Zombies are – by now – the single most overdone video game enemy at this point. However, 1996 marked the release of a game set in 1998, that – despite its cheesy voice acting – re-popularized undead foes in the world of video games. I’m of course talking about Resident Evil, but it’s pretty weird that The House of the Dead also fits that exact criteria, right? The House of the Dead Remake marks the return of the formative light-gun shooter to consoles since 2009’s The House of the Dead: Overkill, and thankfully, brings some improvements to the not so great – at least compared to later entries – first game in the series.
The House of the Dead places you in the shoes of special agent Thomas Rogan and – if you’re playing multiplayer – his partner Agent G, investigating the estate of renowned biochemist Dr Curien after receiving a distress call from Rogan’s fiance; Sophie. Shortly after arriving at the mansion, they find it overrun with a variety of undead creatures of Curien’s own design. Rogan and G must fight through the mansion to pursue Curien and save his scientists from the hordes of undead.
The people behind 2020’s Panzer Dragoon Remake; Megapixel Studio and Forever Entertainment head up this remake of Sega’s arcade classic, and – like Panzer Dragoon – House of the Dead Remake is a near perfect recreation of the original arcade game – which is both a positive and a negative. While the original entry is far from a bad game (especially for its time) it definitely feels limited compared to later entries like House of the Dead 2, 3 and the excellent latest entry Scarlet Dawn.
House of the Dead Remake offers up two versions of its campaign – ‘original’ and ‘horde’ with both offering up both ‘classic’ and ‘modern’ score modes. Original – as the name suggests – is the original game where you battle the undead through four stages – each with branching paths. Horde is… pretty much the exact same except for there are more enemies on screen at all times (resulting in noticeable framerate drops at points). Sadly, the difference between the two score modes is just as minuscule, with ‘modern’ being virtually identical outside of a combo multiplier and the cosmetic change of being able to select either Rogan or G as your playable character.
Attempting to replicate a light-gun game is not the easiest move for a console, outside of the Wii or a dedicated peripheral like Namco’s GCon accessory for the original PlayStation, concessions will always have to be made. You can control House of the Dead in two ways; either through the Switches gyro controls or by moving a cursor with the stick. Those of you who have played recent Wii ports – like Skyward Sword HD and Super Mario 3D All-Stars – will be used to the techniques used in House of the Dead to emulate traditional Infra-Red controls. While using a button to reset the cursor works well in those games, for a faster-paced game like this one, it can feel like an inadequate solution at times; however, the developers certainly did their best with the hardware constraints they were faced with. Shockingly – I actually found myself using the stick to control the cursor as my preferred way of playing during my time with the game.
Presentation wise, this remake is obviously a huge upgrade from the original. Outside of improving the graphics and character models, the game also adds significantly more detail to the environments of the game. For example, the barren mansion grounds of the original game’s intro level are now upgraded with additional foliage and background elements to make the area feel more natural. The game also offers performance and quality modes; however, the boost in graphics in the quality mode is negligible enough that it really doesn’t feel worth the dip in framerate. Outside of graphics, the game also boasts entirely new music and voiceover; while this is generally an improvement, it luckily is cheesy enough to keep in line with the B-movie style of the original – whether this was an intentional move is uncertain.
Outside of the main game, House of the Dead includes some fun extras, such as a gallery mode in which you can view models of every enemy in the game, alongside descriptions of them and diagrams showing their weak points. This gallery mode also houses the in-game achievement system (which, I imagine will translate better when this game inevitably gets ported to systems with an achievement system). The biggest addition is definitely the armoury, where you can unlock bonus weapons not seen in the original game by saving every scientist on a run, and then finding them scattered throughout each of the game’s levels. These weapons feel like a necessity if you want to complete the ‘horde’ mode, with the in-game tips even suggesting you don’t try it until you are fully armed.
The House of the Dead Remake is a funny one. Megapixel Studio have done great work in modernising the presentation of the game; but when it comes down to it, it’s still the original House of the Dead – warts and all. All of the pieces are there, with the game’s main issues being down to the source material and limitations of the hardware for this style of game. Luckily, their next project is a remake of the far superior House of the Dead 2, which should turn out great if this remake is any indication.
The House of the Dead Remake was played on a Nintendo Switch using a review copy supplied by the publisher Forever Entertainment.