The House of the Dead originally debuted in the arcades in the mid nineties. The light gun game was quite a hit and it didn't take long for a sequel to appear in the arcades, complete with a black curtain which still remains wrapped around several arcade machines of House of the Dead II to this day. Years later a third title in the series was released and The House of the Dead series continues to this day, with the currently arcade exclusive The House of the Dead 4. With Sega already releasing one of their arcade light gun titles on the Wii, they have now released The House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return for the console as well, but do the two games still hold up well today or is it time the franchise stayed dead?
As both games are arcade ports, the options in The House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return are pretty limited. From the main menu players simply select which title they want to play and are then taken to the options for that particular game. The House of the Dead 2 picks up two years after the first game (which is for some reason or another, not included) and is set in the year 2000. The secret international agency AMS has launched an investigation to look into the cause of the Curien case, to stop the world from becoming infected. However, strange events are happening in Venice, which is the last known location of AMS agent G. So, agents James Taylor, Gary Stewart, Amy Crystal and Harris Harris are sent to investigate the city. The agents find G alive, barely but have a whole new army of undead enemies to dispatch. Sure, the storyline is quite thin, but was good enough for us to remember it.
House of the Dead 2 offers up an arcade mode, as well as an original mode which lets the player arm themselves with a few extras, as well as a boss battle mode and training missions. The port of The House of the Dead 2 is basically arcade perfect and even though The House of the Dead 2 isn't a particularly long game, the action remains fast paced and tough as nails, even to this day.
The House of the Dead 3 is set 19 years after The House of the Dead 2 in the year 2019. Civilisation has collapsed and Ex-AMS agent Thomas Rogan and his team go to investigate a facility which is thought to be linked to the collapse of civilisation. Thomas' daughter and G partner up to travel to the facility after contact with Thomas is lost. The House of the Dead 3 arms players with an automatically reloading shotgun and also includes a scoring system which will award the player a letter grade after they've finished a level.
The House of the Dead 3 is visually a bit more demanding than The House of the Dead 2 and at times the Wii has trouble keeping up. We've seen the Wii deliver superb looking titles, such as Super Mario Galaxy, so the occasional frame rate hitch in a title like The House of the Dead 3 simply makes it seem like a lazy port. There are very few extras in The House of the Dead 3, aside from the arcade mode there is a time attack mode and the only Wii exclusive feature in the compilation, an extreme game mode. The extreme game mode simply makes things a little tougher; enemies are more resistant and the blast radius for the shotgun is smaller. It's a small inclusion that ultimately, feels tacked on.
Unfortunately in both games, unlike Ghost Squad players cannot keep continuing and playing for as long as they like, with Sega making the decision to limit the amount of credits players can utilise. One of the things that The House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return has going for it is the incredibly fantastic controls. Calibration is simple and the controls are so precise that even those without a Wii Zapper or another third party gun can play the game quite capably. The light gun controls are easily the best seen on any arcade gun title released for the Wii yet, which is a fantastic achievement.
The House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return on the Wii is a basic package. There are no online scoreboards, very few enhancements and The House of the Dead 3 suffers from some technical issues. However, the game does have some excellent and intuitive controls. Those who are after an arcade shooter are better off purchasing the deeper Ghost Squad, but those who have fond memories of The House of the Dead series, or those who want one more chance to fight off the undead won't be too disappointed by The House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return.