Shotgun Showdown –
It is nice of Sega to port The House of the Dead III to Sony’s downloadable service but the lack of extra features yield a very short limit on its otherwise entertaining action oriented gameplay.
As a quick summary, The House of the Dead series is a lightgun franchise born in arcades and successful enough to spawn numerous sequels. Unlike other lightgun games, like Namco’s Time Crisis for example, HotD III solely relies on a shotgun. While this might seem limiting, the gameplay and difficultly balance was compensated for this buckshot blasting tool. Even though it is a shotgun, it reloads with incredible speed, can be shot almost rapid fire and can shoot distant targets with ease. In short, the game’s fun simply comes from mindlessly blasting the living crap out of anything that moves. Aside from the final boss, most stages are lighter on difficulty too.
This is also where HotD III differentiates itself from other lightgun shooters, especially considering its initial release in 2002; enemies not only flinch in pain when taking a shotgun blast to the gut, but holes the size of watermelons are blown clean through these violent creatures of the night – the developers avoid using the term Zombie. It is really a gory sight even by today’s standards and definitely keeps that arcade feeling at the forefront.
The biggest edition to this PSN version is the ability to use Move and the Sharp Shooter peripheral. By far, the most enjoyable to way to play through the game’s 20-25 minute quest is to grab a buddy and a couple of Sharp Shooters but using the standard PS3 controller also works much better than you would think. Unfortunately, the menus were not really designed for Move support so you will probably have to inconveniently use a DualShock as well. Also note there is also no inverted Y axis option for general controller users.
For about $7, the cost to download might seem to be on the cheaper side considering that $7 could be spent in mere minutes playing the arcade version but it is important to keep in mind that this home version lacks any sort of extra features. Instead of introducing new levels, enemies or power ups, the developers included a flawed Time Attack mode that is almost impossible to actually complete. There is a Leaderboard option found at the main menu but my scores were never posted even after completing the game multiple times and experimenting with multiple option tweaks; this leads me to believe that the Leaderboard functionality is broken completely but will hopefully be updated with a patch fix soon. And when the game is finished, an uncategorized Making-Of video is unlocked; the Extra Content from the main menu does not even indicate that it is a movie. Also, when starting a new game, the player has the option to start at a stage that has already been completed. However, the game does not continue once that stage has been completed making it difficult to play only your favorite levels. It is options like these that make the overall package restricting.
Besides being short on gameplay, the visuals still retain a 4:3 aspect ratio but seemed to have received an upgrade in terms of higher def visuals and smoother frame rate. The short narrative cutscenes are still ridiculous and don’t really make sense but I don’t think anyone is going to be playing HotD and expect a rich narrative. It would have been nice if there was an option to skip the cutscenes all together but luckily the load times are tolerable.
The House of the Dead III is not a bad game but you have to take it for what it is, a port of a decade old arcade shooter. It is a great game for action addicts and provides a nice excuse to dust off your Sharp Shooter and Move controller. But unfortunately, the lack of options, lack of online play, and buggy Leaderboards make this game a one trick pony that will only be enjoyed for an hour or two.
Not As Good As: Resident Evil Darkside Chronicles
Also Try: The House of the Dead I and II on Wii
Wait For It: a console release of all the House of the Dead games on one disc
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