They've come for brains. You'll give them... bullets.
The House of the Dead: Overkill (ザ・ハウス・オブ・ザ・デッド オーバーキル) is a grindhouse-themed rail shooter developed by Headstrong Games and published by Sega on the Nintendo Wii in 2009. It is a spin-off to the House of the Dead series.
Developed as a homage to exploitation films, Overkill is considerably more adult than the main House of the Dead series. It was written and marketed as a prequel to the original 1996 game The House of the Dead. However, the game's canonicity is often debated among fans due to its different tone and series director Takashi Oda's limited involvement.
An HD remastering of the game with added content, The House of the Dead: Overkill: Extended Cut, was released for the PlayStation 3 in late October 2011. The Typing of the Dead: Overkill, which includes Extended Cut's content, was released on Steam in October 2013. A mobile adaptation, The House of the Dead: Overkill: The Lost Reels, was released for iOS and Android devices in 2013.
Overkill received praise from critics for its gore, vulgar humor, and tributes to exploitation films, but received a mixed reception from fans.
In 1991, rookie AMS agent G and Detective Isaac Washington investigate disappearances and a mutant outbreak in Bayou City, Louisiana. They storm the mansion of Papa Caesar, a crime lord who killed Isaac's father. Caesar flees, while disabled scientist Jasper Guns, whom Caesar used, is mutated after injecting himself with an unknown substance. After defeating Jasper, G and Isaac meet his sister, stripper Varla Guns, who seeks revenge on Caesar.
G and Isaac track Caesar to a hospital, battling the Screamer and escaping with Varla after the building is set to explode. At a carnival, they defeat mutated circus performers Nigel and Sebastian. G and Isaac pursue Caesar on a train, defeating the Crawler, a mutated mantis. Varla is kidnapped by Caesar, who throws a tape recording to Isaac.
The train crashes into a swamp, where G and Isaac battle the mutant Lobber and escape. They reach a high security prison, with Caesar and Varla strapped to electric chairs. Warden Clement Darling claims responsibility for the outbreak, with Caesar a mere accomplice; he executes Caesar, robbing Isaac of his revenge. G and Isaac fight Brutus the Ruthless, a mutated convict who murders his partner before the battle.
G and Isaac confront Clement in his underground laboratory. To cure his sick mother (with whom he shares an incestuous relationship), Clement has transplanted her brain into Varla's body, which grows and mutates into a giant creature known as Mother. After her defeat, Clement "returns to the womb" to atone for the problems he caused.
G and Isaac leave on a helicopter with Varla's still active brain in a jar, detonating the facility. G tells Varla of his feelings for her, prompting him and Isaac to discuss the game's moral and political messages. The helicopter pilot is then revealed to be a mutant.
In his tape recording, Caesar reveals Clement was involved with "powerful friends", and that Isaac's father is still alive.
Like previous games in the House of the Dead series, Overkill is a rail shooter with pre-determined character movement, with the shooting element under player control by pointing the Wii Remote at the screen, moving the aiming reticle. The player can point the reticle near the edge of the screen to move the camera angle slightly in that direction, allowing a further field of view known as "Danger Cam". The PlayStation 3 version allows the player to choose between aiming manually with the analog sticks, or a Playstation Move controller. The story mode can be played solo or with another human player, with one weapon or dual-wielding controls.
Players can also build up a combo meter by killing mutants to receive a score, with further points gained by performing head-shots, shooting bonus pickups, saving civilians and attaining multiple kills without missing a shot. If a player dies, points from their overall score can be quickly spent to continue playing. At the end of each level, the player is awarded a grade that depends on their final score among other factors such as not dying, and accuracy of shots. Along with score bonuses, other pick ups scattered throughout levels include health packs, grenades and the "Slow-Mo-Fo" pick up that puts everything into slow motion temporarily.
