Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii, PS3) Review



If there's one thing we can agree on about the Wii, is that it was perfect for rail shooters. Given the remote's point and click nature, it seemed like a no-brainer, and during the Wii's lifecycle, there was a rail shooter renaissance. From ports of classics like Ghost Squad to original titles like Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, there were plenty of ways to satisfy that trigger finger.

In 2008, The House of the Dead 2&3 were ported to the Wii. The following year, Sega released The House of the Dead: Overkill, the game which asks, "What would happen if the House of the Dead and Quentin Tarantino were thrown into a blender?"

Developed by Headstrong Games and published by Sega, The House of the Dead: Overkill was a feverish reimaging of the beloved arcade shooter. This game, along with MadWorld and the Conduit, was Sega's attempt to cater to hardcore gamers who felt the Wii was nothing more than a gimmick.

Despite scoring positive reviews, Overkill didn't sell well. It flew under the radar for most but for those who did play it, they considered it one of the Wii's hidden gems.

Two years later, the game was ported to PS3 and to the PC in 2013. Today, the game is regarded as a cult classic, and in my opinion, it's the best of the House of the Dead series.

Story Synopsis

Set before the first game, Overkill follows Agent G on one of his early assignments. He's partnered with veteran cop Isaac Washington and sent to find Papa Caesar. Caesar has been toying with a compound that turns people into zombi-, I mean, mutants. The mutants are wreaking havoc across Bayou County, and the two must apprehend him.

"Make him mad, and he'll rip your balls off."

Joining them on their campaign of carnage is Varla Guns. Varla wants revenge after Caesar took her crippled brother Jasper and made him his lackey. Fed up with Caesar's abuse, Jasper injects himself with the compound to try and kill his boss, but he's intervened by G and Washington. Little do any of them know Caesar is really working for the county warden, Clemence Darling, who has his own plans for the compound.

Story, Writing, and Characters

Take everything you know about the House of the Dead and throw it out the window because The House of the Dead: Overkill is a wild reimagining. What was once unintentional schlock is now pure, unadulterated schlock. It's violent, it's profane, it's sleazy, and more importantly, entertaining.

The game is a love letter to grindhouse flicks of the late 70's and early 80's. A film grain saturates all the in-game action, the cut-scenes double as mock film trailers, and there are even continuity errors and missing reels. These little details add to the game's personality. Ditto for the PS3 version, which features colorful menus and loading screens inspired by EC Horror Comics.

In a series known less for its story and more for its gameplay, it's nice to see the House of the Dead: Overkill make an active effort in the story department. The plot starts simple but takes an unexpected turn in the final act. Spoilers ahead, but Clemens Darling discovered the compound underneath his prison. He wants to use said chemical to save his dying mother.

Did I mention he has an Oedipus complex?

The face of a man that screams, "Maybe I did, maybe I didn't."

Not everyone will be on board with the game's more shocking moments, but much like grindhouse flicks, this isn't trying to be high art. This is trash, delightful trash.

At the center of this rollercoaster ride from hell is Agent G and Isaac Washington. The two are the classic buddy cop duo. Agent G is the straight man and Isaac Washington is the foul-mouthed loose cannon. Washington spews so many f-bombs, he makes the Angry Video Game Nerd look like a pansy.

No joke, this game once held the world record for most f-words in a game, until Mafia II usurped it. The back and forth banter between these two is hilarious. Whether they're talking about the joys of driving a car to your favorite music or Washington's constant swearing, there is never a dull moment.

Special mention needs to be given to Papa Caesar. This Cajun Burt Reynolds lookalike is a fantastic villain. He loves toying with Washington and waxing philosophical about death and Chinese dinner. Clemens is fine, but he's no Caesar.


Like the games before it, the House of the Dead: Overkill is a rail shooter. You'll blast through mutants, save civilians, shoot collectibles and power-ups, and take on a boss at the end of each stage.

The game's seven levels guide you through a Louisiana mansion, a hospital, onboard a train, and through a mutant-infested prison. The PS3 version adds two new levels featuring Varla Guns and her dim-witted but good-nature friend Candi Stryper. Their adventure takes them to a strip club, the city streets, and a meat-packing plant.

