House of the Dead 4 Review
Light gun games used to be a staple in arcades, but their popularity waned at the same time as arcades' did, and gamers' interest swung toward first- and third-person shooters. Despite a few titles keeping the genre alive, it seemed like another form of digital combat coming to an end.
With the release of the Nintendo Wii and, later on, the PS Move attachment for PS3, light gun games began making a slow comeback. Games like Ghost Squad and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles helped to reinvigorate the genre and make shooting at the screen with on-rails gameplay fun again.
Sega’s House of the Dead series took full advantage of the return of the light gun shooter with the re-release of House of the Dead 2 and House of the Dead 3 on the Nintendo Wii along with a new installment in the series: The House of the Dead: Overkill. Overkill and HotD3 were also released on PSN with updated visuals, Move support, and new content.
Along with those two titles, Sega also released House of the Dead 4 for PSN, the first time the arcade shooter was seen on a home console, complete with bonus game The House of the Dead 4 SP, multiple difficulties, and the ability to use the PS Move and the standard Duelshock 3 controller, both of which work extremely well with no lag or inaccuracy.
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Like previous titles, HotD4 levels consist of predetermined paths rife with zombies and other creatures with the occasional determining fork in the road. At the end of every level, there is a boss encounter that usually boils down to continuously shooting at its weak spot until it's defeated.
This sounds like every other HotD title, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. The core gameplay remains the same, and because of this, it's as fun and fast-paced as before. This game remains extremely fun to play, whether by yourself or with a partner, delivering white knuckle shooting without the more complex conventions of modern shooters.
There are a variety of small changes made to the gameplay that longtime fans will notice. Gone are the mini-segments involving rescuing helpless humans from zombie terrors. They are replaced with a strong emphasis on head shots and chaining headshots together. The more strategic shots you place, the higher your score and ranking at the end of each level. Higher scores earn life bonuses and other rewards.
In place of hostages, there are moments in which the undead will grapple and render you immobile, starting a timer and giving you a limited amount of time to shake your controller to break free. While this does occasionally relieve the shooting segments, it does nothing to mix up the game or provide challenge. It feels pointless. It’s an afterthought and a lazy one at that.
HotD4 is not a very long game. Even with the additional bonus game, it shouldn't take more than half an hour to complete, depending on difficulty and if you play with a partner. However, like all arcade experiences, this is not a game to be measured in length or features. It's simply the game it was always intended to be. It’s a light gun shooter on your PS3. It’s a ton of fun to play, and in this case, that is more than enough.