New guns and gun upgrades can be bought with cash earned from the player’s end-of-level score, between levels at the Gun Shop. Upon completing the story mode, Director’s Cut is unlocked providing the same game as story mode but with tougher enemies and a limited amount of continues, among a selection of one-off mini-games; "Stayin’ Alive" where players must survive a continuous wave of mutants, "Victim Support" where players must help a group of civilians escape and "Money Shot II", a competitive mode where up to four players must achieve the highest kill score. Completing the Director's Cut unlocks dual wield mode.
Scoring at least five kills starts a combo sequence; increasing numbers of kills will raise the combo level and score more points:
- Extreme Violence : make a kill combo of 5 - 100 Bonus Points
- Hardcore Violence : make a kill combo of 10 - 200 Bonus Points
- Ultra-Violence: make a kill combo of 15 - 300 Bonus Points
- Psychotic : make a kill combo of 20 - 500 Bonus Points
- Goregasm: make a kill combo of 25 or more - 1000 Bonus Points
The House of the Dead: Overkill features 8 weapons. Initially, players start with the standard-issue AMS Magnum pistol. There are five weapons initially available to purchase. A pump-action shotgun, a sub-machine gun, an automatic shotgun, an assault rifle, and finally a very large revolver dubbed 'The Hand Cannon'.
Players also have the option of upgrading various aspects of each weapon. These aspects include recoil, clip size, firing rate, reloading time and damage inflicted.
Throughout the various levels, players can also collect hand grenades and in the final level, Agent G and Detective Washington battle the final boss using a pair of miniguns that were apparently just 'lying around'.
By unlocking enough of the game's content in the Director's Cut mode, the minigun becomes available to purchase for use at any level.
The following is a detailed explanation of the weapons:
- AMS Magnum Pistol: Your average House of the Dead handgun. Even though it uses magnum bullets, it is relatively weak. This weapon is carried by G and Isaac at the beginning of the game and is the only weapon unlocked at the start. Based on a Desert Eagle.
- Shotgun: Very powerful pump-action shotgun. It is more powerful than the Pistol but takes longer to reload and the firing rate is slow (and it stays that way due to firing speed not being an upgradable category). Based on a Benelli Nova in the original game and a Remington 870 in the Extended Cut remake.
- SMG: The SMG is a useful weapon once it is upgraded. The only drawback is the slow reload, but that can be upgraded, resulting in the weapon becoming very powerful. It is a good weapon to use against Brutus because it can keep pounding his weak spot, deal a lot of damage and deflect his arrows. Based on a Steyr TMP in the Wii version and a Micro-Uzi in the Extended Cut.
- Automatic Shotgun: Just like the shotgun, but with a faster firing rate and such. Based on a Benelli M3 originally, replaced with a Franchi SPAS-12 in the Extended Cut.
- Assault Rifle: Works like the SMG in purpose, but with two minor differences: 1. Slower firing rate (but not enough to consider "not worth it"). 2. It is more powerful (two shots will kill one mutant, resulting in a lot of deaths in a small amount of time). G and Isaac carry these in the intro cutscene to the final level, regardless of whatever weapon the player chooses. Based on the experimental XM8.
- Hand Cannon: It is hard to believe that this little number packs so much punch. The Hand Cannon can kill most mutants in one shot and hits some bosses with a hit you wouldn't imagine. However, it is a bit slower to reload, and recoil will shake the screen upon its shooting, lowering accuracy. The Hand Cannon is either the Smith and Wesson model 500 or the Taurus Raging Bull. Its nickname could also be traced to the Capcom game, Resident Evil 4, where the S&W 500 used is called the "Hand-cannon". It is unlocked by completing the main game once.
- Minigun: G and Isaac use this to battle the final boss, Mother, where a missing reel blanks out that G and Isaac conveniently "found" them during the fight in the underground lab. It is the most powerful weapon in the game, with the Hand Cannon coming in second. The weapon doesn't have an ammo capacity, but it can over heat. If used too much in a single go, the player will be vulnerable until it cools down. It is unlocked by completing the Director's Cut once, which is not an easy thing to do.