The gunplay is simple but satisfying. Pointing and shooting with the Wii remote or Move controller feels great. If there's one reason to own a Move, it's for the House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut. You have the option to use a regular controller but choosing that is like choosing to remain abstinent. You're missing out on all the fun.

A hospital level in a horror game isn't complete until it has flesh-eating nurses.

You start the game with a pistol, but by earning cash, you can buy upgrades and new weapons. Upgrades decrease reload times, increase ammo, increase damage, etc. Besides the pistol, there's the shotgun, the assault shotgun, the SMG, and the assault rifle. In the Wii version, you're able to unlock a hand cannon and a minigun by completing Director's Cut.

Additional guns like a crossbow were added to the PS3 version, plus the prices for weapons and upgrades were tweaked.

Out of all the guns available, I found the handgun, shotgun, and assault shotgun to be the most useful. The SMG and assault rifle are great for mowing down enemies but terrible for maintaining a combo. Keeping a combo is essential for a high score. The bigger the multiplier, the more points per kill you earn.

Chain enough kills together, and you'll get the coveted GOREGASM, which nets you 1,000 points per kill.

Either way, the combat is fun. Bullets rip chunks out of enemies and pop heads like balloons. The 
slow mo-fo" power-up slows down time and turns mutants into bloody pulp. House of the Dead: Overkill revels in its carnage, but it's also a breeze to beat.

In the PS3 version, you can activate a little minigame where you bleep the excessive swearing.

Even with modifiers like extra mutants, the game isn't terribly challenging. You have unlimited continues in the story mode and if you die, you lose half of your score. In director's cut, you're given three lives. Lose them all, and it's game over.

The boss fights are basic. As grotesque as they look, each one has an easy-to-spot weakness, and the game always tells you where to shoot. The PS3 version adds new attack phases to each boss, but even that doesn't change the fact the game is still a cakewalk. Additionally, the enemy AI is sometimes inept, doing things like getting hung up on walls or running around in circles like a chicken.

Both versions of The House of the Dead: Overkill are loaded with content. After beating the story mode, you unlock director's cut. Director's cut features extended levels with alternate paths and extra collectibles to find. As previously mentioned, the PS3 version features two new levels, but it also has additional modifiers like headshots only or pistols only.

The campaign takes three to four hours to beat, which is longer than previous House of the Dead campaigns. With the extra modes, modifiers, and more, there's plenty to keep you coming back. A handful of minigames including a survival mode and escort are available as well.

Visuals and Sound

On Wii, The House of the Dead: Overkill looks good. Some of the levels look murky and I noticed a lot of framerate hitches during gameplay. Additionally, character animations during cut-scenes look stiff. Weirdly, these faults add to the low budget, B-movie aesthetic the game fors.

The PS3 version is another story. It's like upgrading from the regular release DVD to the special edition blu-ray put out by Scream Factory or Severin' Films. The graphics are crisper and more colorful, plus the game runs smoother. Comparing these two side by side, the difference is night and day.

More levels, better graphics, same filthy sense of humor.

The Wii version is grimier, which adds to the aesthetic, while the PS3 version is more vibrant and pulpier. However, this version has its own technical issues, like audio bugs and some hilarious ragdoll. Often, dead enemies fly across the screen like they're auditioning for a circus act.

The voice acting is proudly profane. The frequent swearing is so over the top, you can't help but laugh. The music is phenomenal. It's an eclectic mixture of funk, rock, surf rock, and even country. Some of the songs are bizarre, like a country tune about a one-night stand with a mutant, while others such as "Wash's Day Off" are catchy as hell.

Final Verdict

I love The House of the Dead: Overkill. In my opinion, it's the best of the franchise because it reimagines the series in a way that's fresh instead of try-hard and edgy. It's a love letter to a by-gone era of cinema, a time when movies like Basket Case and The Evil Dead shocked audiences with their rampant gore and bizarre plots.

