Tawdry tempest of zombie titillation and tribulations
SEGA’s The House of the Dead: Overkill originally called the Nintendo Wii home in 2009. Like the many House of the Dead video games before it, Overkill was a rail shooter that had players gunning through undead droves and seriously freaky zombie bosses.
In 2013, the game was rereleased on the PS3 and the PC. An extended cut version was made for the PlayStation console, and the PC release was transformed into The Typing of the Dead. While both rereleases kept to the original story, the visuals were updated into high definition and extra levels were added. Thankfully, the flair, style, and unadulterated tenacity of the original Wii title translates extremely well into its PC successor; The Typing of the Dead: Overkill is an over-the-top, 70s B-movie, co-op adventure that will have players frantically clacking away at their keyboards in a frenzy of good times, zombie hordes, and gratuitous expletives.
The Typing of the Dead: Overkill is a title that is unashamed about itself. It doesn’t sacrifice its style for mass appeal, nor does it deliver a typical narrative. Overkill is a grindhouse flick manifested as a video game. It’s a cheesy B-movie filled with cheap titillation and plenty of F-bombs. Everything about the game, from the characters to dialogue, is absurd, over-the-top, and in turn, gloriously awesome. Few video games attempt to capture the raw and raunchy aesthetics of a B-movie, but Overkill easily adopts the style and makes it work flawlessly throughout the entire game.
The campaign follows reluctant partners Agent G and foul-mouthed detective Isaac Washington as they chase down the nefarious crime lord Papa Caesar. Each protagonist’s venture arose from of a sense of duty and a quest for revenge, respectively. During their chase, an outbreak befalls the town and turns everyone and their mothers into brainless, brain-sucking zombies . . . uh, I mean, “mutants.” G and Washington, despite the mutant menace, continue their pursuits of Papa Caesar through seven levels of zombie mayhem. The story mode is an absurd, yet ultimately fun narrative; there is never a slow or boring moment. The action and overall oddities keep hitting as often as the ridiculous dialogue, and all these moments are hilarious godsends. For the PS3 and PC version, two extra levels were added. They follow Varla Guns and Candi Stryper, two strippers caught up in middle of the outbreak and Papa Caesar’s dubious schemes. These extra levels are warmly welcomed, as no grindhouse aesthetic is complete without strippers.
From the carnival to hick swamps, the levels are nicely thematic, if not also cliché for a zombie game. The HD overhaul looks clean and suits bigger screen resolutions, especially when paired with the B-movie film-grain effects. Overkill, nonetheless, does seem a bit dated with its sometimes-fuzzy textures. Beyond the immediate threat of attacking mutants, the levels are often empty and rather cheap looking. However, the graphics of the game do play to the strong grindhouse aesthetic. It’s a difficult compromise between intention and graphical standards, but with Typing of the Dead: Overkill, the graphics work well enough for the style.
Whereas the graphics do a decent job, Overkill’s sound design is bawdy, gratuitous, and completely brilliant. The dialogue constantly pushes the B-movie themes to the point where every other line is something either cheesy or raunchy. However, Overkill manages to avoid sounding trite or boring—just hilarious. It could be that the conversations between characters are so absurd, they’re easily forgivable. The soundtrack is similarly suited, with its mix of upbeat funky tracks and guitar riff-happy spy themes. SEGA’s decision to work Overkill like a grindhouse movie easily pays off from the soundtrack alone. Its vibrant tunes puts Overkill alongside other classic games with great soundtracks, such as Bastion and Jet Grind Radio.
[Warning: This song contains strong language and strong sexual humor, but, wow, it is good!]
Between the PlayStation 3/Wii version of Overkill and its PC cousin, the biggest change stems from the light gun gameplay. On the consoles, the Wii controller and PS3 motion controller act as the gun. The PC version, because of its lack of extra peripherals, gracefully morphs into another Typing of the Dead title. Funnily enough, it works extremely well and is just as fun. The PC version also contains the extended cut version of The House of the Dead: Overkill, but using a mouse proves to be lackluster compared to a gun-peripheral. With The Typing of the Dead: Overkill, players have the option of adjusting difficulty and even downloading custom dictionaries to use in the game. These design choices keep the game fresh and players coming back for more. The campaign, however, is rather short. Even with the two extra levels, Overkill‘s story mode only clocks in at about four or five hours. Those few hours are a blast, but a lengthier campaign wouldn’t have hurt the title. There are also a few mini-games to waste a few extra minutes on.
It cannot be said enough: The Typing of the Dead: Overkill is an absurd grindhouse adventure. The plot, characters, dialogue, and monsters are all unapologetically over-the-top. However, Overkill‘s total package unwraps a unique and aesthetically brilliant rail shooter. The PC port does trade the light gun action for typing, but the game is still flawless in its execution.
Overkill is a fun arcade shooter in its most basic structure, yet the music, look, and tone of this iteration in The House of the Dead series take a direction rarely ventured in video games. The Typing of the Dead: Overkill deserves to be played.