House of the Dead III

Review

posted 11/9/2002 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: Xbox
It’s been a bumpy road for Sega since they dropped their Dreamcast and opted to publish games on all three major platforms. With the exception of Virtua Fighter 4 and a few well-timed sports titles, Sega’s franchise titles haven’t faired too well. Besides simply selling poorly, Sega’s recent titles have lacked that polished feel, and occasionally even felt rushed.

House of the Dead III continues that trend of Sega disappointments. While managing to do a few things right, this first gun game on the Xbox ends up shooting its fair share of blanks.

For starters, the title House of the Dead is a tad misleading. Nary a “house” is to be seen in the entire third installment, it’s more of a Factory of the Dead. This, in and of itself, isn’t a big problem; in fact, I actually liked the change of scenery. Based at the EFI Research Facility, House of the Dead III trades domestic textures with computers, lab equipment, and a whole lot of corridors. These new digs give the game a surprisingly colder feel; nothing seems used, almost as if everything is completely barren.

This installment is set almost twenty years after the second House of the Dead game. Not much has changed over the last couple of decades, zombies are roaming the Earth feeding on everything living, and somebody has to stop them. Of course, if it were that simple EVERYBODY would be stopping these beasts, right?

Well, true to form, House of the Dead logic dictates that one extremely young girl is in charge of disposing of the walking dead. Meet Lisa Rogan, a slim blonde who, even at age twenty, can single handedly take on hoards of on-coming baddies with nothing more than her trusty shotgun.

There is a second player, named G, who falls into the “most useless sidekick” category … unless you have a friend playing with you. On one player the only thing G seems to do is get trapped and further the story along. He doesn’t shoot anything, he doesn’t help deflect bullets, and he certainly doesn’t have anything interesting to say while the action is going on.

Like the other House of the Dead games, this third installment is light on the story. Being an arcade game at heart, House of the Dead III ends up being a lot of action, sewn together by brief moments of story. The game attempts to fuse film-style flashback segments in between levels. Using a washed out and grainy look, these flashbacks look as if they were from the 1920s and kept in some vault to grow old. Yet, they are only flashing back to the late ‘90s … a decade in which we know a few things about film restoration, let alone preservation. There is really no need for this effect, and frankly, it’s a little distracting.

Other than that gripe, though, the story elements are presented in a similar fashion of those in the other two House of the Dead titles. And if anything, they never get in the way of the non-stop, heart pounding action that encompass all five levels of game play.

This genre, the “gun game” for the lack of a better name, has really run in place for a number of years now. At its core House of the Dead III plays exactly like Lethal Enforcers, Virtua Cop, and other decade old shooting games. At it’s worse it’s simply a target practicing game, with only a limited amount of game play to be had. At it’s best, though, it’s an excuse to be like Elvis and shoot your television.
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