Review: House of the Dead III

SEGA have a knack of creating challenging, enjoyable light gun games. Whether it’s chasing bad guys in Virtua Cop or sorting out zombies in House of the Dead there’s always been a good reason to visit an arcade, pick up a plastic replica and let rip without the worry of a newspaper getting on your back for shooting an old lady by mistake. But the transition to home gaming hasn’t always been a smooth one, and while I loved every minute of Virtua Cop 2 on the Saturn the necessity of owning extra hardware was always a barrier for those who just fancied having a go. Let’s face it, moving a sight around the screen with a controller just doesn’t have the same feel to it. So with House of the Dead 3 making the most of the Move’s precise tracking, surely this is a welcome return for the home/arcade shooting hybrid?

Well, sort of. The action is as fun and frantic as you might expect from this type of game, but this is an arcade game through and through. From the idea of having credits to play, through to the black bars either side of the action due to a lack of widescreen arcade machines, you can tell this has come straight from the arcade cabinet to the PS3. That’s no bad thing by itself, the arcade versions of House of the Dead were excellent after all, but the very nature of arcade games means they don’t last long, and after about an hour it’s entirely possible you’ve finished the main story mode and seen most of what’s on offer.

There is some variety in how you play in the form of multiple routes through the levels, and there are different endings to see as well, but this isn’t a game you should be buying with the expectation of getting months of play out of. You can tweak plenty of settings to change the challenge or basic gameplay mechanics; changing the number of lives or credits, deciding on the amount (and colour) of blood and guts, bringing a second player into the action, it all makes little changes that give a slightly different feel but still doesn’t push the boat out.

An alternative time-based mode has you trying to beat the game under the watchful eye of a countdown timer which starts at 30 seconds and ticks down while you work your way through the game. Accurate shooting will add a few seconds onto the timer, but get hit by an enemy and you’ll lose a sizeable chunk of time. As soon as the timer hits zero, it’s game over. It’s a nice change of pace with a focus on fast, accurate shooting, but as with other other options it won’t last all that long.

It seems a shame to focus on the lastability though when the game itself is a faithful rendition of a great shooter. The Move controls are rock solid and if you strap it into one of the available gun-shaped Move holders you’ll not only avoid awkward wrist ache but also get a much bigger arcade-nostalgia kick. The visuals and soundtrack definitely give you the authentic arcade feel, and with a couple of Move controllers you can have a fun couple of hours with a friend, even if you might not revisit it much after that.

So House of the Dead 3 is a strange package. It’s a good, fun, faithful arcade port that works great with the Move, but the lastability is a problem. With House of the Dead 4 on the horizon, it’s hard to know whether to suggest you avoid this or buy it to get back into the shooting swing of things. If you enjoyed House of the Dead or other light gun games in the arcade, it’s worth a punt. Otherwise, it’s probably worth holding off for a little while.

Reviewed on PS3

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