reviews\ Nov 3, 2002 at 7:00 pm

The House of the Dead III - XB - Review

When House of the Dead 2 hit the Dreamcast a few years back, it sported great graphics and fast-paced zombie shooting action.  It did not, however, include a first-party light gun peripheral.  Although you could still move an on-screen cursor and shoot with the controller, this proved very detrimental to the gameplay, since playing a light gun game without a gun is like eating spaghetti with a spoon.  Now Sega releases The House of the Dead 3, with improved graphics, excellent pacing and an auto-reload function to speed up the gameplay.  However, the game does not come with a gun.  Even if you wanted a gun, neither Sega nor Microsoft is releasing one; only Mad Catz has stepped up to the plate with its Blaster.  However, if you are the type of person who would spend the extra 40 bucks for a light gun, chances are you will enjoy House of the Dead 3, albeit for only a couple hours.

The story for House of the Dead 3 is pretty campy fare.  Twenty years after the second House of the Dead, zombies (created by Dr. Curien) have overrun the world.  You step in as Lisa Rogan, the daughter of Thomas Rogan, one of the heroes of the first House of the Dead.  Your father went to Curien’s lab to find the cause of all the pandemonium, and hasn’t been heard from since. This brings you and G, your father’s former partner, to the lab to bust some zombie heads and find your father.

The gameplay is actually quite impressive when compared to the previous installments of the game.  The zombies move much faster and come at you from all sides, requiring a great deal more reflex and impulse on your part.  The bosses are also really cool and oftentimes surreal.  They range from a huge mutant security guard with a huge club fashioned of human skulls to a giant sloth in a cage.  That’s right, I said sloth.  The last boss (who is much harder than any of the previous bosses) is very cool looking as well, although his appearance has nothing to do with zombies.

Sega made a valiant attempt to make up for the lack of a gun by adding an FPS-style onscreen gun.  While the onscreen gun does help, and the onscreen cursor is easy to control once you get the hang of it, the experience is much better with a light gun.  Another problem with the game is its length, which is incredibly short.  I managed to beat the game the first time through in a little over half an hour.  However, to make up for the game’s shortness, Sega included the full version of House of the Dead 2, which is unlocked after you get through House of the Dead 3.

The game’s graphics are spectacular.  The environments scream of style and vibrant colors, and the zombies are great (and gruesome) to look at.  The action occurs blindingly fast, running at 60 frames per second without a single hiccup in the framerate. The game also boasts a significant amount of stunning special effects, such as nice explosions and impressive lighting effects.

The sound is a mixed bag.  The soundtrack does have its highlights (such as weird, trippy sci-fi tunes that sound like they’re from the 60’s) and the sounds are satisfactory, comprised of grunts, groans, yells and gunshots.  However, the voice acting leaves much to be desired.  While the horrible acting was charming in House of the Dead 2, here the acting just seems flat and boring.

House of the Dead 3 (if you’re into this sort of thing) can be a fun, frantic action game with incredible graphics.  However, this type of game certainly isn’t for everyone, and even those who are suited won’t be engaged for very long.  If you are willing to buy a gun for this game, then you will have a great time.

Reviewer’s Scoring Details


Gameplay: 6.9
The gameplay is pretty fast and intense, but it’s just not the experience that it’s meant to be without a light gun.  While the onscreen gun is indeed a noble effort, it’s just not the same.  However, while the game is terribly short and simple, the inclusion of House of the Dead 2 is great for replay value.


Graphics: 9.5
In a word: wow.  House of the Dead 3 is certainly one of the best looking games on the XBox, and that says a lot.  The colors are vivid, the lighting effects are spectacular, and the character models are unique and inventive.  Not to mention all of the action occurs at a blindingly fast framerate.


Sound: 6.5
The sound in this game is pretty average, although the campy sci-fi music is pretty cool.  The voice acting is pretty dull and leaves much to be desired.


Difficulty: Very Easy 
Most gamers will be able to finish the game in less than an hour, maybe even on the first go around


Concept: 6.5
The story is laughable and the idea of a rail-shooter that puts you on a fixed path is getting a little dated.  However, the game’s surreal boss battles are certainly interesting and original.


Multiplayer: 8.0
The game has a decent two player co-op mode.


Overall: 7.0
House of the Dead 3 is in about the same boat as House of the Dead 2 was a few years back.  While its got some excellent eye-candy, the game is super-short and simply isn’t that fun without a gun.  However, fans of the genre (who will definitely buy a gun) should get a couple hours of enjoyment. 


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