The House of the Dead IIII remember when I first played the original House of the Dead just as if it was yesterday. I remember walking into my local arcade (which is now dead, just like most arcades out there) and taking a stroll to the PokÃ©mon curio cabinet, just casually browsing over the rare (and probably fake) Charizard cards when I first saw it. Twelve kids (who were older and much, much larger) were crowded around the big machine, screaming pleasant thoughts like, â€œGET HIS GUTS!â€ I could only see the side of the machine, but I knew from the ghastly lettering along the side panel that it was indeed the famed House of the Dead. I waited about an hour to play it. As in inserted my four quarters, the game bellowed its name in a demonic voice, as if it thought I had forgotten I was putting quarters into the right machine. Regardless of how I got it started, eventually I was enveloped in the sheer fun of the game. Using the supplied light gun, I was able to make it pretty far for my age. I ended up spending about twenty dollars in four-quarter increments. By the end of the day, I was hooked. I begged and pleaded with my Dad to take me back. He took me back six times before he eventually bit the bullet and bought me the horrible Saturn port. I remember playing it on the Saturn as well, but those were less fond times. In the end, when I found out that Sega was delivering its beloved zombie-blasting franchise to the Xbox, I was genuinely excited. Maybe itâ€™s just that Iâ€™m older, or maybe dÃ©jÃ vu has come back to get meâ€”House of the Dead 3 is just a blast of laughs thatâ€™s fun for the whole family (or notâ€¦). Gameplay House of the Dead is all about zombie-blasting fun, and for the most part Sega gets that accomplished. Even previous incarnations have had a failed attempt at a story, so I am assuming Sega said â€œletâ€™s just try and bore them out of their minds with another plot like that one!â€ or something, because this gameâ€™s story and story implementation clearly leave a lot to be desired. The story goes a little something like this: Thomas Rogan, father of the main character Lisa Rogan, decides one day he wants to pick himself up and disappear. The game revolves around Lisaâ€™s search for her father, which brings her through all these trials and tribulations in some dead-manifested house in the rural countryside. Like I said before, the story, though, is worthlessâ€”it always HAS been worthless, and yes, you guessed it, will never matter in this title (or any other light-gun shooter for that matter). Indeed, there clearly is an underlying story which is connected using cutscene-flashbacks, (six total), but in the end all it comes down to is that you're in a house of the dead and youâ€™ve got to get out. Using a trusty weapon, (whichever you like), youâ€™ve got to blast anything that tries to stop you on your way out of the house. The way this game is played is quite simple: pick up a light-gun, turn it on, select a character (of which really there is no difference between the two), and shoot at your television. Now, if you donâ€™t have a light-gun, this game will be infinitely boring, as the developers designed the actual concept of this genre based on the assumption you are using a light-gun. You have a health meter, and a certain number of continues you can use in the event you are incapacitated (and you will be, no doubt). Entering the â€œhouseâ€, you will see that itâ€™s actually a corporate office building, which of course begs the question, â€œWhy are there zombies in an office building in the middle of suburbia?â€ Obviously the answer is that these people were slackers, and needed to work the entire night to finish their jobs. They conked out on the floor, and when they woke up, they had a distinct pine for blood and their teeth had grown a couple inches. No biggie, really, I mean, it must have been the tooth fairy. Well, that about sums up the gameplay. Yeeeeaah, that REALLY is it. This game is simple. There are a couple other elements that new developer WOW Entertainment added, like the partner-save situation, however. In previous House of the Dead(s?), there were always innocent, annoying scientists who had the audacity to pop out from behind barrels and walls and say â€œDONâ€™T SHOOT ME!â€ If you have ever played any of the other games, you know that shooting one of these idiots (and they are idiots for popping up abruptly like a monster and not just casually walking across the screen) results in a loss of a life. That really just stunk, because Iâ€¦enjoyedâ€¦shooting them. In the new game, those irksome ignoramuses have been removed; replaced with this new â€œpartner-saveâ€ situation, in which your partner comes under heavy fire and you are forced to save him/her. The screen freezes for a second, and the offending zombies are highlighted in red. If you manage to save them, youâ€™ll not only save your partner, but you might get a health-up, which usually adds one unit of life to your health bar. Unfortunately, what WOW didnâ€™t take into account was that saving or neglecting to save innocents in the first two games affected the way you moved through the level (i.e. which path you took), but now that they have been removed, that kind of spontaneous path-divergence has been removed. Stinky.
