As wondrous as the world of modern gaming is, sometimes a straightforward, no-frills shooting game is just what the doctor ordered. Doing away with collectibles, open worlds and complicated narratives in favour of blasting zombies in the face is a craving that at times I simply cannot ignore.
When I was a young nipper, the best way to scratch this itch was down the arcade with an oversized plastic peripheral (easy) in hand. Developers spent years trying to recreate the lightgun experience at home, with varying amounts of success. For me, Nintendo cracked it with the ingenious and versatile Wii and the zapper attachment. In fact, I remember picking up the excellent House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return at the same time.
Anyway, THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Remake has been given the Xbox Series X|S optimisation treatment. As soon as I booted up the game, I was slapped around the chops by the warm sense of gaming nostalgia. It’s nothing short of iconic.
What’s initially striking is the low resolution soundtrack that blasts out over the main menu. Combine this with the straightforward but ridiculous storyline and stunted, basic speech and the B-movie setup is complete. All the classic zombie tropes are present, and at times it feels like you’re sprinting around the corridors of the Spencer Mansion from Resident Evil.
A whole manner of nasties will ambush you at almost every turn, ranging from the run of the mill undead to acrobatic fellas who look like a cross between Stubbs the Zombie and Michael Jackson from the Thriller video. These hordes will also chuck projectiles at you, testing your aiming and reflex skills.
This is especially the case during the boss battles, as their weak spots are highlighted just before you face-off. These are pretty straightforward encounters that consist of a mix of shooting down projectiles and emptying a clip into their vulnerable area before they can lay a claw on you. The final boss, the magician, is something of a bullet sponge which will take a good while to go down.
The good thing about not holding a plastic gun is that you’re less likely to pick up aches and pains during playing, and should be kept more comfortable for longer. But a quick flick of the thumbstick rather than physically turning to move and fire is much less exciting, and there’s no getting away from that. The potential here is limited by the now pretty standard home console controller.
THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Remake controls well though, and you can fiddle with the aim sensitivity and other settings to your heart’s content. However, it simply cannot hold a candle to the lightgun experience. The level of immersion doesn’t compare. Still, in the absence of said peripheral it’s the next best thing.
What is fun is gearing up with more powerful weapons to tear down the zombies. However, THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Remake makes you work for it. At the very start, you’re given a photo of the scientific team who you need to try and save. As you prevent each member getting mauled by zombies, they will reward you with a health boost. However, save all of them in the first three stages and you will unlock the opportunity to scour each level again for those elusive weapon chests.
At its core, THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Remake consists of four short on-rails segments that each feature a boss battle at the end. Put simply, that’s it. What the game does offer is the ability to mix up the parameters of your playthrough, such as difficulty, scoring and multiplayer options.
I plumped for the normal difficulty, and even then I used plenty of continues (or credits for the arcade goers). You initially get ten, and can buy more with the points you earn on your playthrough. It’s easy to see how, especially on the arcade difficulty, this game swallowed up the spare change of players.
You can opt for horde mode if the classic game doesn’t feature enough monsters to satisfy your bloodthirstiness. This naturally means you’ll rack up a much higher score too, offering you more opportunities to buy back in when you inevitably get overwhelmed. THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Remake also offers local multiplayer where you can work with or against each other.
Despite the variants there is essentially an hour or so of gameplay here, which is difficult to translate from the arcade setting to the home console. Despite slightly differing routes through each level, after a couple of playthroughs in one sitting you will probably want to break away. Much like in the arcades, playing infrequently is still how this game is enjoyed best.
THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Remake looks vastly improved versus the original but you can still tell it was released in the arcades many moons ago. I think that it is partly down to the style (for example the menus) but in all honesty it’s not the best looking game on the Xbox Series X|S. Thankfully, the undead hordes themselves are the highlight in terms of the visuals and it’s them you’ll be focusing on instead of the environments as you desperately fight them off. Everything runs nice and smoothly too, even when things get hectic.
Today’s market is inundated with remakes and it’s always a challenge to ensure old games hold up despite the many years that have passed. THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Remake features truly timeless gameplay, and is still one of the best games of its type. However, at £20.99 it may make a few think twice before parting with their cash.
THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Remake and the Xbox Series X|S upgrade updates the classic for a new generation. It’s the best way to play the game, unless you know where one of those old arcade cabinets is stashed.
THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Remake is on the Xbox Store