House of the Dead III Review (PSN)
Is it just me or did House of the Dead III feel like it didn’t quite “fit in” with the lexicon of the series when it debuted ten years ago? Granted, it was still about blasting the undead to kingdom come, but with a new shotgun mechanic and a slightly older version of G, the agent who constantly finds himself in peril, I couldn’t help but think that Sega slipped up somewhere in the game’s development. Still, I had fun with it, and the shotgun actually adds to the amount of carnage you can spill on things – as Charlie Sheen would say, “Winning.” Now, after spending so long dwelling in local Dave and Buster’s and a stint on the Wii in the House of the Dead Collection, the game comes to PlayStation Network, with a slight high-definition polish and a few features that fans will want to get cocked and loaded over.
The story, as usual, makes no sense. Even though Curien, the mad scientist from the first game, is long gone, his legacy lives on through a twisted new machine. After the first pair of officers sent in to investigate disappear, one of the agent’s daughters teams up with G to fast track to the torn-apart location, and find an undead horde waiting for them. So, as expected, you’re shooting like crazy.
As we said, the shotgun mechanic works well for this series, as you can shred someone’s head almost clean off with a couple of shots, even big fat zombies who come lumbering at you stomach first. (Not hungry, I guess?) As you make your way through the game’s five stages, you’ll also be able to shoot for skill points, including coins that multiply with each hit and frogs that provide an added bonus. And as expected, at the end of each round, a boss is waiting, including a nasty plant creature with deadly tentacles and the mother of all security guards. We hate that guy.
You can play using a typical PS3 controller, guiding the on-screen cursor…but this game was built for the PlayStation Move. This peripheral interacts beautifully with the in-game action, with precision aiming and auto-reloading (or you can shake the controller if that’s not fast enough). We weren’t crazy about the rapid firing of the shotgun (six shells in a second?!), but settings can be changed if necessary. Two controllers are supported at once, so a friend can join in, or, if you prefer the John Woo style of play, go for double wielding.
While the graphics are hardly as impressive as the forthcoming House of the Dead IV, Sega did a very good job porting the game in a high-definition format. The zombies are gooier than ever (boom, explosion), the settings look good, and, hey, the heroes actually resemble humans. The dialogue is pure cheese (“Touch me there!”) and the music is repetitive, but that’s just the nature of the game.
Once you beat the five stages in survival, various difficulty settings are available, as well as an exclusive Time Attack mode, where you race through each stage as quickly as possible. With online leaderboard support, it’s fun to go up against friends, even if you’re repeatedly covering the same territory, and skipping the same lame cinemas.
House of the Dead III may not be an ideal candidate for “game that aged the least”, because you can see obvious signs of its old-school design. That said, it’s still a great mindless shooter to waste some time with, especially after a stressful day at the office. And seeing how well Sega treated this game, it’s a good indication of what we can expect from part four when it drops later this spring. Even with a wackier storyline. That’s G for you…