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Overlooked Thursday: House of the Dead: Overkill

Overlooked Thursday is a segment in which I look back at a title from either a current or previous generation that got unfairly or prematurely judged, didn't sell well, or was just forgotten and did not deserve such a fate. Not necessarily reviews, a brief overview of what the game is, what it is about, and how it was received at the time. If able, details on how these games can be found and for how much will be given so that their overlooked status may be shed for a few more.

It's an odd piece of altered synchronicity that I write this article just after Kotaku reports on President Obama yet again using the word/words "Xbox 360" in one of his speeches with great ire, considering that almost every console controversy this generation has stemmed from the poor white whipping boy: kids kill themselves or others supposedly over Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (As opposed to psychological sickness or poor parenting, that would just be silly), the "Sex Box" scandal of Mass Effect (Solved by the accusers simply watching the game in action), the growing controversy of homophobia from the Microsoft Team (Although to be fair, World of Warcraft has the same problem), the list goes on.

However, on the other side of the fence is Nintendo's Jesus child, the Wii, a perfect little box of wonders. Whether it be battling obesity or making gaming "cool" for Grandma, the little thing just continues to be a miracle worker. Sarcasm aside, I try to give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt when considering the years of service they've put into the market they reinvented, although I find it increasingly hard when every E3 presentation, games aside, gets progressively worse and worse each year. However, it seems there has been a rise in interest in turning the Wii into Big Brother's system, with games like No More Heroes and Madworld practically letting blood out of it's own veins. I've talked about No More Heroes and I plan to talk about Madworld in the near future, but let's get to the point: what do Madworld, No More Heroes, and House of the Dead: Overkill have in common?

Well aside from each being progressively the bloodiest Wii game on the market, each has sold under 500,000 units. With 52~ Million units sold, this means that the attach rate of each game is below 1%. It seems the people that own Wii's just don't really like the idea of blood staining the cute little magical box that lets them play tennis. That is why House of the Dead: Overkill is the biggest surprise of 2009: it subverts everything that the Wii stands for. For one, it's violent as hell, with blood practically leaking from the packaging. Secondly, it curses like a sailor that just stubbed his toe on a jukebox that was playing a George Carlin routine (It holds a Guinness World Record for most swearing. I kid you not.) Last, but certainly not least, it contains the crudest, lewdest, and rudest humor (I can rhyme!) ever heard not just on a Wii game, but in videogame history. Enough foreplay though; let's get into why House of the Dead: Overkill is the single raunchiest game on the Wii.

House of the Dead: Overkill, 2009, Headstrong Games, Nintendo Wii

If Madworld was the Running Man of videogames, then House of the Dead: Overkill is the Planet Terror. The game follows Agent G and Detective Issac Washington as they attempt to subdue the ever sadistic Papa Ceaser, a mad scientist type that has unleashed a zombie plague upon the United States. Along the way, the two encounter Varla Guns, a larger than large chested woman who seeks revenge upon Papa Ceaser for turning her crippled brother into an accomplice. With that brief synopsis however, we are leaving out what is possibly the greatest strength of House of the Dead's narrative: how it's told. Like Planet Terror, it aims to be the greatest/worst B-grade zombie film of all time, while encompassing and poking fun at every zombie film trope that ever existed, whether it be avoiding calling them "zombies" (A routine that was just as brilliant in Shaun of the Dead) or the over-the-top narrator who spouts the cheesiest lines you'll ever hear ("The only cure? A WHITE HOT BULLET TO THE BRAIN!" comes immediately to mind).

Even the beginning of the game gives no indication of how the two main characters met, how they got there, or anything else besides what the narrator provides and why they each seek Papa Ceaser personally. It's humorously ambiguous and it only gets more ridiculous as the motives of each character just kind of appear. For instance, Detective Washington, a playboy cop who spurts more "fucks" then a Big Lebowski sequence, seeks Papa Ceaser because he killed his father. Why did he kill him? When did he kill him? Shit, how did he kill him? None of this is ever revealed, and it's funnier for it. All that you know is that Washington is pissed off and will do anything to not just capture Ceaser, but kill him. A quick aside from the humor, I'd like to point out why Washington as a character works so well in the game.

Throughout the game, you are constantly reminded of why Washington is a stereotype, but the game also constantly breaks the mold of not just typical archetypes, but of popular narratives in general; he's a cop who seeks to kill instead of subdue the villain, he interrupts villainous monologues by shooting at them when the opportunity presents itself, he is relegated to second tier status despite his obvious verbal dominance over everyone else in the game (He rides in the bitch cab seat of the motorcycle, asks Agent G for an ice Cream cone, etc.) He subverts almost every stereotype that he is given by being the Macho Man, and by doing so, he becomes much more memorable and much funnier.

Not only the narrative brilliantly humorous, but it's actually groundbreaking in a lot of ways, even if every one of them involves social taboos. Nintendo's Wii doesn't really possess a reputation of having a game that uses "fuck" 187 times, thus earning a Guinness World Book record, but apart from this, the game dares to go where almost nothing before it, videogame or film, has ever gone before. House of the Dead: Overkill pokes fun at every possible thing it can: black people, white people, women, elderly people, handicapped people, nerds, overweight people, southern rednecks, etc. It even tackles such issues as "Why didn't you call that guy a 'mother fucker'?", incest (Whoa...), Why having to piss really bad sucks ("Boiling hot piss, sloshing with every turn of the wheel"), and other things that don't ever appear in videogames, let alone a Wii game. Did you do a double take when Gears of War uttered "fuck"? Be prepared to watch a man crawl back into a giant zombie vagina. I kid you not.

