As noted in my House Of The Dead history lesson, many of its accomplishments have gone unappreciated by the masses, due to various reasons, with platform being on top of that list.
When Sega released their reboot to the series two years ago, on the Wii, it made total sense to bring a light gun game onto a platform in which the genre was a custom fit. Unfortunately, the hardware provided yet further issues, some old, some new. An inability to process everything was something part 1 players were used to on the Sega Saturn. But the intended audience just wasn't there. As hard as many have tried to bring hardcore gamers to the platform, Sega was also unsuccessful. So a PS3 port, aided by the PlayStation Move, made total sense on numerous levels. And what's the final verdict? Well...
For all intents and purposes, this is indeed the definitive version of the game. It's everything that was on the Wii, but bigger and bolder (which is both good and bad). Every element from before is present, but simply looks better. There's also a host of additional goodies, but I'll get to that in a second.
The game truly shines in the visual department. Any seasoned gamer will notice that it's a port and a game that's been built from the ground up. But still, it's far tighter and better looking than similar efforts (such as No More Heroes). While not silky smooth, all the zombies, sorry, "mutants" that you'll be blasting away all animate terrifically. I forget if it was present in the Wii version, but having blood splatter all over the environments and stick to the surfaces, is a nice touch. Though I do recall the previous version's overall performance, and everything is simply rock solid here. The frame rate never stutters and the like, even when there's a ton going on at the same time.
And there will be tons to shoot at. With so much constant blasting away, there's a risk in which things might become repetitive, and it would be, if not for the combo system. Skill shots are rewarded, and offers the perfect diversion to keep one interested as the game carries on. Levels are long, very long. Many light gun games are accused of being way too short, and that's where Overkill completely stands itself out from the pack. Thankfully, the level designs are always interesting, so you're never bored of the scenery and the like either.
Now might be a good time to talk about the differences between the original and the re-release. As the "Extended Cut" moniker implies, there's additional material, primarily in the form of two additional levels, which builds upon the seven that are already present. Previously, you only assumed the mantles of Agent G, some cool as a cucumber, by the book government type, and Detective Isaac Washington, his hot-headed, foul mouthed detective compadre. But the two additional stages has you playing as the two strippers that play a prominent role in the plot. One is a sultry vixen that only has one thing on her mind: revenge. The other is your typical blonde bimbo, but has a heart of gold, and reason for some odds as well.
I won't spoil the plot, but I will note that yes, there is a story, and it's actually compelling! Well, for a light gun game. It might actually sport the most involved story ever for such a genre. And everything is presented in b movie, Grindhouse-esque fashion. It's unfortunate that it doesn't go as far as one would like, but then again, hiring Robert Rodriguez may not have been an option, budget-wise.
Not just in between the levels, but also during the game, the two pairings will constantly bounce lines off of each other. This is where the first real negative point rears its head. Washington curses. A lot. And I mean, a LOT. He throws the f bomb every 2 seconds, and it takes just as much time for it to get old. I'm under the assumption that his constant complaining about everything is meant to be funny. Well, it's not. Thankfully, G provides a perfect counterpoint and isn't at all annoying. Meanwhile, the two ladies are an excellent compliment to each other, and say stuff that is genuinely amusing. Their dialogue alone left me wanting more of them, though it’s clear that their levels were created after the fact, hence why they don't feel nearly as tight as the originals.
Back to the gameplay; as noted, I loved the scoring system. But I hated how weapons are handled. Usually in a light gun game, you mostly stick to one stock firearm, and then pick up some other, higher powered weapon along the way, that last just a few seconds, but offers just the right amount of variety when you need it, especially during a sticky situation. Something that's completely absent here. Instead. you're stuck with the same exact gun the entire time, unless one upgrades their weapon at the end of a round.
All points are tabulated as cash, and one has the chance to upgrade an existing weapon or get a totally different firearm between levels with one’s earnings. Problem is, cash is also used to continue a game after dying. Which isn't the biggest problem during the level, but is definitely felt during boss battles, by far the worst part of the game. Each end level encounter is grueling. I've heard over reviewers say that the entire game is a cakewalk, which honestly makes me wonder if we were playing the same game.
Especially later on, each boss encounter takes forever, and it's also where the less than precise nature of the game's aiming and hit detection shows through. You will seriously find yourself in the midst of a battle for 30 minutes, no joke, which is way too long, especially after an already lengthy build up. Eventually, one becomes frustrated and loses focus, which leads to sloppy mistakes and lots of dying. After all is said and done, you'll have no money left over for a new toy. As for upgrading one's existing gun, they seem to have zero effect from my experience. The boss battles with the ladies, btw, are the absolute worst.
The game encourages one to replay levels, to find all the secrets it contains, and there's a lot. But one's motivation is seriously hampered with the knowledge that the end will boil down to a war of attrition more than anything else. The crap bosses, in that respect, are practically a deal killer. Still, there's plenty that House Of The Dead Overkill: Extended Cut does right. The fact that choices for light gun games, especially on the PS3 are far and few between, means it's already a no-brainer of a purchase if you're into such things. But despite some admittedly serious issues, a fun time can still be had. Here's hoping Sega sticks with developer Headstrong Games and crafts a sequel with a bigger budget, a different approach towards the dialogue to a certain degree, and far different approach towards weapon upgrades and boss battles.