The House of the Dead Remake isn’t a bad way to kill time. Or hordes of zombies for that matter.
If you’re of a certain age, light gun games in the arcade will hold a special place in your heart. I spent an enormous amount of time — and money — on the likes of Time Crisis, Area 51, and of course The House of the Dead and its numerous sequels. There were few arcade experiences as enjoyable as pointing a plastic pistol at a screen and blasting away at bad guys, and that enjoyment was even ported to home consoles with a reasonable amount of success. The House of the Dead 2 on Dreamcast was a source of a lot of fun for my friends and me, and the remake of the second and third game on Wii were equally as enjoyable. In the modern era though, light guns are somewhat defunct. Modern TVs don’t work with them, and the only way to really get a similar experience is with a VR setup. Still, The House of the Dead Remake has been released by Forever Entertainment for PC and console with the need for more traditional control methods. Let’s see how it fares.
The story — amusing, I know — is that you as either Agent Rogan or Agent G are investigating the Curian Mansion where there are strange goings on. It turns out that the Dr. Curian has an army of zombies and other assorted monsters at his disposal, and it’s up to you, potentially with a friend in tow, to stop him by rescuing scientists and ventilating the undead. The story is, of course, utterly meaningless but it provides a nice schlocky backdrop to the action. There are different routes to take, and marginally different endings depending on your character and performance throughout your playtime. Of course, all of this is no different to that enjoyable classic from the arcades. The real question is how does this remake update things and how does it perform with a controller.
In terms of the latter, it controls about as well as you might expect a light gun game to when using a controller. The likes of Blue Estate have shown that games like this can work well enough without a lightgun, but I feel that The House of The Dead Remake doesn’t take a lot of consideration into how different the light gun and controller control schemes are. The action, especially on the harder settings, feels just as fast as the arcade, but without the fast response time a light gun can provide. I often found myself flailing the crosshair around the screen blasting at anything I could until I got the sensitivity to where I wanted it, and even then I found it difficult to hit everything I wanted to accurately when the screen became busy with the undead.
Luckily, you are provided with plenty of credits, along with the ability to get more credits by sacrificing a portion of your score, so getting to the end isn’t really in any doubt on the basic difficulties. But that control scheme really is difficult to get the hang of. Some of the faster moving bosses are an absolute nightmare to hit with any accuracy as they flitter across the screen far faster than you can aim. Wild blasting got me much further than trying to actually hit those weak points. It was frustrating until I got the hang of the controls, and even then it wasn’t flawless.
Other updates are quite enjoyable though. There’s a horde mode, which provides you with the basic game but with significantly more zombies. It was a lot of fun to hammer through tons of zombies all at once, even though it did ramp up the difficulty and cause the camera to occasionally fly around the screen trying to focus on the closest threat. There are several included difficulty modes, which is nice, and a gallery to look at the zombie character models.
Most enjoyable though, is one that you’ll have to earn through play. If you can finish the game whilst saving all the scientists, you’ll unlock the armoury, allowing you to find new weapons to use throughout subsequent runs through the game. And these are really good fun, even if there are only a handful to choose from. The assault rifle will utterly decimate everything in front of you, and the pitter will hilariously harpoon zombies to the wall and floor with a good hit. Honestly, these weapons trivialise some of the difficulty in the game, but are great fun to play with if and when you acquire them.
The presentation is a bit of a let-down though. I would have expected a full remake in this era to look much more impressive, but the visuals in The House of the Dead Remake are that of an early Xbox 360 era title. Characters lack detail and environments, whilst certainly more interesting than the original, look dated by today’s standards. The sounds, music, and voicework feel as though they are the same as the original. If they have been updated or re-recorded then I didn’t pick up on it.
Then there’s the shoddy, typo riddled subtitles, and occasionally framerate stutters that all feel as though they shouldn’t be in a 2022 release. It feels rushed, and with a £20 price tag for a remake of a well loved game that can arguably be finished in under 45 minutes, then I feel that’s a hard sell. If this was a pack of the first four games then I’d say it was a bargain even with those issues, but for a single game it’s certainly overpriced.
Regardless, I did enjoy The House of the Dead Remake for what it was. As a slight spruce up of a classic, it certainly is fun in spite of having to use a controller, and it’s even more enjoyable if you can grab a friend to play with you in the local co-op — no online though for some reason. Whilst I’d prefer a full pack, this will have to suffice for now, and there are certainly worse ways to spend an evening. Now, how about someone remakes Vampire Night, eh?