House of the Dead: Remake Review

I’ve thought a lot about House of the Dead since it debuted in the arcade about 25 years ago. Despite the impact it had back then and its legacy since, Sega’s original on-rails zombie shooter was never made playable outside of an arcade in the form of mediocre PC ports. and Sega Saturn in 1998, Sega apparently having lost the original source code. . So when a full remake was finally announced for Switch, I was eager to see what developer MegaPixel Studio could do to make this classic appealing to both veterans like me and newcomers to the series. Unfortunately, frustrating controls, a few performance issues, and inevitably repetitive gameplay make The House of the Dead: Remake a mixed bag for new and old fans alike.

Just like in the arcades, you assume the role of AMS Agent Thomas Rogan or Agent G as they pump out hordes of the undead full of bullets and try to stop the mad scientist Dr. Curien from destroying the world. humanity, with three possible endings depending on how you do. There are more interesting nuances to the world and its characters than the one-dimensional way they are presented in-game, but unfortunately finding the story context requires a bit of research in old game manuals or The Wiki of the Dead rather than being explained in The House of the Dead itself.

While it stays true that way, I’m a little disappointed that MegaPixel didn’t decide to add some of that existing lore into the remake – especially since the studio is also remaking The House of the Dead 2. and could have taken this opportunity to better configure the suite. Additions of lore would also have helped flesh out this entry somewhat, which otherwise remains incredibly short by modern standards. It only takes about half an hour to complete a run from start to finish, including cutscenes, and returning fans will quickly recognize all the same cheesy lines of dialogue and only beat the loosely explained story like the ‘original.

Screenshots of House of the Dead remake – Nintendo Switch

Of course, you’re not really playing The House of the Dead for the story – it’s the zombie-on-track shooting that the series is known for. With movement handled automatically, the only thing you need to focus on is pumping the undead full of lead, and that part remains as fun as ever. As repetitive as it can be repeated throughout the story many times, there’s nothing more satisfying than firing fictional weapons at zombies and infected creatures, while racking up the highest score possible. You can also find a few different routes that help shake up each run – whether it’s knocking down a certain door, knocking down an enemy in another part of the level, or failing to save a scientist – which adds variety and excitement. rewards experimentation too. While the number of alternate routes decreases as you progress, it’s also fun to set small goals, like trying to take no damage in a single race or trying to save all the scientists in a single run.

And as entertaining as this remake is on its own, it’s even better with a friend in two-player co-op. Too bad there’s no online option, but there are at least two local modes to choose from: competitive and cooperative. The former gives you 10 streaks each and a separate score bar, while the latter lets you share both your streaks and your score in order to work together. House of the Dead has always been best served in good company, and the inclusion of a competitive mode certainly makes it even more rewarding to play with friends as you try to rack up as many health packs or take down as many enemies. enemies as possible – provided you’re both willing to put up with the checks.

Lots of trial and error

The controls in The House of the Dead: Remake take some getting used to and may seem more complex than they should be. There are a variety of options to try, from a single Joy-Con (albeit only when playing co-op, for some weird reason) with a full gyroscope for that light gun feel to just using a a Pro controller like an FPS, but all of them can be random – literally and figuratively.

Firing your weapon is done by pressing the A or ZR buttons, while reloading is tied to ZL or the B button. This is not the most comfortable arrangement, making it preferable to use two Connected Joy-Con or Pro Controller. Along with providing an extra button for reloading, the left D-pad/Joy-Con buttons allow you to switch between additional weapons you can unlock. These include options like an Assault Rifle and Grenade Launcher that can obliterate anything in your path, though you can’t unlock and use them until you unlock the armory itself, which requires you to save all the scientists in one go.

I found gyro aiming to be a bigger enemy than zombies more often than not.

Both controller options also allow you to use gyro aiming, as well as a combo that uses the default thumbsticks and then the gyro for finer control. I ended up using this option mostly, although there were times when I realized the gyro aiming wasn’t registering as I expected. This meant that I started to rely more and more on the joystick – although I could easily click the right (or left) thumbstick to realign my gyro reticle if it was slightly off frame, it was still easier to just move a little joystick to shoot an enemy right away. It probably comes down to personal preference to some degree, but I found the gyroscope aimed to be a bigger enemy than zombies more often than not.

Gyro aiming isn’t enabled by default, but if you’re using it you’ll want to go into the settings to enable it and adjust things like sensitivity and the like to your liking anyway. But it can be extremely intimidating and frustrating as there is a lot of trial and error to get the controls to work correctly. The House of the Dead series has a pick up and play mentality, and the default settings have always worked well for me with console ports of the latest House of the Dead games without having to mess with their similar calibration options. As much as I wanted to fully immerse myself wielding a single Joy-Con like a light gun, this remake is unreliable without two. More surprisingly, I had better luck with gyro aiming when playing with my Pro controller or even in handheld mode, which is far from what I thought I’d prefer to an arcade shooter. I can see why the controls were designed the way they were, as the flexibility to play on the dock, handheld, table or even the Switch Lite is appreciated, but I still wish that there is an option to remap the layout of the controls to help alleviate some of these issues.

I also noticed several performance issues unrelated to inconsistent gyro aiming. There were several instances where everything would freeze for a few seconds in the middle of combat – running through the same sections with the “Performance Mode” option enabled provided higher FPS at the cost of some graphical fidelity, but that didn’t help. not solved the freezing issues. Loading screens were also a noticeably slow issue, taking around 35 seconds for each new stage to fully load. These issues are relatively minor but still noticeable and annoying, especially when The House of the Dead: Remake isn’t exactly a pretty game to look at graphically. While the character models for the main cast look good for the most part, a lot of the scientists you save look very animatronic, to the point where it can be ridiculously distracting.

Revived for modern times

The House of the Dead: Remake has two modes: Story, which is pretty much just the original experience, and Horde, which is a new option that’s basically the same but with up to 15x more zombies in it. screen at a time. Outside of enemy volume, Horde goes through the same four stages and boss fights, although enemies also take a lot more bullets before they drop. It feels a little redundant since the Story Mode already has four options of increasing difficulty (Easy, Normal, Hard, and Arcade), but I still found it to be a lot of satisfying challenges as a veteran of the series. Putting Horde on its own Arcade difficulty level also ends up being a real test of your skills. The way you take damage has also been adjusted slightly from the original, with the amount of damage you take from different enemies increasing on higher difficulties.

Simulating the arcade setting, each run gives you 10 continues which act as lives; once you run out, you can “buy” more by spending the points you’ve earned on the current race, otherwise it’s game over. You earn points by finding bonus items like coins and (more often) defeating enemies. Points vary depending on where you’re aiming and the enemy themselves, which encourages more than just blind fire. And while the classic scoring method is available, there’s also the welcome addition of a new, modern scoring option that offers multipliers for doing things like killing a certain number of enemies in a row.

The two modes, combined with the difficulty options and different scoring systems, certainly offer a lot of replay value, and the ability to tailor your settings to your tastes makes this remake more accessible to a wider audience. Still, I was disappointed that additional options like boss mode or training mode that are part of The House of the Dead 2 weren’t included here. There’s at least one gallery mode that lets you take a close look at all the weapons you unlock and enemies you’ve defeated, plus some fun cheat codes for things like infinite ammo and unlimited continues that don’t happen. only unlock once you complete a certain number of built-in achievements, but these are only entertaining for so long.