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July 2022

The House Of The Dead: Remake

Platform(s): Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
Developer: MegaPixel Studios
Release Date: April 28, 2022


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PC Review - 'The House of the Dead: Remake'

by Cody Medellin on April 27, 2022 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

The classic arcade rail-shooter is back with a new makeover and exciting gameplay changes!

Unlike many of its contemporaries, Sega doesn't seem keen on doing much with its old properties. The legendary Japanese company has opted to license its properties to other studios and publishers. Some have made sequels, with the likes of Streets of Rage 4 showing how well they know Sega's stuff. Others went the remake/remaster route, often going after stuff that has a cult following or has rarely ventured beyond Sega's hardware. The House of the Dead: Remake is significant in that it is the first time since the early PC and Saturn ports that the original game made it to a home platform. It is also a strange choice, since it comes from a genre that only exists in the arcades.

In The House of the Dead: Remake, you play the role of Agent Rogan (Agent G if you're the second player), members of a government arm known as AMS. Upon receiving a distress call about monsters, you drive to the mansion of one Dr. Curien to discover a slew of dead bodies and the zombies and other ghouls that massacred them. Armed with a pistol and a desire to rescue any survivors, you charge into the mansion to stop Dr. Curien from carrying out more experiments in the name of world domination.

The gameplay is uncomplicated — a given if you're familiar with the genre. With your gun in hand, you are automatically taken from one area to another, shooting any zombies and other monstrosities standing or leaping in your way. Unlike other games involving zombies, simple headshots won't instantly kill them, as they'll often still attack when their faces are partially intact or even headless. Clear the room, and you'll move on to either another room full of monsters or come face to face with the boss who has a weak spot but can still take a ton of damage before going down. Your gun has unlimited ammo, but you'll constantly reload since your chamber runs dry after firing six bullets.

One thing that changes things up are the scientists. The presence of innocent bystanders is nothing new in these types of games, and while you won't lose any health if they get killed by zombies or your stray bullets, saving their lives means you get health refills or extra points. Saving scientists also opens up different pathways, and the same thing occurs if you break objects and hit the special items or activate switches in the environment.

Compared to its contemporaries like Time Crisis, The House of the Dead falls on the simpler side of the shooter scale since you don't have many extra mechanics at your disposal except for pointing, shooting, and reloading. At the same time, the different pathways and other secrets that can be uncovered give players a reason to replay the campaign. You'll temper your shots so you don't accidentally hit scientists while simultaneously trying to shoot at the environment first before taking care of the zombies in case you get something new. The three endings also help give you a reason to keep on going despite the campaign itself lasting an hour. Even with the short campaign playtime, there's still no feeling that can match just being able to blow away chunks of the undead whether you're going solo or local co-op, though the presence of Steam Remote Play and Parsec means that online play is completely doable here.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that this is a lightgun game, a genre that was always niche on the home market and all but presumed dead when everyone moved away from CRT monitors and toward flat panel screens. Remaking a lightgun game in this day and age is novel, even if it means keeping the genre and this game in particular in circulation. There will be questions about the viability of the modern control methods. Fortunately, the PC platform is rife with options, more so than the console platforms. If you're willing to shell out the cash, there's the Sinden Lightgun that isn't a proper lightgun but gets the job done convincingly enough that you won't care. That's what online videos from various sources would lead us to believe, since we don't have one ourselves. If you're willing to dabble, you can get a Wii Remote working to do a similar job; it works in a pinch but isn't as accurate compared to the Sinden solution.

For most players, it'll be a debate between a standard controller or a mouse. For the former, it can feel strange to control crosshairs, but the movement speed of the analog controller can be customized to the point where it can feel good enough. The button functions can't be changed, but you can use the optional automatic reload option and tweak the timer to create a makeshift machine gun (if you aren't susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome). You can also use gyro aiming from Steam's own control options, but unless you're used to the method, it feels like you're flailing around when things get frantic. If you're using a mouse, you get supreme accuracy and the ability to make a makeshift machine gun, but it makes things far easier than expected. Both work well if you don't want to go with real or makeshift lightgun solutions.

Provided you can cope with the control schemes, The House of the Dead: Remake has a decent number of ways to stretch out the experience. You can play the original campaign with either of three rebalanced difficulty levels or the original arcade difficulty. If you play with another player, you can have a co-op experience where any health pick-ups are shared or you can make it competitive, where the only person who gets the health is the one who shoots at it. Horde mode contains the same options as the original campaign, but the twist is the presence of many more monsters. It sounds neat on paper, but it can be quite ridiculous to see a flood of them occupy the screen at one time. Beyond a gallery is an interesting feature in the form of different weapons. They're not easy to reach, since you need to rescue certain scientists and reach certain pathways to unlock them, but they change the game quite a bit. The assault rifle is great if you want to give your reload finger a break, and the grenade launcher is perfect for Horde mode but terrible if you want to make a run at saving scientists.

For a remake of a game that debuted in 1996, it has received a significant but faithful uplift in the presentation. The lighting is excellent, from the dark interiors of the underground tunnels to the red skies of the mansion's grounds. The zombies and other monsters look vicious, and the blood splatter and chunks of flesh that are blown apart are gory but immensely satisfying. This contrasts with the living, who appear less impressive by comparison. The music is creepy but high tempo enough to fit with the action, while the voice acting is purposefully bad enough to be good. There is one notable issue in the audio department: The reload effect tends to overpower everything else. If you're playing normally, you may not notice, but if you start spamming the reload button after every shot, you'll begin to wonder why the music stutters.

Your enjoyment of The House of the Dead: Remake is going to be highly dependent on your nostalgia for the original arcade game and a firm understanding of what you're getting into. It's a lightgun game on a platform where it's almost impossible to encounter another one like it unless you're into emulation. It is a faithful enough arcade experience that you have time for at least two runs of the campaign in an afternoon. It remains a fun, fleeting experience if you have no intention of going through all of the paths and uncovering all of the secrets. It's good enough to recommend for arcade nuts, but everyone else might want to wait until they feel the need to play a game like this or when they acquire their own lightguns for a more authentic experience.

Score: 7.0/10

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