Zombies and bullets are a match made in heaven. Whether blowing off entire limbs or disintegrating the head with a single shot, it's endlessly satisfying to reduce the ravenous undead into a pulpy red gooey mess. Wrap the package up in a cheesily glorious grindhouse style and you've got a game that doesn't need depth to be a blast. House of the Dead: Overkill is, at its core, a fairly shallow light-gun shooter, but it's packed with so much rude humor, foul language, and gory violence that it's easy to forgive its shortcomings.
How shallow is it? Zombies are attacking, shoot them! Don't miss or take damage and the score bonus starts climbing. Skilled shooting earns bonus cash at the end of the level that can be put towards either buying or upgrading your arsenal. That's pretty much it for the gameplay, and the bulk of the fun comes from Overkill's style and presentation.
It's endlessly satisfying to reduce the ravenous undead into a pulpy red gooey mess.
Every little detail in Overkill is designed to reinforce the cheap grindhouse movie feel, from the developer logos at the start to scratched-film filter on the cut scenes. The story of two mismatched special agents, one a sarcastic rookie and the other a foul-mouthed playboy with a personal score to settle, partnering up against the maniacs who created a shambling mutant (not zombie, for some reason) horde, is classic movie cliché. There's horrible violence, so many uses of the word “fuck” that it stops having any meaning, gratuitous cleavage, giant explosions, and, of course, an eventual unlikely friendship between the two agents. The only thing Overkill is missing to hit all the the z-grade movie bases is a nudity-laden sex scene - though to be fair there's no space in the story to fit one in.
While the presentation comes off as highly polished, the gameplay could have used a little extra tweaking. The framerate is inconsistent, the only time it gets more difficult than tricky is the first time through a level, and once you've unlocked the harder Director's Cut levels there's no reason to ever play the original mode again. On the plus side, the shooting action is solid but Overkill ends up being more about lining up a reticule than taking careful aim. The Wii remote just isn't suited to perfect accuracy demanded by classic light gun gaming. Overkill looks like a gun game, and using Nyko's Perfect Shot remote shell gives it the feel of a gun game, but the reticule still has a tendency to wander just enough so that careful aim doesn't guarantee a hit.
Accept it for what it is, though, and House of the Dead: Overkill manages to become a ton of fun. The classic formula of “zombies explode into bloody chunks when you shoot them” works its usual magic, and the lengthy levels are well-paced with hordes of undead to gun down. The zombies fall into a few basic types with different outfits for the settings the various levels take place in, but seeing as 90% of them are just trying to bite your face off that's not a big concern. It's easy to pick apart House of the Dead: Overkill, getting lost in endless tiny criticisms, but that would ignore the sheer dumb fun that permeates the game from the opening cut scene to the final boss encounter. Overkill lets you blast zombies without taxing the brain too hard, and sometimes that's all you need for a great round of gaming.