Before the age of armchair gaming, massive multiplayer meet-ups and 3D handheld gaming, ordinary folk would gather in arcades, their pockets heavily burdened with game tokens while queuing in line for their favourite game. There would always be at least one shooting game with those bright coloured plastic guns promising a few fleeting moments to absolutely annihilate hordes of monsters, zombies or general bad guys.
Sega brings back those fond memories, drags all that action into your room of living and trades those plastic guns for the PlayStation Move controller in The House of the Dead 4.
For fans of the franchise, this game is basically a port of the 2005 arcade game, slicked up with some high definition graphics, nifty motion control, a few special edition freebies, co-operative play and online leaderboards, all bundled into a sizeable PlayStation Network downloadable game weighing in at over four gigabytes. With the promise of no more ‘insert coin to continue’ prompts and given the modest pricing, all of this is (in true zombie fashion) a no-brainer.
In the timeline of The House of the Dead games, this fourth instalment serves as an interquel, bridging the first and second stories and is played out by one of two agents, either James Taylor or Kate Green. After an earthquake shakes your headquarters and re-awakens all manner of evil creatures, you will have to escape certain nuclear destruction equipped with an automatic weapon and a handful of grenades.
Expect the same rhetoric in storytelling, some unashamedly basic dialogue and dubbing. It makes no attempts to hide the fact that it cares more about getting straight into the action and shooting wave after wave of mutated monstrosities. Don’t expect any moments of profound character development, or unsurprising twists in the plot, just the promise of more willing candidates for your living room target practice.
Speaking of which, I must admit that the best part about The House of the Dead 4 has got to be the control system. For an on-rails shooter, where you don’t actually have control over your character’s movement directly, the targeting mechanism has to be quick, accurate and rewarding. I was not disappointed with the Move’s pinpoint precision and speedy response to my flurry of trigger pulls. It was a good showcase for how well the Move handles under high stress and the rapid pace of overwhelming targets that House of the Dead 4 serves up.
While it is possible to play with DualShock controller, I’d highly recommend the Move controller and possibly the Sharpshooter accessory if you have one lying around.
The basics of the gameplay involve aiming the Move controller at the screen, which controls the reticule of your weapon. Squeezing the trigger unleashes a burst of bullets so keep an eye on your ammo. To reload your weapon, you simply shake the controller, which can get rather tiresome when you’re reloading every five seconds (it would have been great to be able to shoot off-screen to reload as in classic arcade shooter style).
In addition to your sub-machine gun, you have a limited number of grenades – which you can throw by pressing the ‘Move’ button – for those claustrophobic moments. At the beginning of each stage, you get three lives which are depleted as you take damage. Once your lives run out, you can continue if you have enough remaining continues. You can earn extra lives by shooting hidden objects through the levels and additional continues by achieving perfect scores for truly outstanding marksmanship.
In ‘Free Play’ mode, you can set the difficulty level and amount of lives and continues you will have before you start the relatively short but action-filled game. You will face eight levels of solid shooting each with a challenging boss fight and twenty-eight unique opponents who not only look different but will behave and attack in new ways to keep you on your feet. Local co-operative play is drop-in / drop-out which is perfect if your partner doesn’t have the stamina to make it through an entire playthrough.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the high quality graphics and variety in both environments and creatures. Even with the fast pace of the game, the new high definition models show just how far these shooters have come compared to their lower resolution polygon predecessors. Sega delivered well by cramming in as much detail as possible to make The House of the Dead 4 as gory and explosive as any other in their family.
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of this genre of games, but I must admit that once I got into the rhythm of regular reloading and honing in my headshot skills, it became hard to put down the weapon and just walk away. While it probably doesn’t have the best story and it may not be the best shooter out there, The House of the Dead 4 will definitely provide some solid brainless hours of fun which can be shared with friends. It proves to be more than just another reason to dust off your motion controllers – it’s a perfect fit for the PlayStation Move.