To put it this way, the previous House of the Dead games were like a carnival haunted house. They were less about scaring you and more about entertaining you. The House of the Dead: Overkill is what happens when you return to that same haunted house, but Joe Bob Briggs is running the show. Lots of blood, lots of beasts, lots of breasts.

4 stars, check it out!

As for which version is better, the PS3 version is the obvious winner. It has more content and better visuals, making it the definitive version of the game. That's not to say the Wii version is bad. It's a wild ride with plenty to offer, plus the grimier visuals add to the drive-in aesthetic the game lovingly pays tribute to.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Complete History of Destroy All Humans - Post Mortem

As of September 20, 2022, the Complete History of Destroy All Humans has been out for three days, and so far, it's doing well, better than I expected. The video has over 2,100 views and reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. Heck, the writer of the first two games, Tom Abernathy, live-tweeted his reactions, which was a first!

Now, that the video is out, I've been able to rest, recuperate, and gather my thoughts. This is a post-mortem on the project where I talk about what it took to bring it all together.

Before I start, I want to say thanks for your support. You guys are what pushed me to see this documentary through and make it something special. It had its hurdles, especially in the last couple of months, but I got it done.


As I've mentioned many times before, I'm a huge fan of "Destroy All Humans." I played the original and its sequel when I was 14 and they blew my mind. Up until then, I had played stuff like "Mario" or "Spyro," stuff mainly meant for kids. "Destroy All Humans" was one of my earliest exposures to games meant for an older audience. It may have been rated T but running around, probing butts as a Jack Nicholson-sounding alien left an impression on my puny mind.

I remember when I first beat the original and unlocked the extras like "Developer Darwinism." I was blown away by all the behind-the-scenes info they showed. This was the first instance where I learned about game development and how a game evolves from its early version to the final product.

I played the later sequels and enjoyed them, but when I learned how bad the reviews were for "Path of the Furon," I remember wondering why the game reviewed so badly, despite how the old trailers hyped it up.

Years pass, I get older, and though my tastes in gaming expand, I never forgot "Destroy All Humans."

In 2020 and 2021, I did a handful of interviews with people who worked on the series, including writer Tom Abernathy and "Big Willy Unleashed" producer Ken Allen. In late 2021, I wrote a short piece about the making of "Path of the Furon" and "Big Willy Unleashed." Both were well-received, and in "Path of the Furon's" case, someone shared it on the Two Best Friends Play subreddit.

Seeing the reactions from the interviews and retrospectives got the juices flowing, and in November, I began outlining the project.

Initial Ideas

The original idea for "The Complete History of Destroy All Humans" was to do a 30-minute video on the series. I was going to do a handful of interviews to get some additional info. At the start of 2022, I decided to expand the project into a five-part series, with a separate video on each game. 

Then, it became a three-part series at the suggestion of Gautier Roux, the man behind the Destroy All Humans Tribute Twitter page. THEN, I decided to go all-out and make it a feature length video. I wanted to test myself as a content creator, and I figured making it feature-length instead of breaking it up into parts was the way to go.


My goal for this documentary was to make something comprehensive, in-depth, but didn't overstay its welcome or get bogged by mundane details. There's a documentary on "Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly" on YouTube, and while it has some great stories about the game's troubled development, it lacks structure and features a lot of pointless detours talking about unused assets, music, etc.

I didn't want to make that. I wanted to make something both the hardcore DAH fan could enjoy, but also the average Joe who knows nothing about the games and wants to learn how they were made.

Matt McMuscles' "What Happened?" series was a huge influence. In the span of 15-20 minutes, his videos give you everything you need to know about the bad game or movie being discussed. I applied that mindset to the documentary.

The idea was you could jump in, watch any part of the video, or the whole video, and learn everything possible.

Another influence was "More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead." This is a two-hour documentary about the 1985 horror/comedy "Return of the Living Dead" and it gives you everything you might want to know about the movie's production, plus some stuff you didn't know about. It's two hours long, but it doesn't feel like two hours because it moves along at a swift pace.

I wanted to make this documentary lean, mean, but informative. I sent a 40 min. rough cut to an editor friend of mine and after watching it he said it didn't feel like 40 minutes had passed by.

