previews\ Mar 18, 2012 at 9:00 am

House of the Dead 4 preview


I'm guessing that Sega didn’t put together its arcade series of House of the Dead to tell a compelling story or change the face of shooter titles.  Sega releases these games merely to satisfy those who just want to insert quarters and mow down zombie hordes, whether it’s to relieve stress or just imagine him or herself as a badass hero.  The first three games in the series have worked just fine in this regard, and the home-exclusive House of the Dead Overkill games has held up well, too.  But then there’s House of the Dead 4, a game that literally goes off the deep end with crazier bosses, the addition of machine guns (in place of the handguns and shotguns from previous iterations), and that true feeling of despair that’s setting in… especially the first time you face Temperance, a huge rolling beast that’s impervious to your bullets.

house of the dead 4

After spending some time in arcades (mainly at Dave and Buster’s in deluxe cabinet form), House of the Dead 4 will be making its debut later this spring on the home front, with a release on the PlayStation Network as a digital download.  If you thoroughly enjoyed laying waste to zombies before, chances are you will again here, just like you did with House of the Dead III, which saw a fitting translation to the network last month.

The story takes place before the events of House of the Dead III, with former AMS agent James Taylor and his compatriot Kate Green caught in the middle of a devastating plot being put together by the diabolically evil Goldman, the “big bad buy” from House of the Dead 2.  It seems he wants to open Pandora’s Box and bring forth an end to the world, and the heroes have no choice but to try and fight back the zombie horde.

House of the Dead 4 is easily the best looking game in the bunch, even foreshadowing the full retail release of Overkill on PS3 last year.  With that, Sega has done a good job keeping such visuals intact on the console, complete with its high sense of speed, its consistently swiveling camera (if you get knocked down, you’ll actually look around at enemies trying to get the jump on you), and its detailed graphics — particularly the lighting that shines on rooms full of zombies.  It’s crazy how the screen fills up with these guys, and yet the action doesn’t slow down for a second.

The audio probably isn’t the greatest you’ll hear in a zombie game, but for House of the Dead 4, it’s sufficient.  James and Kate repeatedly shout to help each other out, and moaning zombies move in for the kill quite often.  The background music is typical for the series, almost relying on a little bit of organ mixed with techno as you plow through each stage.

As for the gameplay, you can either blast enemies using a controller to guide an on-screen cursor, or play the way that Sega truly intended — with the PlayStation Move controller.  Two players can take part in a session (or, if you’re a John Woo fan, you can always go it alone with double guns), firing off machine guns and occasionally shaking the controller when a zombie has a hold of you.  (You’ll see a gauge that lets you know if you’re successful or a failure.)  The controls are quite responsive, though the demo itself was way too short for its own good.  We didn’t even get to fight the boss at the end of the first stage, a four-armed freak named Justice.  (Soon enough, we suppose.)

Though House of the Dead 4 isn’t likely to make any “Best Download of the Year” lists, it’s a fitting title that deserves its spot in Sega’s forthcoming digital library.  Plus, shooter fans hard up for a new game to play with their Move will thoroughly enjoy it.  Be sure to check back for the blood-splattering review when it drops later this spring.

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