Review / The House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii)

The House of the Dead: Overkill is the best game ever on the Wii. No, actually it really isn’t. At least not in the sense that we normally dub games the best ever. However, in another way it truly is. Overkill heralds (hopefully) the entrance of a new generation of Wii games that are geared towards adults, produced by third parties and have some genuine care and passion driving them. It is the first true appearance of a major gaming company throwing out the kid friendly image of the Wii and going all out in the other direction, and because of this it is the greatest Wii game ever.

Then again a major moment in a console’s timeline doesn’t really mean a fantastic game. Plenty of games that stand out as historically significant in the life of a console don’t quite measure up. Is The House of the Dead: Overkill just a bad game that came along at the right time or is the light-gun shooter truly the hardcore we’ve all been waiting for as the tagline has bragged? I busted out my trusty Nyko Perfectshot to find out.

First and foremost, Overkill is an on-rails shooter about seeing how well you can kill wave after wave of zo…mutants. In that sense it is already a great game. Everyone knows that the extermination of zombies is easily on of the best things to do in videogames and when all you have to do is point and shoot it becomes even better. On-rails shooters are usually short, lacking in plot and designed to suck away your quarters — this doesn’t sound like much fun at home. Luckily SEGA made a few key decisions to make Overkill more than your average light-gun arcade game.

First, and most noticeable, is the style of the game. The developers took the game in an old grindhouse direction so that the entire game has the look and feel of a bad horror movie. As player’s take on the role of straight laced Agent G and constantly cursing Detective Washington, each level is like its own cheesy horror movie with titles like “Papa’s Palace of Pain.” It’s not just the film scratches that play over the screen while you watch cutscenes and play either. It’s the entire game’s presentation. Loading screens are XXX ratings, levels are introduced by the same guy who did every grindhouse movie trailer and the plot is so over the top that it could only have come out of exploitation cinema. There are even power-ups that will slow down time and when they’re shot everything slows (music, sound, etc.) down like the reel accidentally broke. Add to this that the characters are actually smart and the whole thing is delivered with perfect tongue-in-cheek timing and I’m almost ready to excuse the drops in frame rate as part of the whole “crappy movie” feeling.

I’ve gotten ahead of myself though as I really didn’t want to complain about much until the end. The second area in which SEGA really stepped up is in the controls. Yes, I know it is just a light-gun game, but these things have gone horribly wrong on the Wii before so credit is due when headshots are actually headshots, limbs blow off when you shoot them and different guns actually affect zombies in different ways. I strongly recommend picking up a gun peripheral for your Wii along with the game as play with the Perfectshot was way cooler than playing without it and once I did I couldn’t go back to simply pointing my Wii remote at the screen. The aiming reticule is precise and follows your movements and when you score a headshot and a zombie’s mutant’s head explodes it feels fantastic. Reload is handled by a quick shake of the Wii remote, which upon hearing I thought would mess up your aiming, but upon practice was pretty much exactly like shooting off the screen. Accidental reloads happened once in blue moon.

Which leads me to the third thing that SEGA did well with Overkill to make it more than just another light-gun game. In most games of this ilk the enemies are pretty dumb, not that challenging and blatantly repetitive. The zombie/mutants in Overkill are not. While you will notice plenty of repeats while you’re blasting away at the infected, you’ll never get bored of them or the way their limbs fly off. Plus there doesn’t seem to be a stock way that they die. Often kills in shooters like this simply have the bad guy falling over in a few different ways. Overkill delivers gory deaths in hundreds of ways. Blast a zombie’s leg off and he’ll start crawling towards you, hit his arm and he’ll swing at you with the other one — aim counts here. There are even zombies that will grab on to you necessitating a violent shaking of the Wii remote to get them off before they bite you. It’s this kind of shake-up and (gasp) creative level design that keeps Overkill from getting boring and repetitive.

It is also the fact that there is plenty to do outside of just shooting zombies. Every weapon in the game is fully upgradeable and you can choose which ones you will start a level out with. Players get a secondary weapon which they can swap with a press of the 2 button. Grenades can also be found in the level, but you have to time your throw right, they aren’t just instant kills.

There are basically three types of guns (pistol, shotgun, automatic) and six guns in total. Each can be leveled up in different departments with points the player earns for playing well in each level. Earning points is kind of like the game’s quarters. If you use a continue you lose points and can’t upgrade as quickly and start losing your zombie killing bragging rights. The best way to rack up said points and regain your bragging rights is to string together consecutive kills without missing a shot or getting hit. Every time you achieve this five times you get a score bonus for every kill until you reach the ultimate score bonus which is called a … wait for it … wait for it … GOREGASM! The greatest word ever! Plus, the “announcer” delivers it so well whenever you get it and a cheesy American flag starts waving next to your life bar. It’s b-grade movie perfection.

Overkill as a game really is b-grade though, which I personally find to be amazing. But this isn’t a project that had millions upon millions of dollars pumped into it. While mutant body parts exploding everywhere and geysers of blood look pretty good (especially nice is the blood splatter on the walls) the game is still a bit graphically lacking. There are times when there are a good chunk of zombies on the screen so I can slightly understand the mid-range graphics, but I still got the feeling they could have been better, especially since the game has a noticeable amount of frame rate drop. It was never enough to make me throw my plastic gun in anger, but it happened often enough to aggravate me.

The game also glitched twice on me. Once I started a level three times before the enemies decided to show up (playing a shooter with no bad guys is really weird) and on another occasion every time I shot a zombie it would explode in a cloud of blood. Very cool, but evidently too much for the Wii to handle as it started chugging at about a frame per second. These are things that should have been caught, but since the rest of the game is such a blast and cleverly done they’re hard to get really angry over.

What is a bit more annoying is the way the developers tried to extend the game’s length. Once players beat the main story they open up the “director’s cut.” This is simply the same levels but with more zombies and much longer. For one level it took me a solid 5 minutes to get to the starting place of the level in the regular cut. Both modes are very fun to play, but really the game is just rewarding you with the full game after you beat a paired down version of it. Technically this makes the game’s length longer, but it feels kind of like cheating. Besides the replay value of a shooter like this is astronomical anyway – especially when friend’s come over, so why was it necessary?

Speaking of friends, the multiplayer works just like you remember it from the old arcade games. Even better, your friend can jump in at any time so you can start the game before they come over. Once they start shooting, they’re in.

There are also three mini-games for players to compete in. While they aren’t as fun as blasting away in the actual game they’re decently enticing. The real problem is that the difficulty doesn’t adjust to two people or to the gun your carrying. Eventually players will have guns that deliver one shot kills and with two people wielding said gun, the game becomes more of a headshot challenge and less of a shooter. Of course this is easily remedied by not using the over-powered guns. When you aren’t, the game can actually be pretty hard, especially the bosses. Though there isn’t that much new to see here, as most of them pertain to shooting a certain part until you weaken the deformed monster and then taking it out. B-Grade? Yes. Still fun? Totally.


  • Great, crappy B-Movie fun. A GOREGASM!
  • Keeps the magic of the arcade classics
  • Invigorating multiplayer pretty much made for parties
  • Graphics leave more than a little to be desired
  • Regular drops in frame rate with a handful of inexcusable glitches.
  • “Director’s Cut” is a pretty cheap cop out in order to say they have more gameplay.