Rail shooters have always been a huge gaming guilty pleasure of sorts to me, and seeing less and less of them over the years has been quite the downer. Luckily, SEGA has thrown us a bone, bringing House of the Dead 4 to consoles for the first time since the game premiered in arcades in 2005. It certainly shows its age, but with a price point of 9.99, passing this one up should be about as difficult as getting good endings in “Special” mode. Actually, I probably just suck.
As a game released in 2012 that most gamers are going to be experiencing for the first time, the presentation is going to feel a little underwhelming. The music is silly techno gibberish, the terrible voice acting accompanies a nonsense script (though the silliness is a welcome series staple), and while the visuals are purposefully a little downplayed in favor of allowing a ton of action on screen at once, they look pretty muddled and bland. In the context of it’s original release HotD4 was the first arcade light gun game to display in high definition, and introduced many new features for the genre, including an enormous closed room attraction version that comprised two 100 inch screens, a moving chair, and various forms of outside feedback based on what was happening in the game. The PSN version obviously doesn’t include swiveling seats and air blasts, but it does include the extra “Special” levels from that version of the game.
The game itself is quite fun, rewarding precision and combos over genre typical mad bullet spraying, but in the end is rather short, even for a light gun shooter. Multiple endings and high score rankings add to the replay value, but the game is so fast paced that you’ll finish a playthrough before you really feel like you’ve started. Another major annoyance is that rather than shooting away from the screen to reload, as is the case in most rail shooters, you must instead shake your controller of choice. Several other instances, such as being grabbed by a zombie or stunned by a boss, require shaking to free yourself. It seems detrimental to a game that puts so much emphasis on accuracy to require such a disorienting action, and it also makes playing with fun attachments like the Sharpshooter a pain in the ass. Which is a real shame because I found I had the best accuracy with said peripheral versus just using the Move or a regular DualShock pad. Speaking of being grabbed by zombies, HotD4 has enemies attacking in ways that change the flow of gameplay, which mixes things up and adds variety to combat. Being pushed to the ground by a zombie not only opens up an amusing moment of zombies trying to stomp on you, but can also open up secret areas if you allow them to knock you down in the right areas. There also aren’t much in the way of extras outside of some unlockable difficulty modes, but you can unlock a silly video of the director and producer of the game essentially talking about how awesome they are.
House of the Dead 4 isn’t the greatest light gun experience of all time, but it has no pretenses about what it is, and offers some interesting mechanics to try and shake things up a bit. It’s a fun ride, and a good use of a few hours with some friends and PlayStation Move controllers. Now if you’ll excuse me, as much as I love rail shooters I am terrible at them, and I have some endings to (try to) unlock.
House of the Dead 4
|Pros||Emphasis on combos and precision shots set it apart from peers|
|Cons||Fairly bare bones release, shaking to do things is annoying|
|Verdict||A solid, campy, and fun zombie blasting experience|