- Crossbow: Holds 3 explosive bolts. Works like a mini-grenade making it a powerful weapon, but its slow reload and arming time make the player vulnerable to frequent hits.
Levels and bosses
- Chapter 1: Papa's Palace of Pain (Boss: Jasper)
- Chapter 2: Ballistic Trauma (Boss: Screamer)
- Chapter 3: Carny (Boss: Nigel and Sebastian)
- Chapter 4: Scream Train (Boss: Crawler)
- Chapter 5: The Fetid Waters (Boss: Lobber)
- Chapter 6: Jailhouse Judgment (Boss: Brutus)
- Chapter 7: Overkill (Boss: Mother)
Extra Chapters (available in the "Extended Cut" version and Typing of the Dead version):
- Extra Chapter 1: Naked Terror (Boss: Coco & Sindy)
- Extra Chapter 2: Creeping Flesh (Boss: Meat Katie)
Each chapter is presented as a 'movie' - Grindhouse style. This is comically used in the final battle, where the "movie" cuts off due to "missing slides", before returning, showing that G and Washington miraculously survived the battle, saved Varla's brain, and "found" a pair of mini guns lying on the floor (without which Issac notes that they'd probably have been killed).
Sega approached developer Headstrong Games to work together on a project, letting Headstrong work with The House of the Dead due to their passion for the series.
The House of the Dead: Overkill originally had the same style as previous House of the Dead games. Other themes, such as steampunk, were also considered. Headstrong ultimately chose an exploitation film theme after watching the 2007 horror-comedy film Planet Terror; this influenced the art style, plot, and marketing. Headstrong worried that players from Japan, where The House of the Dead originated from, would not like this Western-centric direction.
The story was written by Jonathan Burroughs, with some suggestions made by The House of the Dead series director Takashi Oda. Credited as a "creative supervisor" along with producers Yasuhiro Nishiyama and Masakatsu Watanabe, Oda also shared several "rules" of the House of the Dead series with Headstrong; however, his involvement was limited. The inclusion of G and an explanation of the origins of the mutant formula were seen as "contentious", especially as the former is a character from the mainline House of the Dead series.
The developer spent "a lot" of time creating the characters and universe, to the extent of devising character family trees. Detective Washington was modeled after rapper Common, Varla Guns after glamor model Vikki Blows, Papa Caesar after Burt Reynolds, and Agent G on Keanu Reeves as he appears in Point Break.
The game was also available in a limited collector's edition that included Prelude to an Overkill, a graphic novel prequel to the game. A special release of the game in Australia, the "Bang Bang Box", came packaged with the graphic novel in addition to two Wii Remote gun shells modeled after the AMS pistols carried by the main characters in the game.
Sean Ratcliffe, then-Vice President of Marketing at Sega of America, stated that customers responded well to Overkill and that the game "absolutely" met Sega's expectations.
- Edge = 8/10
- GamePro = 3.5/5
- GameSpot = 8/10
- GamesRadar = 8/10
- IGN = 8.3/10
- Nintendo Power = 8/10
- Official Nintendo Magazine = 90/100
- GameRankings = 81%
- Metacritic = 79/100
Upon release, The House of the Dead: Overkill received a generally favorable response from critics, with an average review score of 81% at Game Rankings and 79/100 at Metacritic. Many critics praised the fast-paced, balanced gameplay, with X-Play stating "the arcade-style shooting is satisfying and provides a challenge for experienced players" yet "easily conquered for those who can’t aim a Wiimote to save their life." Games Radar found the simple gameplay to be "varied enough to keep the momentum going." Although considered to be easier than past games of the series, GameSpot calling the difficultly a "cake walk" at times, Eurogamer said the game "almost never tries your patience, and it's made with such infectious and irreverent glee and such obvious pride, you can't help but join in."
