House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return (PAL) box

Going to an arcade and stuffing a machine full of coinage just to shoot polygons on a screen is one that has been expensive but somehow worth it. The arcades however are all but dead. For a long time visitor numbers have dropped so significantly that the only arcade worth visiting in the UK has been the one in Piccadily Circus in London. I have heard talk of road-show arcades for hire being available, but alas none have advertised in the local press. The only outlet for these old games gone by now is on the Nintendo Wii. Because of the resemblance to the technology used for the old arcade rail shooters, it seems Sega have cottoned on to this fact and brought the ever aging fossils to the platform. Does shooting dead flesh then have the same appeal on the Wii that it did on the arcades, let alone twice?

  Well, if you would tell us to invest in the stock market in 2008 because it would be profitable, then who would believe you?

House of the Dead 2 takes you to a town that remarkably resembles Venice. Here, the zombie invasion has begun with Goldman being the culprit of the outbreak. You shoot with pistols with headshots being crucial to success. This is done via the Wii remote, which on is a workable way of playing compared to if you used a controller. You can’t however beat the arcade or specifically designed guns for consoles, such as the one that came with the Dreamcast version. As you go around the fixed areas, you’ll see many set pieces such as zombies throwing axes at you, or previously deceased owls flying at your face. Shooting civilians loses you a life. Saving them however counts towards your overall rank in the level. Sometimes they’ll give you a life when you save them, and saving lots of civilians gives you another one. The pathways split depending on who you save and who dies as well, which makes pathways more challenging to come across and hidden items are littered in many places. Boss battles have variations depending on path choice, and involve you shooting a specific area when they are vulnerable. While in terms of gameplay the game is a simple yet effective timewaster, the presentation is definitely showing its age. The models are blocky, textures smudged and bland. The diabolical voice acting is amusing at first, but slowly grinds with excessive play.

House of the Dead 3 on the other hand takes you to a huge tower block. AMS agent James and his partner went into the tower, but never radioed back. Now James’ daughter and old veteran G go in to save daddy. If you thought the acting would get better as technology did, you’d be sadly mistaken. At least House of the Dead 2’s disjointed English was amusing. The amount of times I heard the words “believe in yourself” just made me want to press the mute button. As for everything else there is a general improvement on the formula. Instead of pistols, you wield shotguns. If you are using the Wii Zapper in the Wii version, then this is the closest to wielding a shotgun you’ll get. The issue however is that with the arcade version, it was pump action. Here you point away from the screen. The differences in gameplay style include that instead of civilian saving, the game ranks you on zombie dismissal & cleanup duties. Lives are obtained by saving your partner from zombies that flash red in certain events. Alternative pathways still exist, but are decided at the beginning of the level, making the experience more laid back.

There are just two problems in my eyes with this conversion of the classic arcade shooters, apart from the obvious dated look of both of them. The first is how it handles credits. Normally in the arcades in order to continue, you slot in a coin and hit the button. Obviously if you tried to insert a coin into your Nintendo Wii, then not only would the warranty be at severe jeopardy but it will certainly not work. Instead then we have fixed credits, which is normally fine. However each time you play the game and ultimately die, the limit increases. This means in order to gain the maximum amount of continues and lives, you need to play the game at least seven times. That is a lot of dedication, which quite frankly is unnecessary. Its only purpose is to lengthen the game time. Continues are also shared which is like the arcades I guess, but really was there any need to make a game with a fixed maximum of continues split them between players? The other problem is a noticeable faux pas in the form of bonus content. All you get is some extra modes for use with House of the Dead 2 and an expert mode for House of the Dead 3. So where is the only other game in the series capable of being able to run on the Wii? The original House of the Dead would have been a fantastic addition, and therefore the opportunity missed. The more observant of you will notice that the original Xbox version of House of the Dead 3 has everything this game has to offer, which is just a sign of laziness.

Zombies apparently can feel a shotgun blast in the head, but not their foot beginning to burn (see left zombie).

Essentially, House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return is one for those who loved the arcade versions and wasted lots of money in the arcade. The Wii Zapper or even just the remote however is not a substitute for the arcade gun, or even guns from previous home conversions. Not even close. The Wii does a good job of replicating the actual games to arcade perfection, but the technology that it was built on originally is showing crow’s feet. It is a good job you couldn’t hear the games in a busy arcade, because really the voice acting is a last minute afterthought. As the normal games start to lose their lustre, the bonus features disappoint greatly. There are only bonus modes for the featured games, but no new ones. While this is certainly a lot cheaper financially than going to the arcade, it is also cheaper in terms of the experience. If an arcade conversion makes a player long for the cabinet it was originally on, then something has gone horribly wrong.