Enough of the plot though, how does the game function?

House of the Dead: Overkill is a rail shooter, plain and simple. You fire bullets at zombies, and they go boom. That's about it. Well, okay, that's not ALL there is to it. The game utilizes a combo system that rewards no-miss streaks with various levels of point enhancers, with the last one being brilliantly dubbed "Goregasm", which replaces the combo tracker with a waving American flag (God Bless Headstrong Games). More points nets you a higher spot on the Highscore Board and more cash to buy better weapons and upgrades, although when compared to a much stronger rail-shooter like Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, the selection of weapons leaves much to be desired. However, the arsenal does it's job, with the automatic shotgun and the Handcannon standing out as personal favorites.

The game takes place over several stages, each lasting about 20 to 35 minutes. You traverse derelict mansions, carnivals, hospitals, and prisons, with Washington and G accounting for this with various dialogue changes, with the hospital in particular containing my personal favorite lines ("I've got a fever!" spouts Washington after blasting a zombie skull). The enemies change as well, meaning that you see many different types of zombies overall, but this also means that each stage only contains about 3 to 4 different models which you will see over and over again. At the end of every stage, there is a boss fight which is often much to easy with two players, although the boss before the final boss is particularly difficult. Each one is creatively designed, which is a plus, with the Hospital boss being particularly clever. But overall, each one is too easy.

However, the lack of difficulty isn't just relegated to bosses; the entire game is an absolute breeze. I died for the first time only after beating the game twice before and playing it on the hard mode with extra zombies, and even this was due to a laughing fit that I had while playing it with 5 other people in the room. See, that's the great thing about House of the Dead: Overkill; it's something everyone with the appropriate sense of humor can enjoy. Whether it's rotating between a few people or just watching the great cutscenes and listening to the terrific in-game lines, the game can be enjoyed in several ways.

Though besides the narrative, the strongest aspect of House of the Dead: Overkill is by far the presentation. Whether it be the terrific voice acting, with Washington in particular standing out, the great film overlay option that makes the screen flicker and cigarette burn like your typical B-movie, or even the actually pretty good graphics of the game, the game is undeniably slick. The B-Movie panache is pulled off better than any other game on the market that has attempted it, and overall, the game is a standout from anything else available for the Wii.

With that said, House of the Dead: Overkill may disappoint those looking for a long-lasting adventure, but anyone looking for a game with a great sense of humor and style and a good amount of replay value need look no further. House of the Dead: Overkill truly defies all set conventions for Nintendo's Wii, and for this I congratulate it. If you've got a fever for some cheesy goodness, Agent G and Detective Washington will not disappoint. Don't wait, don't delay, and don't fuck with the baddest sons of bitches this side of the Wiimote; they'll cure your fever with a white hot bullet to the brain.
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About Canti-samaone of us since 9:47 PM on 08.03.2009

Hello, I'm Trevor Johnson, also known as Canti-sama. I like to write about things including videogames (that should be paramountly obvious at this point...) music, film, and anime, so what you see in this blog is just one part of my pretentiousness! I'm a nit-picky bitch when it comes to basically everything, so excuse me if I seem like kind of an elitist, even though I try not to be. If I had to sum up who I am, I would do it through top 5 lists, so how about we a do a few right now! But before that, since DTOID tends to remove frontpage posts from my c-blog, here's the list of my frontpages, which I thank everyone very much for!

Frontpage Posts:
1. Monthly Musing - I suck At Videogames: Nostalgia's Curse, 8/12/09
2. Promoted Story - Suda 51 and the "Art" of Videogames, 9/6/09
3. Monthly Musing - Nothing is Sacred: Videogames, 10/7/09


Top 5 Favorite Videogames:
5. Fallout 3, PC
4. Mega Man X, SNES
3. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, PS2
2. Braid, PC
1. Shadow of the Colossus, PS2

Top 5 Favorite Albums:
5. Death From Above 1979 - You're A Woman, I'm a Machine, 2004
4. Radiohead - O.K. Computer, 1997
3. Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92, 1992
2. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam, 2007
1. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation, 1988

Top 5 Films:
5. Brazil, Directed by Terry Gilliam
4. Fargo, Directed by Joel Coen
3. Fight Club, Directed by David Fincher
2. Shaun of the Dead, Directed by Edgar Wright
1. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Directed by Sergio Leone

Top 5 Anime Productions:
5. Spirited Away, Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
4. The Big O, Directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama
3. Cowboy Bebop, Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion, Directed by Hideko Anno
1. Fooly Cooly, Directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki

Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks
PSN Name: MetalLink1979
Wii Friend Code - 8089-7286-5497-4717
XBL - Metal Link 904 (Note: My Xbox 360 is in possession of my brother, so this is no longer technically my XBL Tag)
Xbox LIVE:Metal Link 904
Steam ID:MetalLink1979
Mii code:8089-7286-5497-4717


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