The House of the Dead: Remake Review

I’ve thought a lot about The House of the Dead since its arcade debut about 25 years ago. Despite its impact at the time and its legacy since, Sega’s original on-rail zombie shooter was only made playable outside of an arcade in 1998 in the form of so-so ports to PC and Sega Saturn, with Sega reportedly losing the original source code. When a full remake was finally announced for Switch, I was excited to see what developer MegaPixel Studio could do to make this classic appealing to both veterans like me and total newcomers to the series. Unfortunately, frustrating controls, some 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 take on the role of either AMS Agent Thomas Rogan or Agent G as you pump bullets into hordes of undead and try to take down mad scientist Dr. Stopping Curiae from destroying humanity, with three possible endings depending on how well you’re doing. There are more interesting nuances to the world and its characters than the one dimensional way they are presented in the game, but unfortunately it takes a bit of research in old game manuals or to find that story context The Wiki of the Dead rather than being explained in The House of the Dead itself.

While staying true to this, I’m a little disappointed that MegaPixel hasn’t decided to incorporate some of that existing lore into the remake – especially since the studio is also remaking The House of the Dead 2 and would have that opportunity for a better set-up can use the sequel. Lore additions would also have helped give some flesh to this entry, which otherwise remains incredibly short by modern standards. It only takes about half an hour to complete a start-to-finish playthrough, including cutscenes, and returning fans will quickly recognize all the same cheesy lines of dialogue and loosely explained story beats as the original.

The House of the Dead Remake – Nintendo Switch screenshots

Of course, you don’t really play The House of the Dead for the story – it’s the on-rail zombie shoot that the series is known for. Since the movements are handled automatically, all you have to focus on is filling the undead with lead, and that part is as fun as ever. As repetitive as it may be to go through the story over and over again, there’s nothing more satisfying than firing fictional guns at zombies and infected creatures while getting the highest possible score. You can also find a few different routes to help shake up any run – whether that’s shooting down a certain door, letting an enemy push you into another part of the level, or failing to save a scientist – adding variety and rewards also experiment. While the number of alternative routes decreases as you progress, it’s also fun to set your own small goals, e.g. B. trying not to take damage in a single run or trying to save all scientists in one run.

And as fun as this remake is solo, 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 continues each and a separate score bar, while the latter lets you share both your continues and your score to work together. The 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 while trying to collect as many health packs or shoot down as many enemies as possible – assuming you do are both willing to accept the controls.

Trial and error galore

The controls of The House of the Dead: Remake take some time to get used to and can feel more complex than they need to be. There are a variety of options to try, from a single Joy-Con (only in co-op, though, for some reason) with full gyro aiming for that light weapon feel, to simply using a pro controller like an FPS, but all can be hit and miss – literally and figuratively.

Firing your weapon is done by pressing the A or ZR button, while reloading is tied to either the ZL or B button. This isn’t the most convenient arrangement, so using two connected Joy-Cons or the Pro Controller is preferable. Aside from providing an extra button to reload, you can use the D-Pad/left Joy-Con buttons to switch between the additional weapons you can unlock. These include options like an assault rifle and a grenade launcher, which can obliterate anything in your path, although you can’t unlock and use them until you’ve unlocked the armory itself, which requires you to rescue all of the scientists in one run.

I’ve found that Gyro mostly aims to be a bigger enemy than the zombies.

Both controller options also allow you to use gyro aiming, as well as a combo that defaults to the thumbsticks and then the gyro for finer control. I ended up mostly using this option, although there were moments when I noticed that gyro aiming wasn’t registering the way I expected. This meant I began to rely more and more on the thumbstick – while I could easily click the right (or left) thumbstick to refocus my gyro crosshair when it was slightly off-frame, it was even easier to click the thumbstick just move a little immediately shoot at an enemy. This probably comes down to personal preference to some degree, but I’ve found that Gyro mostly aims to be a bigger enemy than the zombies.

Gyro aiming isn’t enabled by default, but if you use it you should go into the settings to turn it on and still tweak things like sensitivity and such to your liking. However, this can be extremely intimidating and frustrating as it takes a lot of trial and error to get the controls working properly. The House of the Dead series has a pick-up-and-play mentality, and the default settings have always worked well for me with the console ports of later House of the Dead games, without having to mess with their similar calibration options. As much as I wanted to fully immerse myself by wielding a single Joy-Con like a light pistol pistol, this remake is unreliable without two. Even more surprisingly, when playing with my Pro Controller or even in handheld mode, I had better luck with gyro aiming, which is a far cry from preferring an arcade shooter as I expected. I can understand why the controls were designed the way they were, as the flexibility to play docked, handheld, on the table or even on the Switch Lite is appreciated, but I still wish there was an option to do that Remapping control layout to alleviate some of these issues.

I’ve also noticed several performance issues unrelated to inconsistent gyro aiming. There were several instances where everything froze for a few seconds mid-fight – running through the same sections with the Performance Mode option enabled provided higher FPS at the cost of some graphical fidelity, but didn’t resolve the freezing issues. Loading screens were also a noticeably slow issue, with each new stage taking around 35 seconds 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 from a graphical point of view. While character models look good for the main cast for the most part, many of the scientists you rescue look very animatronic, to the point where it can be ridiculously distracting.

Revitalized for the modern age

The House of the Dead: Remake has two modes: Story, which is pretty much just the original experience, and Horde, a new option that’s basically the same but with up to 15 times more zombies on-screen at once . Aside from the sheer volume of enemies, the Horde goes through the same four phases and the same boss fights, though enemies also take a lot more bullets before going down. It feels a little redundant since the story mode already has four escalating difficulty options (Easy, Normal, Hard and Arcade), but as a veteran of the series I still found plenty of satisfying challenges in it. Setting Horde to its own arcade difficulty is also a real test of your skills in the end. How you take damage has also been slightly adjusted from the original, with the amount of damage you take from different enemies scaling in the higher difficulties.

Each run simulates the arcade environment and gives you 10 continues that act as lives. Once you run out, you can “buy” more by spending the points you’ve earned for the current run, otherwise it’s game over. You earn points by finding bonus items like coins and (more often) defeating enemies. The points vary depending on the target and the enemy themselves, which encourages more than just blind shooting. And while the classic scoring method is available, there’s also the welcome addition of a new modern scoring option that offers multipliers for, say, killing a certain number of enemies in a row.

The two modes, combined with the difficulty options and different scoring systems, certainly offer great replay value, and the ability to customize your settings to suit your tastes makes this remake more accessible to a wider audience. However, I was disappointed that additional options such as boss mode or training mode that are part of The House of the Dead 2 were not included here. There’s at least a gallery mode where you can take a close look at all the weapons you unlock and the enemies you defeat, as well as some amusing cheat codes for things like infinite ammo and unlimited sequels that only unlock once you have one certain number complete have built-in achievements, but these are only entertaining for so long. The House of the Dead: Remake Review

Fry Electronics Team

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