Droppin’ F-bombs like a mother…
The original The Typing of the Dead was a misunderstood sleeper hit when it came out for the Dreamcast. The keyboard accessory may have been useful in the eyes of consumers for games like Quake III Arena, but it didn’t immediately become apparent that a typing game spin-off would make for an amazing, fast paced alternative. The original game appeared in Japanese arcades prior, and when it arrived on PC shortly after it had done well enough to spawn several more sequels and updates on the platform, in Japan. Outside of Japan it would be seen as an outdated arcade game that would be shunned, yet had become the cult hit which emitted an outcry of diehard fans in their never ending list of seemingly implausible demands for a new entry in the series. Years later, after SEGA and Headstrong’s release of The House of the Dead: Overkill on the Wii, it had seen an update with The House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut on Playstation 3 and on the week of Halloween has seen an update on Steam for PC as part of a semi two game bundle, literally out of the blue with no fanfare and nearly cancelled by now defunct Blitz Games. Despite these hurdles, it was still the ideal platform to put out this modern update to the franchise that encompasses its cheesiness and over the top absurdity to much higher levels, probably higher than people would expect or possibly want.
The original House of the Dead Overkill acts as a prequel to the original House of the Dead game series in a vintage Grindhouse aesthetic starring series mainstay and freshly picked dog of the AMS Agent G along with his foul mouthed partner Detective Issac Washington investigating Bayou City on a potential mutant break out led by the kingpin known as Papa Caesar. The game for the most part follows the antics of these two while periodically following two other characters throughout the game through one of nine stages. The grindhouse cinematography is in full force with stereotypes, goofy acting and aesthetics such as the film grain and the “Intermission” load screen.
For example, the strip club will feature terms like “Fondling” and “Unzip me” as well as throw in play on words that will trip up people on higher difficulty modes which lowers the chances of repetition when replaying levels.
The game pools from different word banks, some of which are relevant to the situation happening in the plot. This also means the crass behavior in the game is reflected upon some of the terms typed out. For example, the strip club will feature terms like “Fondling” and “Unzip me” as well as throw in play on words that will trip up people on higher difficulty modes which lowers the chances of repetition when replaying levels. Even then, some of the more random words, ones not relevant to the plot or setting appear infrequently. One feature that doesn’t seem to quite work as intended is the game’s ability to change between American (US) and European (UK) spelling. It doesn’t seem to change all the words correctly, and even in the US mode, words like “Behaviour” will pop up in both the text strings and cutscene subtitles. Not entirely game breaking, and will probably be fixed on a later date, but still somewhat unfortunate.
The barrier for typing is fairly lenient when it comes to mistakes and punctuation. Usage of the spacebar is possible, but unnecessary, and symbols can be pressed without using the Shift modifier. Zombies will courteously take turns one after the other to attack the player and gives a few seconds when preparing to attack. Certain zombies will also be marked with letters to pick them off if they’re part of the background or in the distance, though you’ll also find some that will be within arm’s reach but will never attack the player, which seems a bit odd and almost gives the idea certain aspects were rushed since they can normally be shot in the main shooting game mode. Chances are if you’re like me, with a WPM around even 20 to 60, you don’t even need to glance at the keyboard to judge your finger placement on the keyboard. Playing on the highest initial difficulty the game has to offer, there’s bound to be several mistakes, but I never felt that I was at risk of dying since the pacing for several zombies are exceptionally slow. You’ll have plenty of time to deal with them. If you have difficulty with your typing skills, this game may not be the best place to start since there’s no tutorial mode included this time, but chances are if you use Steam or play PC games, you’ll be able to start on the easiest difficulty at least. The only time the typing mechanic becomes problematic is when zombies obscure other targetted zombies, which causes their text string target to disappear and reset when they come back on screen with no real indication. There is a mode that can be unlocked after completing the game that requires precise spelling, and any mistakes will cause the strings to reset. This usually happens in one of the mini games and rarely through normal play, it’s not too big of an issue. Otherwise the barrier is low, and the game for the most part works in your favor, but the challenge comes from setting the highest scores possible.
However for people who are more proficient in typing, more often than not, activating an Adrenalin power up can happen accidentally since there’s no demerit for mashing the tab key constantly.
Throughout levels are items that can be collected by hitting the TAB key. For the most part this accounts for the collectibles like concept art you earn in the bonus gallery. There’s no equivalent for the grenades from the original game.(No F-bombs?) Instead that only leaves in the slowdown pickups called Adrenalin that slows down time. If you’re not the best typist, they certainly help. However for people who are more proficient in typing, more often than not, activating an Adrenalin power up can happen accidentally since there’s no demerit for mashing the TAB key constantly. So long as the item is viewable, it’s easy to activate the item pre-maturely, only to have it wasted during a cutscene, or have it activated while the camera is panning to the next eventual area with viable targets.
