[originally posted at Total PlayStation]
Now in its tenth year of existence, The House of the Dead III is much like a zombie itself. After its original arcade debut in 2002, the game has been reanimated in the years since on the original Xbox, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Wii, and finally yet again on the PlayStation 3 as a downloadable title. I guess you really can’t keep a zombie shooter down.
And shoot zombies you will. The game supports input from either the traditional DualShock controller or Sony’s neglected Move motion controllers, which are obviously the preferred method of manipulation. (Seriously, don’t even bother if you don’t have a Move.) You’ll gun down the shambling horde of not-so-dead with an endless supply of shotgun shells, making a few branching choices as you traverse through Dr. Curien’s headquarters. While there are several points at which you are given a choice of two or three paths, the game doesn’t vary all that much and you never feel fully in control due to the nature of its design. Like its forebears and successors in the on-rails shooter genre, The House of the Dead III is pretty much a virtual rollercoaster, except you’re shooting zombies instead of waving your hands around in the air like an idiot. Oh wait.
Goofy as the experience may appear to non-participants, there is an undeniable appeal to picking up a plastic gun and aiming the barrel at a monster with the munchies. Even if you don’t have a gun-shaped attachment for your Move controllers, it’s still satisfying to pull the trigger and see zombie bits flying apart, even if the action involved feels more like changing the channel with a TV remote than wielding Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum. (Yes, I know the only weapons the in-game characters use are shotguns.) Thankfully, both the trigger button at the bottom of the Move controller and the Move button on the top of it can be used to shoot your virtual firearms, which is a relief for your hand and wrist as you can switch it up if your trigger finger gets tired. Because really, there’s almost no reason to ever stop shooting.
Despite the initial glee of pumping lead into the undead, the novelty wears off quickly and The House of the Dead III does not mix it up enough to remain interesting for long. This is actually not much of a criticism because the game from start to finish only lasts about an hour anyway. There are a few different endings and multiple difficulty levels, but the experience will probably feel well-visited before you see the end credits for the first time. Even with some extra modes and options, there’s not too much reason to replay it unless you happen to be a huge racist against zombies.
Naturally, the latest rerelease means all the modern trappings – trophies, high-definition graphics, and the aforementioned Move support, but even with the facelift, The House of the Dead III is a bit of a dog. The technology pushing the game might have been impressive 10 years ago, but there’s the glaring lack of true widescreen, since the gameplay segments are all presented in the original aspect ratio with pillarboxes on the sides. The art direction also doesn’t hold up, especially for the human characters, whose gargantuan hands would put Shaq’s to shame. The voice acting and story follow in the ludicrous fashion of the previous HotD games, though it doesn’t come off quite as funny and charming as the (unintentional?) comedy masterpiece that is The House of the Dead 2, or the absolutely intentional comedy that is The House of the Dead: Overkill.
Though I have plenty of quibbles with The House of the Dead III, I will readily admit that blowing heads off zombies with a buddy is a whole lot of fun, at least for a single playthrough before the bosses’ ridiculously long health bars and cheap attacks wear your patience thin. It’s about as deep as a kiddy pool and is definitely not a valid justification for shelling out for PlayStation Move if you don’t own it already, but at just $6.99 on PSN – probably less than the cost of playing through the game in an arcade – I can think of many worse ways to pay for an hour of fun with a friend if you already own the equipment.