Game Description: Prepare to send the undead back to the afterlife in this sequel to the arcade hit The House of the Dead, featuring all new gameplay modes and detailed graphics. Blast your way through six levels of intense action. Tons of branching paths offer the ultimate in replayability.
Ever wonder why despite little innovation and constant critical panning over the years, light-gun games still remain in abundance? It's because the logic required to play gun games isn't based on the grammar of typical videogames (joysticks, combos, and CGI). It's based on the understanding of firearms and in a country that has the right to bear arms "guaranteed" in its Constitution (via the Second Amendment), guns understandably dominate our landscape and consciousness. Take my girlfriend (American as she is), for example, who tried her hand at Soul Calibur and was frustrated beyond belief at the extensive techniques. But when I put a light-gun in her hand, she laid waste to a couple of zombies faster than you can say "Go ahead, make my day!" Gun games (along with driving games) represented mainstream gaming long before Myst ruled the sales chart and it stands as a source for social commentary how easy it is for anyone to pick up a gun and fire away. So it's no surprise that with the coming of the Dreamcast, a new light-gun game bearing the House Of The Dead name would be available in its budding library to appeal to that particular mass-market.
The home version of House Of The Dead 2 is a pixel-perfect console port of Sega's popular arcade gore-fest franchise and as far as light-gun shooters go today, it's as straight forward as it gets. You won't find heated 2-player competition like in Point Blank, no ducking feature like in Time Crisis, or any attribute build-ups like in Elemental Gearbots. What you do get is an endless parade of zombies, monsters, and creatures to be wiped out with extreme prejudice while being automatically guided through the stages like in an amusement park ride. There are also helpless civilians who often need to you to save their whiney hides from the marauding undead as well as a multitude of branching paths that can be altered by the player to keep things interesting.
Yet even with its obvious lack of depth and traditional simplicity, House Of The Dead 2 remains somewhat addictive, especially the home version's exclusive 'Original' mode. This mode allows players to take along either one or two (if played cooperatively) items, weapons, or power-ups at the beginning of the game. This arsenal consists of items (unique to this mode) recovered from previously played games and can be accrued depending on how many times a player is willing to go at it in on one sitting. The challenge becomes to find the right combination of power-ups in order to complete the game, which starts you out with a barely adequate amount of continues. Of course, all the 'Original' mode nonsense can be passed up for the classic 'Arcade' mode, which simply replicates the coin-op experience. Then there's the 'Boss' mode, which allows you to do battle with only the main baddies and, finally, the uncompromisingly tough and self-explanatory "Training" mode.
Graphically, House Of The Dead 2 is worthy of the 128-bit processing power that the Dreamcast is capable of. The environments are lush and convey a sense of being in a horror show. The amount of monster villains are diverse and well distinguished by good character designs and animate smoothly with only a smidgen or two of slowdown. Audio is equally impressive with great sound effects and a wicked musical score. The only real sore spot is the horrid voice-acting and script that appear during cut-scenes in between stages. Sounding like a cast with partial lobotomies, House Of The Dead 2's voice-acting sounds cheaply made and ruins what would be an otherwise fine overall package. It was so annoying, in fact, that I dropped the score down a half point because of it.
House Of The Dead 2 is well-crafted and a solid entry, but no one should go thinking that this is anything more than what it appears to be. This is still a light-gun game in the traditional sense and designed to appeal to the mainstream, which means little thinking and plenty of clicking. Despite the alternative routes, this is still a generally short game that won't require too many attempts before completion; all of which makes the game more of an ideal rental. For those who enjoy this sort of gunplay (like I do), House Of The Dead 2 will provide the expected bullet-riddled action with next-generation quality graphics on the surface. Those who never liked the genre to begin will only need me to confirm their inclination to stay away.
I'll say one thing for House Of The Dead 2, it's easy to get into. Who needs a training mode in a game where you just point and shoot? I will argue for the addictiveness of the game because I think it is more so than Chi did. However, this inexorable aspect of the game is mainly in the "Original mode," where you collect items essentially for the next time you start over. I found it to be pretty slick and on-target because Chi and I worked like crazy to grab every power up we could find trying to get the right combination to beat the game. It's a nice (and probably the best) addition that Sega has made to the arcade port to add some "freshness" to the game.
Unfortunately, House Of The Dead 2 slips up a bit in the other areas. Chi was not exaggerating when he criticized the voice-acting and scripting because it is truly horrible. I feared those cut-scenes more than I did the marauding mobs of the undead. One knock against House Of The Dead 2 that Chi didn't mention was the retread of bosses throughout the game. After the first boss, which was admittedly pretty impressive, it all went downhill. The bosses were relatively hard to kill, but were also pretty boring in their attacks and overall look. What was worse was that I had to take them on twice throughout the game. Come to think of it, I had to take them on three times because the last boss (a cheesy celestial-type being) temporarily morphs into the other bosses to better wipe you out. When it comes down to it, House Of The Dead 2 is still just an arcade port, albeit a perfect one. Like one legendary artist once purportedly said, "great statues are made from great stone." So if you think the original was great, you will no doubt love this one as well, but those looking for something with a bit more depth could be easily turned off by this endeavor.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Animated Blood & Gore, Animated Violence
Don't even think about playing House of the Dead 2 with a regular controller, because though it does "work," it's pales in comparison to the true light-gun experience. You'll have to purchase either the Mad Catz Dream Blaster or the Interact Starfire Blaster, but expect widely-reported calibration problems with both. We tested only with the Dream Blaster and we were unable to calibrate the gun at a typical shooting distance. We had to bring the gun to a point blank range against the television screen in order for it to calibrate correctly. But it did perform fine after that solution and we didn't have any other technical difficulties. As for the actual game, it delivers more or less what you would expect without surprises. Time Crisis and Point Blank remain a bit more innovative in the gameplay department, but then again, Dreamcast owners have little choice.