The over-the-top B movie grindhouse-style was particularly praised. Game Informer stated "the parade of F-bombs and one-liners fit in perfect harmony with the grindhouse presentation", even recommending it to Quentin Tarantino fans. GameSpot claimed it "reinvents the aging shooter series for the better with an over-the-top grindhouse theme that resonates in its every aspect, from the hilarious story to the fantastic vintage soundtrack." Due to the adult nature of the game, GameDaily called it "a digital slaughterhouse full of carnage that'll make you happy to be an adult Wii owner" and Nintendo Power calling it "one of the Wii's greatest guilty pleasures". Edge stated that Overkill "raises the bar for third party production values on this generation’s best-selling console."
Though 1UP "still enjoyed the game", they did consider that "with its constant stream of expletives and toilet humor, it may turn just as many people away", starting their review with a disclaimer for younger gamers not to play, being strictly an adult game. Another issue critics found was a number of technical issues, particularly with the frame rate, which IGN called "sketchy" and "sad to see in a game that has so much amazing content in it." GamePro also experienced this, notably when "the screen became cluttered with enemies", originally hoping the issue to be fixed before the game’s final release. Another issue were glitches, with Computer and Video Games reportedly experiencing no enemies appearing at all at times and sometimes requiring to restart the console.
It was confirmed by Dread Central that the game is set to receive a Guinness World Record for being The Most Profane Game of All Time. It was later dethroned by Mafia 2 that same year.
- Counting all House of the Dead games, Overkill is the longest game in the series, with 7 levels (9 including the two included in Extended Cut).
- The House of the Dead: Overkill is the first in the series to actually show the final boss's weak point, unlike the series tradition of listing the final boss's weak point as "Unknown" (or a variant of similar meaning).
- However, in Extended Cut, the weak point of the final boss is listed as "Unknown", returning to the series tradition.
- Brown, Mark (February 12, 2009). "The Making of...The House of the Dead: Overkill" (English). Britishgaming.com. Archived from the original on March 22, 2020.
- Kori (September 7, 2012). "Website of the Dead’s Exclusive Interview with Takashi Oda" (English). The Website of the Dead. Archived from the original on April 19, 2020. “Were you involved with the writing for The House of the Dead Overkill in anyway? I’ve heard G told Issac Washington not to use the “Z” word. I was wondering if you were involved with that line? I was not part of creation of the game, but I gave some advice about the story, and shared some rules of the House of the Dead franchise.”
- Gaudiosi, John (April 6, 2009). "Sega shows off next big Olympics game, targets Wii and DSi" (English). VentureBeat. “VB: Sega is also going after the core audience with games like House of the Dead: Overkill and Mad World. How are consumers responding to those Mature-rated titles? SR: House of the Dead has done very well and has absolutely met our expectations. The first set of data for Mad World is very encouraging, as well.”
|The House of the Dead games|
|Main series||The House of the Dead (Remake) • 2 • III • 4 (Special) • Scarlet Dawn|
|Spin-offs||Zombie Revenge • The Typing of the Dead (2 • Overkill) • The Pinball of the Dead • English of the Dead • The House of the Dead: Overkill (Extended Cut) • EX • Darts of the Dead • Scarlet Dawn (Battle Genesis • THE ATTRACTION)|
|Prototypes||The House of the Dead (arcade prototype • Sega Saturn prototype) • 2 (Original Sin prototype) • Scarlet Dawn (location test builds)|
|Compilations||2 & 3 Return|
|Mobile games||Mobile • Nightmare • Zombie Utsu: Flick of the Dead • Overkill: The Lost Reels|
|Non-HOD games||Vampire Night • Sega Golden Gun • Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing|
|Gameplay mechanics||Bonus items • Branching paths • Civilians • Health • Weak points|
|Developers||Sega • Sega AM1 • Namco • Forever Entertainment • MegaPixel Studio • TA Publishing|
|Staff||Takashi Oda • Benjamin Anseaume • Zbigniew Dębicki|