The House of the Dead: Overkill – hands-on

Developers Headstrong are anything if not enthusiastic about Overkill. Sitting down for a hands-on session with a brand new level – a mutant outbreak in a hospital that makes MRSA look like TLC – we spotted a curious pre-level title card: ‘Presented in Slater Vision’. Chatting later to studio head Bradley Crooks we’re told that Slater is Mark Slater, the lead artist on the game. “We were having a little bit of fun and we thought, ‘you know what, Sega’s given us such a broad remit to approach this how we want, we thought we’d go to town’,” says Crooks. It’s a nice aside and perfect for the desired ‘grindhouse’ feel.

Talking to one of Overkill’s sound supervisors we discover the game goes beyond homage to deliver authenticity – the tarmac-drinking gravelly throat that rasps out the trailer’s promise to make you “cry blood from your own eyes” belongs to an Actual Trailer Man. And the waka-waka-waka porno music? That’s courtesy of an actual waka-waka-waka porno session musician. Gore sounds, on the other hand, are all Headstrong’s – the innards noises are just someone chomping mushy food, we’re told.

Not that our hospital jaunt gave us much downtime to admire the ins and outs of, erm, audio ins and outs. Feeding one lonely mutant a lead-flavoured snack out in the car park gave the brain-munchers the green light to come out and play. Arriving in their masses these shambling cranium-cravers clearly graduated from the same school of lightgun villains as Ghost Squad’s terrorists. Think you’ve cleared a room of the monsters? Turn around and you’ll see seven more have poured from a mystery vehicle.

All the more mutants to test out our bang-sticks, say we. The pistol is puny, but fast and accurate. Tapping1 switched to shotgun – bucking all over the shop, but leaving a satisfying amount of jam as it did so. Our co-op cohort – begrudgingly holding the knock-off zapper shell while we spill 100% Nintendo-endorsed death – had a machine gun. Either he had doddering grandma hands or the weapon is wildly inaccurate, spilling bullets fast but everywhere. He assured us it was the gun. We eyed him suspiciously as a dev explained gun upgrades.

In a manner not dissimilar to Ghost Squad, earning points during the levels – chaining shots in an attempt to reach the ‘goregasm’ multiplier – enables gun upgrades to be bought for use in replays. Ghost Squad could squeeze an impressive 50-plus hours from its arsenal, so we just hope Overkill’s more meager six guns can feel suitably different with this tweaking. When asked about replayability (always a concern in lightgun titles) the dev mentioned a hidden Director’s Cut mode. More mutants and new areas – and all with limited coin-op credits. Rated M for user swearing.