you manage to play for a long time without missing. Head shots give you much more points, leaving you with a dilemma - do you go for the smaller target (the head) and risk missing and losing the combo, or do you play it safe with body shots and get your multiplier up without the extra bonus of headshots? We're already addicted to trying to better our scores.