|As one of the
Dreamcasts debut titles, House of the Dead 2 has a lot riding on its decomposing
shoulders. Thankfully for Sega those zombies have strong backs, and a mean bite. House of
the Dead 2 is one of the "nicest" looking games on the Dreamcast thus far; fans
of the horror game genre will revel in every oozing detail. The graphics are exactly the
same as they were in the arcade version, but even better in my own darkened living room.
If you love disposing of the decomposing undead, this is your game. House of the Dead 2 is
about as straightforward as a game can be. But hey, what can I say- its all about
shooting zombies. The game is simplicity at its best. Players are "driven" along
conveyer belt style; the only thing they have to worry about is shooting zombies. I know
this sounds silly, but it reminded me of Pokemon Snap. Instead of Pokemon there are
zombies and instead of a camera you get a gun. The name of the game is still just
shooting: fast and accurate.
As it is the fall/Halloween season zombies seem par for the course. The leaves are turning, the trick or treaters are knocking on doors, and Im on the couch blasting away at zombies. But with the high replayablity factor I could still be sitting on the couch blasting zombies as the snow falls and carolers go singing door to door. While the game remains pretty true to the arcade version, home players get a lot of extras that add to the replayablity. Fans of the arcade version of House of the Dead 2 wont be disappointed with the Dreamcast version; the zombies are just as lifeless and the FMVs are just as cheesy. As in the arcade version, House of the Dead 2 spices up all the shooting by giving the players chances to travel alternative routes. Mainly the alternate routes are opened by saving a human from a horde of zombies, but sometimes shooting at keys, doors, and other "background" elements will take you on a new path. These alternate routes make a fairly short game into a long web of choices. Beating the game one way is fun, but knowing there are zombies out there that you missed is torturous, and again its kind of like Pokemon: "Ya gotta get 'em all."
Along with the arcade version of the game (an almost direct port), the game includes an original mode, training mode, and boss mode. I found original mode to be the best way to really get into the game. It is essentially the same as arcade mode except you get to grab some gear out of the trunk of the car before the action starts. While you play through the game you refill the trunk by shooting at "power-ups," the next time you play they will be available. The game is crawling with cats, and they are very unnoticeable when youve got your hand full with zombies. But, if you get the chance shoot at them, hit one and it will lead you off the path and to something really good. The power-ups are things like extra lives and continues, more space for bullets in your clip, power-ups for you gun, and really cool things like new costumes (youll wear them for the FMVs) and more powerful guns. In the options you can give yourself up to five lives and nine continues (just barely enough to beat the game if you ask me), but not in original mode. You're stuck on default, meaning youll have to use all the goodies in the trunk just to get what you can start with in arcade mode. Like all good games, House of the Dead 2 includes a training mode with lots of levels. I found training to be harder than actually playing, but almost more fun (no, I am not advocating House of the Dead VR Missions). The levels are like puzzlesshoot 20 zombies with 30 bullets or shoot all the barrels in 15 seconds. The boss mode is on the more practical side; once you get to a boss in the game it is unlocked in boss mode. You can fight the same boss over and over honing your skills for the real game, and believe me the practice makes a difference.
The gameplay is solid, as it should be in such a simple game. The graphics are great, definitely some of the best out there. There are plenty of different zombies and each one is gory down to the last bloody detail. It was easy to tell what you needed to shoot at, I mean frothing zombies are pretty hard to miss, and most shootable objects almost seem to glow. Seeing what to shoot and actually shooting are two separate matters. The control is far from flawless, and while the Dreamcast controllers will work, a light gun is were its really at. But, theres the rub; Sega has yet to release a light gun, and the third party guns available are in short supply and large demand, so it's nearly impossible to buy one. The options menu offers a little control over the cursor: you can set the speed of its movement and change the sight graphic. This little bit of adjusting goes a long way; I was able to get twice as far after I sped up my cursor speed. But, in general the game is hard, very hard, and the controller is not to blame for that.
Like most arcade games House of the Dead 2 is lacking on the story line. Its your run of the mill zombie conspiracy where the bad guys caused the zombies and the citizens suffer at the hands (and mouths) of the living dead. The FMVs are kind of fun to watch the first 20 or so times, but after that its like pulling teeth. Its not like normal games where you only see the FMVs once or twice- you start this game over and over. I dont really care what G has to say or what Amy thinks is going on. Im here to kill zombies. The voice acting is some of the worst ever. Watch for the man in the car, the way he says, "Thank you for saving me," is really funny. Youd expect people fleeing from the undead to have a little emotion in their voices. But its alright; you dont have to save everyone. I let the really annoying guy outside of the Hydras lair die just so I dont have to listen to him. Saving people can get you good stuff or open alternate routes. Usually its worth to make the save, but thankfully its not required.
House of the Dead 2 makes a whole lot out of a little. There are only six levels to the game, and played straight though it only takes about 20 minutes. But, because its so hard it takes at least 20 hours of practice to get good enough to beat it once. Once you beat it you really start liking the game. You start trying all the different routes, trying for a better score or accuracy percentage, and trying to get the extra guns, costumes, and power-ups. It really is addictive, but I like to think about how many quarters Im saving by playing the home version. Its a game you can just toss in and start up anytime. And because games are so short, your not committing to any more than 20 minutes (be careful though, 20 minutes can quickly turn into a few hours).I suggest playing with a friend. Friends make most games more fun (well, ok, a backseat RPGer gets annoying). Also, in the two-player mode there is roughly a half zombie per person less. For example, in one player mode on the very first screen there are two zombies, but in two-player mode there are three. There are also tactical advantages to two players. You can keep the screen blazing; so zombie bird, worm, and frog attacks are not nearly as deadly for two people. With some bosses two players are a must. One player can blast away at the boss while the other covers both players from flying piranha or such.
House of the Dead 2 is one of the best arcade to console ports Ive ever seen. It goes far and beyond what you get for a quarter in the arcade. It adds different modes and options, making the home experience more full than a trip to the mall. House of the Dead 2 is a must have for zombie or shooter fans, but even if shooting isnt you cup of tea there is fun to be had with House of the Dead 2. So at least rent it if you dont plan on buying it and while youre at it I have one last suggestion. For optimal playing pleasure setting the mood is all-important. Watching a few zombie flicks (any George Romaro classic, Dead-Alive, The Dead Next Door, really anything with gory undead will do) will do wonders for your zombie blood lust. What Im really saying here is get the game, get a light gun, rent some zombie flicks, and lock the doors.