House of the Dead 3 and 4 Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

PlayStation Network
Release date:
April 17, 2012
Sega Wow
1 - 2 local and online

House of the Dead 3 and 4

Return of the House of the Dead.

Review by Gabriel Jones (Email)
May 2nd 2012

The disturbance of nature is to be blamed on humanity's destructive reproduction. Balancing the life cycle and restoring the wheel of fate requires an end and a new beginning for mankind.

This . . . doesn't make any sense does it? It's actually quite simple: if you're a mad scientist, you can throw any combination of words together to justify your actions. For example, causing a zombie apocalypse through your experiments and then turning around and blaming humans for all the wars and baby-making they've been doing. In all seriousness, though, don't worry about all that when playing a House of the Dead game. Just take thirty minutes from your day and do your best to curb the world's undead population.

Take thirty minutes and do your best to curb the world's undead population.

Even though zombie games have overstayed their welcome House of the Dead 3and 4 are among the best. Maybe it's because they were released long before everyone decided to make video games about the living dead everyday and people all over the world seemingly became experts in surviving zombie attacks. It could also be that holding a controller or a pressing some keys and clicking mouse buttons is no substitute for the feel of a gun. This is all my opinion, of course. I really enjoy light-gun games and they're the main reason why I own a Sony Move.

House of the Dead 3 takes place in the year 2019. Lisa Rogan and Agent G have infiltrated the EFI research facility to search for Kate's missing father, Thomas, as well as reasons why the world has fallen apart. If you survive, maybe they'll find what they're looking for. While previous entries in the series equipped the heroes with handguns, Lisa and G carry shotguns. Better firepower is necessary when dealing with the increased number of adversaries that are bound to assault them at any moment. If you're playing this game with the Sharp Shooter you can use the pump action to reload. Otherwise, you automatically reload after expending all of your ammo. In any case, your survival depends on how quickly and accurately you can shoot through the legions of undead.

An average agent can kill a zombie; an average agent will also end up dead before long. Winning at this game is not just about shooting these brain-nibbling fiends; you have to be quick and blow them away as soon as they're on-screen. Also, you have to keep an eye out for barrels and other destructible objects because they can contain treasure or med-kits. Your partner is liable to get into trouble and it's always to your benefit to bail him out. At the end of each stage, you'll face a boss, though this entry is unique in the respect that they have secondary health meters you must deplete in order to avoid their attacks. Where you're most likely to take damage is either going to be because you prioritized the wrong foes, missed a projectile, or were caught in that fraction of a second where you're reloading. If you're willing to risk reloading more often, you can press both the trigger and the button on top of the Move controller to fire twice as quickly.

Aside from the survival mode, there is the time attack. Here, everything you do successfully will award time, while taking damage will cost you. Mastering this mode absolutely requires that you know where all the hidden treasures are. Otherwise, fans of previous light-gun titles such as Vampire Night and House of the Dead 2 will be disappointed in the lack of additional modes and other extras. Still, this game will last long enough if players want to go for all of the endings and make their mark on the online leaderboards. All in all it's a great conversion, even if it's of a game that's already been ported to the original Xbox and the Wii.

In 2003, the events of House of the Dead 4 took place. It seems Goldman hasn't quite given up in his quest to wipe out humanity. Apparently the zombies weren't enough, so he decides to attempt to launch a nuclear weapon. As returning hero James Taylor or new heroine Kate Green, it's your job to stop him once and for all. Since this game takes place prior to the third game, it's pretty obvious that even if you succeed the world is still pretty much screwed. But, hey, don't let that stop you from mowing down the undead with your sweet new Uzi.

In a nod to the second game, this entry seemingly retraces the steps through the city towards Goldman's corporate office. Coupled with some cut scenes from the second game, it almost makes you feel a little nostalgic. The city has gotten much worse now, as the survivors are nonexistent and the streets are choked by the undead. This is reason enough why you're carrying such a powerful new weapon: so that you can deal with the massive increase in zombies. They're traveling in packs now and targeting you.

Since the Uzi doesn't have the power or spread of a shotgun, your accuracy matters more than ever and all enemies should be dealt with by putting a bullet between their eyes. Sure you could "spray and pray," but each clip lasts just over a second and time spent reloading is potentially time spent getting chewed on. To shake things up a bit, some zombies will grab on to you, forcing you to swing your gun around rapidly to break away. Also they can knock you down, which leaves you open to attack and in a bad position.

Scoring is tied to your ability to locate hidden treasures as well as your accuracy. Killing one fiend by shooting it in the head is merely worth a "Good" bonus while several can result in "PERFECT!" bonuses. Also, for when you feel the situation demands it, there are a limited supply of grenades at your disposal. They're good for busting out of bad situations, but if you're after the high score you'll be saving them to discover secret rooms filled with goodies.

One thing that really annoys me about the "PERFECT!" system is that at times it can really hurt the pacing of the game. In order to get the bonus, you have to be very selective with your shots and wait for the most opportune moments to attack. There are also occasions where you're free to shoot at zombies while they crawl into view. The mechanics are odd here because while you get points you're not really damaging the enemies. This can also happen when the enemy goes for a grab or a knockdown. I don't see the appeal of getting shoved around repeatedly just to get every last point, but that's just me. Scoring sub-systems and I don't get along too well.

Also included with this game is House of the Dead 4 Special. This version of the game is quite rare, and if you ever managed to stumble upon a set-up I hope you checked it out. As for the rest of us, this is a very nice bonus. Still, even on your biggest TV you can't quite get the same effect as two 100" screens with a seat that rotates between them depending on where the zombies are attacking from Also, this version is only two stages long, which is to be expected from a glorified attraction, I suppose. But its inclusion is greatly appreciated.

The port-quality is better than I expected. House of the Dead 4 being very demanding with its gratuitous enemy count led me to believe this port would be around 30 FPS. Thankfully, this version usually runs at 60 FPS, which is optimal for this type of game. Problem is that frame drops will happen when the action gets chaotic enough or during particular effects (such as the stage 3 boss fight). I believe even the arcade version had drops at times, though not to this effect. Still it doesn't affect the game too much. Even with the frame-rate stumbles I've been able to effectively chain numerous "PERFECT!" bonuses. There are some other minor issues, like many of the cut scenes being pre-rendered, but after my first play-through I was skipping them all anyway.

A console port for House of the Dead 4 has always been a bit of a distant dream to me, so Sega deserves a lot of respect for not only making it happen but also making it a sufficient release. Considering how much it costs me to play through this game in the arcades, I've saved a bundle thanks to this port. Yes, that is a knock against my apparent lack of skill, but whatever. While House of the Dead 3 has been ported before, this is probably the best it's ever going to get, and it's still a good enough game worth revisiting.

If you've been wondering what the heck to do with your Move controller, consider looking into these games. Even purchased together you're still looking at about $17, which isn't a bad price at all. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come and we see other titles, such as Virtua Cop 3 and Ghost Squad Evolution.

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