The biggest flaw to point out are the bosses. The first Typing of the Dead game made use of gimmicks such as typing out whole sentences in a short amount of time, reciting essays or answering questions. Overkill minimizes the use of gimmicks and for the most part use word banks that are specific only for that fight, either by reflecting on the plot, spoilers or at least something that doesn’t pull from the main word banks. However these word choices or phrases only appear to be similar to fighting the normal enemies. Since there’s only one boss and not multiple targets for the most part, it causes these fights to become significantly easier. The developers realized that in certain situations, a boss enemy’s attack pattern would not be easy to account for on a keyboard, which resulted in them forcing the game to slow down, which is fair. However there are very few targets and these fights greatly change the pace of the game.
You can also play House of the Dead Overkill as seen in the Playstation 3 release which also includes the Director’s Cut extended features, some of which are strangely missing from the typing version. You’re able to upgrade weapons which improves accuracy and kickback as well as allows to buy and bring along additional weapons to avoid inopportune reloading. I admit that I had a hard time landing accurate shots with the mouse which builds the combo multiplier, since the screen will tilt left and right when aiming for the sides of the screen, and during some of the more heated sections the viewpoint is constantly shifting to simulate the jarring Grindhouse film style as the protagonists dodge and quick turn their way through the stages. Since the game is a carbon copy of the Playstation 3 version and likely not why you’re reading this review, check out Nux’s review of the Wii version as seen here. The only real difference being that you have the choice of two control options with the mouse, or if you have a home theater setup you can control the game with an XInput controller (Xbox 360 Controller etc.) which is serviceable, but not ideal if you want to go for high scores. Assuming you have access to a Wii Remote and are savvy with GlovePIE and the like, simulating the light gun effect is achievable if you want to play the game this way.
Graphics and Sound
The visuals have seen a significant increase in detail compared to the release of the game on the Wii, though the game still doesn’t look terribly great. Character models have sort of lifeless quality to them and at points the player viewpoint will go through geometry. It’s not the prettiest game running on PCs, but it does run at a solid framerate for most of the time, and can go up to 60 frames per second. That said the settings for graphical quality are almost nonexistent. You won’t need to play the game on the most extravagant PC setups, but the game’s internal resolution is only locked to 720p despite giving the option to go up to 1080p. There are no variable graphical details making the optimization for PC rather poor. It’s not really the most demanding PC game so it should have a decent compatibility with your machine. In terms of sound, the grunge-like music and varying voice acting quality works with the overall theme to the game, although there were a few points where the sound cuts out, usually in places where the game takes control for a quick cutscene. Aside from these few hiccups, the presentation is complimented well, especially with zombies being beheaded or kneeing then in the forehead, it can get to a point where the gore becomes outright disgusting to hear. It also features Steam functionality such as leaderboards, achievements and cloud saves which is great if you log into other machines with your Steam account.
The Typing of the Dead: Overkill sets the standard for how future The House of the Dead games should appear on computer platforms. While the series has appeared on the platform prior, this gives the best of both worlds when it comes to playing light gun shooters in this day and age. Since the main game is exactly the same as the other versions of Overkill, the game’s real drawback is it’s length and repetitive gameplay. The main draw of this version is the Typing portion which does very well in bringing the fresh take on the light gun series after a long overdue absence especially in Western markets. It may not be as well polished as the original The Typing of the Dead, but what’s on offer is good for the price point, with future content planned, however since the game is best played in short bursts, and the entire game can be played through in three hours, it’s longevitiy is uncertain especially since there will be additional dictionary libraries to potentially purchase in the future. I personally think its not a great addition unless the Steam Workshop was allowed for custom content, but it seems unlikely, and will depend on the need to go back through the same 10-20 minute levels all over again. Plus not all of the content is available, such as multiplayer which is to be online only through Steam with no clear plans to add local multiplayer which is unfortunate. That said, theres certainly no game quite like it and is a unique addition to anyone’s Steam library and guarantees life with the House of the Dead series.
- Features both original and typing game modes
- Pools from a modern and western pop-culturally relevant words to type
- High scores and progress are separate, can be compared online.
- Collectibles shared between both modes.
- No typing tutorial included
- Bosses have limited gimmicks, slower paced from rest of game.
- Targets that are obscured cause their strings to be reset without indication.
- No local multiplayer modes planned, and online modes are not yet available.
“A long awaited and worthy addition to the Typing series.”