Research and Interviews

Because this was a documentary, it meant doing research and more importantly, doing interviews. The interviews were one of the vital aspects of the documentary because they helped shape the script. All told, I interviewed 15 people for the project.

How did I reach out to them? Social media. I asked politely if they would be willing to answer questions for the project. Then I wrote the questions, sent it to them, and waited for his/her response.

Their answers helped shape the script and add meat to parts lacking info. For example, the "Destroy All Humans 2" section was the shortest section for the longest while. It wasn't until I got in contact with Kiera Lord and Milenko Tunjic that I got some extra info on the game's development.

In some cases, it led to some surprises, like when I interviewed Don Traeger, the head of Locomotive Games, who revealed "Big Willy Unleashed" was initially conceived as a collaboration with Pandemic Studios.

Like I said, Gautier Roux was very helpful because he provided me with archives of DAH-related material he's found over the years. From concept art to beta images and more, he's cultivated quite a bit, and it made the process of finding interesting/lost DAH material much easier.

With a big project like this, there were challenges; many, many challenges...


Because "The Complete History of Destroy All Humans" was a one-man army project, it meant I was doing all the heavy lifting. I did all the outlining, writing, and editing. When I first started working on the project, the idea was I'd script it in the winter, shoot and edit it during the spring, then release it summer 2022.

Yeah, and monkeys will fly out of my butt!

In all seriousness, I was working two jobs at the time. This didn't leave a lot of wiggle room, so I had to either work on the project, or work on videos I had planned for my then-newly launched YouTube channel. No joke, one night at my second job, I wrote questions and sent them to one of my interviewees while I was on the clock. Good thing I didn't get caught.

Eventually, I left both jobs and began working a new job that freed up my schedule considerably. Then, it was full steam ahead.

Missed Opportunities

I didn't interview any voice actors because I didn't want to go through the hassle of contacting their agents to arrange a short interview that may or may not would have happened. It would have been great if I had been able to speak with Grant Albrecht or Richard Horvitz, but it didn't happen.

I also didn't interview anyone who works at Black Forest Games. It would have been nice to get insight from them about the making of both remakes and what they hope the future holds for their studio and DAH, but it didn't happen. Fortunately, I was able to utilize interviews they had already done.

I had thought about including a short bit about the cell-phone games, but in the end, I decided not to worry about them. I didn't consider them essential in the grand scheme of things.


I studied journalism in college, and one thing constantly repeated by my teachers is deadlines are a journalist's worst enemy. Either you make the deadline, or you don't.

I had planned to release the documentary in August, and when "Destroy All Humans 2: Reprobed" was announced for August 30, I thought I'd be able to finish it and release it the day before the game's release.

That wasn't the case.

I had to finish some other videos first, and by the time I could work on the documentary, the game was almost out. I did some late-night crunching to try and finish it, but at a certain point, my brain said, "Delay it. Delay it and tell them when it's done, make an announcement," and I did.

After months of work, the video was finished. Only one problem: our internet is slow. I had to restart uploading a few times until it finally uploaded at a reasonable pace. I apologize for saying it would come out this past Friday when it ended up coming out the day after. 

Had I realized upload speeds would be so slow, I would have had it uploading late Thursday afternoon, that way it'd be almost finished the following Friday morning.

Final Thoughts

Making a video on the history of a video game franchise is no easy task. It requires a lot of planning, writing, revising, and more. This project was a huge test of skill and though it had its challenges, I pulled through and got it done. I had my doubts and concerns, but I'm relieved it's doing well.

However, I'm not going to rest my laurels on this video.

I'm going to keep making videos and pushing myself as a content creator. I have a few ideas in mind for what next year's documentary will be, and I'm taking the lessons I learned from this project and applying it not just to next year's project, but the rest of the videos I make this year and beyond.

Again, thanks for your support. Seeing you guy's enthusiasm on here, the DAH Discord servers, and other places like Twitter and Facebook are what kept me going and ensuring I saw this to the end.


William Lowery