House of the Dead II & III Return Reader Review
Well, it's lazy port time. Like the rotting, lifeless carcasses that are the games main bullet fodder, the aging and rotting remains of two old light-gun shooters have been ressurected using ancient voodoo techniques and scientific jiggery-pokery to unleash them once more upon an unsuspecting Wii public. And to make SEGA some easy cash. But has all this black magic really been worth the effort?
Okay, let's get one thing out of the way, I adore the WIi controls for games like this, and surprisingly the Wii Zapper - loathe am I to admit it since I think it's the most tacky and pointless bit of plastic ever devised by a human being - actually works here. Using it is a relatively painless exercise and as such, it's very much fitting for an on-rails shooter of this type. There's not really any justification to get a zapper for this, the Wii Remote is perfectly fine. But if you have one or just want to blow pointless cash, it's certainly not bad here.
Okay, into the two games. Let me get the bad stuff out the way first - House of the Dead 3, to be exact, which I have actually reviewed before. Suffice to say, I wasn't very kind about it then and in a package with the vastly better predecessor, I'm going to be less nice about it now. Whilst visually it is the better of the two games, that's where the good points end I'm afraid. It's too easy, it lacks finesse, it requires as much skill as a cheese sandwich and the voice acting, plot and scatter range on the shotgun is offensively bad at best. You can beef up the challenge on an extreme mode but seriously, why? There is absolutely no point of this mode, there are no scoreboards or achievements or anything to brag about so it's a pointless waste of time, and after one playthrough on normal I hate to say you'll have no desire to venture further into these waters. House of the Dead 3 was bad then, it got creamed on the market and it's even less fun now than a frontal labotomy, which you'll probably need to get any enjoyment out of House of the Dead 3.
So, now onto House of the Dead 2. Where things look up because this still is the pinnacle of the genre to date, the best that light-gun gaming has to offer in almost every regard. Okay. The game is ten years old and, yeah, today it really is showing its age. Pass the zimmerframe because this OAP really can't compete on graphics. However, scratch away at the ugly surface and there's a diamond underneath.
House of the Dead 2 is a port of the Dreamcast version (or PC version), which is fine because SEGA went to town on this version and it ended up better than in the arcades. There's so much depth and skill involved in this game it's hard to know where to start - it rewards patience and quick reactions in equal measure, by branching out the game into numerous different routes at certain points. There is no "choose this option", no. Save someone (or two) and they'll direct you down a new path which could be easier, have a bonus or two, or be a little more challenging. Couple this with being able to start at new points in the next level at times and you begin to understand how much work this game must have taken back then, and wonder why on earth they didn't do the same with it's sequel. The voice overs are hammy but in a good way, it's as ridiculous as it gets and it's not shy of treading that ground and doesn't pretend it's very serious. It's also longer, more rewarding and definitely the version you'll be playing for a very, very long time.
That is, if you can stomach the price.
Now, there's no good way of saying this - full retail price? I'm sorry, it's like SEGA are asking us to bend over and take it like men (or women). The ports are not technically very challenging even for the Wii, no effort went into this at all save extreme mode which, as I said, is a bit pointless unless you've got reasons to go for such balls-to-the-wall lunacy. Which here you don't.
Why didn't SEGA work on the visuals and give it to us looking really dolled up and pretty? I'm pretty sure they could have done it. And with the core mechanics of HOTD2 left alone it would have urinated all over it's current competitors on the market. Equally, why not bung House of the Dead One in there and go the whole hog? It may be even more graphically challenged but it's still a mile and a half better than the turgid crap of the third installment. Better yet, why not other bonuses? I mean, I'm no fan of shoehorning in unnecessary extras but christs sake these games can't take up that much space!
The bitterest pill to swallow here is that neither of these games really justify a re-release in the state they're in. As much as I will continue to defend House of the Dead 2, it's taking it's own bullets here I'm afraid. You can get House of the Dead 2 for your PC for a fiver these days, HOTD3 as well but you may end up regretting that purchase. HOTD2 was also an unlockable in the XBox HOTD3, which is still probably cheaper than this game.
So, how to sum up this pair of games? Good and evil. House of the Dead 2 is worth the entry fee if you're a long-time fan or just have an interest in the genre, but for the masses I'm not sure they'll forgive the aging title for it's lack of visual splendour. House of the Dead 3 may as well not be on the disc and is an utter waste of time and space and content.
If you're REALLY interested in HOTD2, you can get the PC version (and probably a cheap PC light-gun thingy) much cheaper than this. If the game had been given more work, a slicker look, smoother edges, House of the Dead 2 would have sold this title outright. But sadly, it's such a lazy half-arsed attempt that I doubt even the zombies would get out of their graves for it. And again, House of the Dead 3 is so appalling that zombies would probably rather die again than go through it.
It's a shame to crash down on a title of House of the Dead 2's calibur over pricing and age. But we should be expecting more than this now. With the (average) Umbrella Chronicles out there and actually looking fairly pretty, and a rumoured fourth game, this is not the way to bridge the gap to the next title or to showcase old games.
House of the Dead 2, simply put, should have been available as a download on the Wii Shopping Channel for a tenner or so. And House of the Dead 3 should be consigned to the stinking cesspool of history. That's all there is to it. You'll get a lot of milage out of HOTD2 if you take the plunge here. But you may still end up feeling rather cheated for the price they're asking, and wondering if these two should have been left to rest in peace...
6 / 10