Sega’s long running House of the Dead series is a gory over the top B-Movie-like experience that is mainly concerned with grossing out the player by blowing off the body parts of the overwhelming zombie horde. The last entry in the series, House of the Dead Overkill, arguably one of the best games on the Nintento Wii, was released on Playstation 3 late last year to critical acclaim.
Sega have followed this up by releasing House of the Dead 4, a game which has never previously been released on home consoles, on the Playstation Store and I am happy to report that it is a very faithful port of the original arcade game. Of course this dedication to recreating the arcade experience does have some downsides, namely a substantial lack of depth.
If you’ve never heard of the game before, House of the Dead 4 is a downloadable first person light-gun game in which you must fight your way through thousands of zombies in an attempt to stop the impending apocalypse. The series is renowned for its glossy graphical style, cartoony gore and intentionally bad voice acting, all of which are present in this game.
Sega clearly want to make the game accessible to every PS3 owner as the game can be played with a regular controller. However if you play light-gun games with a regular controller I can’t help but feel like you’re missing out on part of the experience. This game is at its absolute best when playing with Playstation Move controllers. While it is not pinpoint accurate the Move controls are smooth enough to allow you to hit most of your targets without too much effort, and goes a long way towards recreating that arcade feel.
The game also takes advantage of the gyroscopic controls to allow you to interact with the world around you. You can reload your weapon by shaking your controller, and open doors, fight off zombies, and activate switches by wiggling your controller of choice. It’s doesn’t really add much to the sense of immersion, but it can help break up the gameplay a little bit.
As all good arcade games should do, House of the Dead 4 allows for two players locally at the same time, with no online co-op to speak of. If you really want to get the most out of the game I would recommend inviting a friend around and using two Playstation Move controllers to blow chunks out of the undead. When playing in co-op you may find yourselves bickering as you take out each other’s targets or shoot bonus collectables, which in all honesty is part of the fun.
In terms of gameplay it is very simple. You must shoot every enemy on screen, and occasionally you’ll come across branching paths that give you the choice of either going left or right. This adds an extra level of replayability to a certain extent as each path is fairly different. At times you will come across situations that require a little tactical thinking, for instance at certain points large hulking enemies hold doors open allowing more zombies in. If you take out the enemy that is holding the door open then the door will shut, reducing the number of enemies you’ll have to face. Similarly when facing massive crowds it is preferable to throw a grenade at them to take out as many as possible. However, grenades are limited, so you’ll have to pick your moments carefully.
Of the two modes included in the game you’ll likely get the most playtime out of the main original Arcade Mode. The Arcade Mode allows you to customise your experience, with changeable difficulty settings, chapter selection, adjustable lives and continues, and you can even turn off the gore. The only other game mode is the online ranked mode in which you have three lives and no continues and must get as far as you can. Your performance is tracked and shared on online leaderboards to you can tell (in my experience) exactly how bad you are at the game.
Completing the game unlocks two new chapters that take place after the events of the main game. This new section has a total of three different additional endings to unlock, which could potentially persuade you to keep playing the game. However, as this is a fairly inexpensive arcade-style experience don’t expect to find a deep experience that will keep you playing for hours on end. I personally felt like I had seen everything the game had to offer within the first two hours. However, considering the game’s low price, you can’t really complain about a lack of replayability.
Graphics: 3/5 – Fairly basic character models that manage to look very glossy. Not the best looking game ever, but not bad by any means.
Sound: 2/5 – Your typical arcade experience in terms of music, with some very (intentionally) poor voice acting.
Gameplay: 3/5 – While the game does work with a regular controller it is at it’s best when sing the Playstation Move. The controls are lose enough to not require too much effort to hit your targets, and the frequent use of controller waggling does break things up a little bit. Put simply it’s your typical arcade experience.
Longevity: 3/5 – The main arcade mode consists of six stages, with a further two that are unlocked upon completion of the main game. There are four endings to unlock in total, which goes some way to extending the experience. The ranked mode, in which you only have three lives to get through the entire game, offers up a challenge for more experienced players.
Overall: 3 out of 5
House of the Dead 4 carries all of the benefits and weaknesses of your typical arcade experience. While being fun to play it honestly doesn’t offer up a stack of depth or replayability to the average player. Having said that, if you’re a fan of light-gun games, or arcade shooters in general, then you should definitely consider picking it up, especially considering how cheap it is.
- Luke Mears