||House of the Dead 2
A game that involves killing zombies? What a concept! - Review By Fragmaster
Zombies are wonderful creatures, once you think about it. Whether you go to a movie that has zombies in it or buy a videogame with pictures of zombies on the box, you just know there's going to be lots and lots of shooting involved. For some reason, zombies and guns go hand in hand. I mean, if I ever saw a zombie coming down the street, slowly lumbering in my general direction, I wouldn't try to strike up a witty dialogue with it, I'd look for the nearest gun and shoot at it. After a few shots, that zombie would make a funny noise and die. That's just what zombies do!
Not surprisingly, House of the Dead 2 is a game that involves shooting zombies by the truckload. While the original HotD confined you to a mansion filled with zombies and other undead, HotD 2 is far more diverse, taking place in a variety of locations in and around a nameless city. Since most of the action now takes place outdoors, the title doesn't really make any sense, but then again zombie games aren't usually praised for their thought-provoking storylines.
Like gun games? Then you've probably already dumped a roll of quarters or three into the HotD series. Since Sega isn't marketing their Dreamcast Gun in North America, you'll have to settle for one of the two third-party guns on the market, the MadCatz Dream Blaster or the Interact StarFire. We used the StarFire, and it worked great. To get the most out of HotD 2, you really need to pick up a light gun to go with it. I guarantee you'll play HotD 2 longer than you played Duck Hunt. Just remember to configure it properly.
Shooting zombies is fun, especially with the light gun. Hey, that rhymed.
HotD's gameplay is pretty damn straightforward: kill all the monsters, save all the hostages, and watch some cut scenes. You have absolutely no control over your character as far as where they travel or what direction they look, but the game does have branching "sub-plots." For example, if you save a hostage, they may point out a different exit to the area you're currently blasting through, but if you blow that hostage away you'll go on a more mundane route. Part of the fun of HotD is discovering these alternate paths. Also, rescued hostages will often reward you with bonuses.
Need some backup? HotD 2 supports cooperative play (just like the arcade version), so bringing a friend along for the ride is no problem. If you're really insane, you can buy yourself two light guns and go akimbo.
HotD 2 offers four modes of play, arcade mode (just like the arcade game), original mode, training mode, and boss mode. In boss mode, you try to defeat individual bosses (that you've already defeated in the actual game, of course) in the shortest possible time. Training mode is supposed to teach you how to play the game, in theory at least, but instead ends up offering a series of ten tasks that range from shooting a jumping golden frog from a moving boat in six seconds with only one shot to shooting zombies off out of control cars. While pretty much every training mission doesn't have any significant application in the actual game, they are pretty challenging and amusing, albeit a bit frustrating at times.
Original mode is the main gameplay mode, and it's pretty much just arcade mode with the addition of items. You can accumulate items by finding them within the game, shooting at them when they appear. Once you find an item, it is put in your car's trunk, and you can use them next time you play. You can only use each item once, but you can amass multiple copies of each. Items include anything from extra credits to different costumes to bass lures (!).
There are lots of different undead creatures to chitchat with. If your idea of witty banter involves bullets, that is.
The graphics are tremendous, the environments beautifully rendered and the zombies suitably nasty looking. There are about twelve types of zombies along with other miscellaneous bats, owls, and leeches to fight, so variety isn't really a problem. You'll blast your way through all kinds of nifty looking locations over six episodes, many of which have interactive features such as breakable lights, barrels, and the like. Best of all is the location-specific gore on the zombies: nothing beats blowing a gaping hole through a zombie's decaying chest, or cleanly blasting its head right off its neck. If you like gore, you won't be disappointed.
HotD 2's sound and music are what you'd expect from a high-quality arcade game. While I wouldn't go as far as calling the sound work outstanding, it's more than adequate. The music blends nicely into the background, but doesn't necessarily heighten the mood (with the exception of the boss music). Some of the tracks are especially well done, even kinda catchy.
The interface isn't that great, which isn't surprising since it's an arcade port, but it does the job. There are a variety of options to configure, including difficulty, amount of lives, amount of continues, blood color, sight graphics, sight speed, audio type, sound and music tests, controller configuration, gun calibration, and vibration.
While House of the Dead 2 is fun to play with a light gun, trying to play it with a standard Dreamcast controller is like trying to play Blitz 2000 with a steering wheel. To their credit, Sega has tried to make the game playable on standard controllers, allowing you to adjust the sensitivity of the cursor and providing a somewhat useful centering feature, but this game was a gun game in the arcades and trying to play it with anything less results in a frustrating, un-fun experience. If you don't have the cash or desire to invest in both the game and a gun to go with it, don't bother buying HotD 2.
The cut scenes are some of the worst you'll ever see. Hello? Coherent writing? Where are you?
While HotD 2's shoot 'em up gameplay is fun overall, there's still some serious problems. First of all, its arcade legacy inherently flaws the gameplay with the "continue" and credit system, which can be very annoying. Also, the difference between arcade and original mode is very minimal. While the addition of items to original mode is nice, it doesn't make the game significantly different. If you beat the game in arcade mode, there really isn't much reason to beat it in original mode. While some of the items you'll find in original mode are neat and extend gameplay, most of the items are useless or just plain dumb, like the air gun or the costumes. And once you find the unlimited continues item, the game is easy as hell to beat.
HotD 2 has a surprising amount of replay value for a gun game, but it may not be enough. Some people may not have the patience to unlock all the items, training missions, or boss mode sessions, and there isn't exactly a whole lot of depth: this game is all about shooting stuff, then shooting more stuff.
The story is, of course, awful. Not only does the plot make little to no sense, but also the dialogue is similarly terrible and the bad voice acting only makes it worse. If you think you've heard bad voice acting before, you ain't seen nothing yet. The characters have no character and are more generic than a yellow box of cereal. Many of the cut scenes don't make sense at times, because of the games' two-player nature. Sometimes you are referred to as "friends" even though you're the only one playing, for example. If you're playing with two people, "Gary," the second character, is pretty much completely ignored. Thank goodness you can skip all the awful cut scenes with the press of a button, and the storyline isn't really important anyway.
While the graphics are very good overall, the character animation on the humans (and sometimes the undead) is sub-par. I actually laughed at the final cut scene, not only because it was stupid, but because James walked away like he had just filled his pants or something.
Finally, House of the Dead 2 just isn't very scary. I never jumped from my seat or even flinched once while playing the game, nearly every encounter is expected. The designers could have done a better job with keeping the player on the edge of their seat.
The Final Word
If you like gun games and are willing to invest in a light gun, HotD 2 is right up your alley. If you want a little more out of a game than brainless blast-a-thons or don't think you should have to buy a special controller just to play one game, look elsewhere.
Highs: Killing zombies is keen, coop support, extra modes, sub-plots, great graphics, sound.
Lows: Not fun with a standard controller, gameplay isn't very deep, storyline and dialogue is awful.
Other: 1-2 players, VMU Compatible (for saving options and progress, requires 7 blocks), Jump Pack Compatible, Arcade Stick Compatible, Light Gun Compatible.
(out of a possible 10)
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