Another really interesting change in the series is the lack of the â€œreloadâ€ icon flashing. Apparently Lisa is a bit brighter than her father, and she decides to bring along an auto-load (!!!!) shotgun. It still takes time to reload as it isnâ€™t an instantaneous process, but the ability to reload at any point in time is seemingly stripped away, which is really a strategic blunder. If there is nothing coming down a hallway, it would serve to benefit you to reload in case of attack. WOW doesnâ€™t think so. In this version of the game, it seems like more zombies attack, and they just seem to pour out of an endless stream of monsters faster than ever before. However, because the shotgun is more powerful and the loading has been removed, the game has been subsequently made much, much easier to complete. Varying paths still exist in the HOD3, but they are handled slightly different than in the past. There are six levels, and similar to a road trip with Grandma, you have to plan your path out prior to setting out on your voyage. For instance, in the beginning of the second level, you're given a choice -- take the parking lot or the entranceway. The paths add a little replay value, which is so important because this game is so short. In fact, an experienced player could beat this game in under the time it would take him or her to read this review. Another thing improved in this version are the boss battles. In HOD2, bosses were simple, easy, and unimaginative. Although there may only be four boss battles, these four battles are creative. In most of the battles you must use the environment to defeat the enemy, instead of just blasting at it. In one level, you must blast at a certain body part of a giant slug-thing to free yourself from its habit area. A nice touch by WOW, indeed. Sega noticed that the game was so horribly short and decided to do two things: 1. they added unlockable items and features and 2. they included the full, complete version of House of the Dead II. Unlockable items are nice to get after you finish the game on a certain difficulty, but they arenâ€™t good enough simply because you have to realize this is a twenty-minute game, and after a while that just isnâ€™t going to be fun anymore. House of the Dead II in this game is a little scary because it just shows you how much different House of the Dead III is from House of the Dead II (not much at all). II adds a lot of longevity to the game because it is much more difficult than III and will probably take most gamers multiple tries to clear the entire game The worst part about the House of the Dead in general is simply that it is getting stale. Almost five years after the original was released, the gameplay really hasnâ€™t been modified in any major ways at all. Sega really needs to come up with something new and fresh to really â€œWOWâ€ (no pun intended) the audience. While WOW took a number of steps in the right direction, they could not avoid the inevitable reductionist viewpoint that this game gets boring fast (which may explain why it is so short). Graphics Woo-wee! House of the Dead 3 really impresses in this department. Even when the originals were released in the arcades, their graphics were always cutting-edge and very striking. HOD3 is on par with GUNVALKYRIE, one of Segaâ€™s other titles on the Xbox, which was often hailed for its amazing aesthetic presentation. The game is full of lighting effects and lush color, all of which are speckled throughout the game environment healthily. Animation, like other HODs, is fantastic and fluid, which is remarkable considering the speed at which things move. The clipping problems of yore are no longer omnipresent, and walking down hallways no longer feels like watching the Blair Witch Project. The backgrounds are thick with detail, and motion is occurring in almost all scenes. This is without a doubt the best-looking light-gun ever created, and perhaps one of the prettiest Xbox games out there. Sound Itâ€™s the same as its always been: guns clicking, monsters firing, people screaming, the demons with the funny chipmonk voices; you know, the usual. The music is a little cheesy, as it generally has been, but the sound effects are great in many ways. The accuracy of the guns sounds very realistic, and the shrieks and shrills of the various occupants of the house are ultra-realistic. I was very pleased when I got the chance to use this game on a 5.1 Surround Sound system. Using this set up, I was able to make note of the much more subtle sound effects, like distant cries to be heard in the backgrounds, which really was impressive and benefited the overall mood of this game greatly. Overall, well done by WOW. Replay Value Basically none. The game is a half-an-hour long affair, even with the unlockables. Thank God for House of the Dead II, as that really added to the life of this game, but I canâ€™t fault WOW for having difficulty with this category. In this genre, replay value is just not a major priority. Overall Alright, so Iâ€™m a huge fan of the series. True, this game has some technical merits going for it, and yes, I am slightly biased, but in the end all that it comes down to is that this game is a whole lotta fun. It certainly isnâ€™t for everybody. I rented this game, and I wonâ€™t be purchasing it simply because it is so short. I can say for certain, however, my rent was well worth the money. If you are a fan of this genre, you MUST pick this baby up. --Kevin Ciok