The House of the Dead 4 continues the story of the first two games and fills in the gap in the storyline between The House of the Dead 2 and The House of the Dead 3, whilst introducing several new gameplay concepts. Players can control either James Taylor, from The House of the Dead 2, or Kate Green, a new character to the series.
The House of the Dead 4 is the first game to run on the Sega Lindbergh arcade system board. A PlayStation 3 version featuring support for PlayStation Move and the two stages from The House of the Dead 4: Special was released on April 17, 2012 on the PlayStation Network for $9.99. It is currently the last game in the series to use Tarot Cards as names for bosses.
The televisions used are Mitsubishi's 2005 62" DLP 16:9 ratio widescreen model for the "Super Deluxe" cabinet, Mitsubishi's 2005 52" DLP 4:3 ratio model for the "Deluxe" sized cabinet, and the smallest version uses a Sanwa 29" 4:3 ratio television for the "upright" cabinet. The game runs in 1080i.
In The House of the Dead 4, players use a Mini Uzi submachine gun which allows fully automatic fire. The gun also has a motion sensor that can detect when the player shakes the gun. The player can reload the gun by shaking it. The game also features grenades that the player can throw to destroy large numbers of enemies and heavily damage most bosses. Additional grenades can be earned by completing certain tasks or by shooting crates. At some points in the game, players are required to shake the gun vigorously in order to escape certain situations.
The game features branching paths. Most of the paths lead to the same point in the game's story. As with The House of the Dead 3, there is an end-of-stage bonus where players can receive extra lives depending on critical shots, accuracy, and score. Another returning factor is the presence of the "Cancel" bar.
The game runs on a critical shots counter where the player is encouraged to go for headshots rather than spraying ammo at the enemy. It starts off as Good, Excellent, Amazing and then Perfect. Getting hit, or killing an enemy not by the head resets the counter.
The most common enemies have three attacks. A "normal attack", a "grab," and a "push". The foremost inflicts one point of damage, while the second forces a shaking sequence that, if successful, pushes back attackers for easier disposal, but if unsuccessful, will result in the player being bitten or the player's character being knocked down and vulnerable. Multiple zombies may also pile on top of both players in an attempt to stomp on them.
In 2003, AMS agents James Taylor and Kate Green are gathering intelligence at the fifth basement floor of the AMS European branch office. The former of the two still has the events of the 2000 "Goldman Case" on his mind, and believes that the ordeal had not yet ended. A sudden earthquake rocks the room while they talk, collapsing the basement walls and leaving the agents trapped.
Several days later, Kate and James await a rescue team. James' PDA goes off, and a group of undead are seen on the security cameras. Realizing that they are in danger, James has Kate gather all the weaponry they can find in preparation for the arrival of their foes. Soon after, the two travel through the sewers to an information room where they uncover a plot to fire nuclear missiles worldwide within 24 hours' time, facing the four armed Justice and a pair of mutant tarantulas known as The Lovers along the way. Taking the subway into zombie -infested streets from an underground shopping district, the agents narrowly avoid attacks by Empress, a double-ended chainsaw-wielding assassin, and the obese, nearly impervious Temperance.
James and Kate then learn that the one-time president of the now-defunct DBR Corporation, Goldman, who committed suicide, is responsible for the resurgence of undead. After reaching the surface, finding the city about them completely obliterated, James and Kate receive a PDA message sent by Goldman: the nuclear missile launch will occur in one hour. After the agents set out for the abandoned Goldman Building, a levitating humanoid, The Star, prevents their advance in the foyer. Destroying the Star, the agents continue onwards. Ultimately, they arrive in time to halt Goldman's plans, though it is revealed that his true intention is to revert humankind to its original state in order to prevent them from harming the planet any further. As such, his final legacy, The World, is released in the opening of "Pandora's Box" to fulfill its role as the successor to his original Emperor project in 2000, having developed underground since his death. As the AMS agents fight it, the World continuously alters its form to meet their threats, each time growing larger and more powerful. Following the World's second defeat, James sets his PDA to self-destruct, telling Kate not to give up hope, sacrificing himself, alongside the World, in the following explosion.
In the game's "standard" ending, the view returns to the computer in Goldman's office, continuing the former president's pre-recorded message. Goldman gives a final statement as he walks away: "Ah yes, there is one thing I forgot. The human race has not been eliminated. Travel north... hope is such a splendid thing." If the player did not do well in the game, the camera focuses on Goldman's face, which suddenly becomes zombie -like.
In one of the game's alternate endings, a mysterious and unidentified man (previously seen in one of House of the Dead 3's endings) sits at a desk in the corner of an office. He claims that Goldman was "soft" and that "wretched humans have no need of hope," stating that the "true end" will soon begin and that there is more than one "Pandora's Box".
In another ending, G claims that the undead crisis was not over yet and says: "We'll fight this back to the source. It's now time for you to rest now, James." As G walks out of the camera, a zoom is made on Goldman's building.
At the end of all of the endings, it is written "The story continues in House of the Dead 3".
- Chapter 1: Escape - Justice (Type 0053)
- Chapter 2: Lost - Lovers (Type 6805)
- Chapter 3: Emptiness - Empress (Type 1210)
- Chapter 4: Despair - Temperance (Type 0483)
- Chapter 5: Reunion - Star (Type 0001)
- Chapter 6: Hope - The World (Type β)