Dave Corn is back to review a game that he loved back in the day, but given a bit of modern-day polish. From publisher Forever Entertainment S.A. and developer MegaPixel Studio S.A. comes The House of the Dead: Remake. But how does a game from 1996 fare in 2022? It is a dream come true for Dave, or an absolute nightmare?
“THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD: Remake is a remade version of the game introduced in 1997 in arcade platform. A classic arcade rail-shooter receives a whole new entourage and gameplay changes to suit modern gaming standards.”
As soon as I saw that this had been announced, I was excited. The kid in me lit up, they were remaking the original The House of the Dead. Instantly, I imagined that blue Sega Saturn Light gun in my hand and me blasting through zombies and flying monsters and infected slugs as leeches jumped at me… and that’s just the first level too.
The House Of The Dead (HOTD) Was unleashed into the arcades by Sega in 1996, it was then later ported to the Sega Saturn (my favourite console of all time, by the way) in 1998. Being able to play those arcade-perfect ports of all of those iconic on-rails-shooter light gun games, thanks to Sega’s Saturn console, with titles such as HOTD and Virtua Cop 1 & 2. Or on Sony’s PlayStation brand and the brilliant Time Crisis or Point Blank franchises. The technology used for those light guns titles in the arcades, as well as at home, with the use of old CRT TV (before flat screens for you young kids) didn’t really vary massively… but they were still great fun to play.
When flat screens came into the homes the old console light guns no longer worked. So you were reduced to having to play the game with a controller which, for me and my friends at least, took all the fun out of it. As time went on, solutions were found. Nintendo’s Wii console used its sensor bar/motion control, as an example. This breathed new life into the light gun game genre. Using the Wiimote as a light gun worked well. HOTD 2 & 3 were released on the Wii and they were great. In fact, they were leaps and bounds better than this remake.
Now for this The House of the Dead: Remake. First released on the Switch on the 7th of April and then the Xbox and PlayStation versions came just a few weeks later. See, I get that, using motion controllers as light guns. It works. The PS has a camera and a huge VR gun. However, I’m not writing my review on either of the Switch or PS versions, I’m playing it on Xbox One…. with no motion control options.
Is it just me that, when I see the Forever Entertainment developer logo pop up on a game, I feel like a kid who has just put his hand into a massive pick and mix? There’s about a 50/50 chance you’ll grab something that is really good, but there’s also a good chance you’ll get something not as good. They have already remastered one of my other favourite childhood games Panzer Dragoon a couple of years back, which was a good game. But their own titles are very hit and miss, varying in quality and no AAA titles. This HOTD Remake has definitely gained them some more notoriety.
If you haven’t realised by now, I really do know this game inside and out. I have played it a lot over the years and this remaster is very true to the original game. It’s almost like they just repainted over the original and then increased the resolution. Enemies pop out from exactly the same places and the bosses move in identical patterns as before. I could play this game blindfolded and do well… so why am I having so much trouble with this Xbox version? The controls. HOTD Remake does try to offer a lot in the way of tweaking the controller settings. You can adjust the speed of the cursor, sensitivity of movement and even the colour and shape of your gun’s aiming reticle. Even so, I often find myself losing track of it alltogether when the action gets intense.
No matter how much I tried to enjoy this game on Xbox, I just couldn’t. The game has had some new modes including a horde mode, which has 15 times more enemies on screen. But when you can’t play it with the regular amount of bad guys on screen, adding 15 times more does seem a bit silly. As far as I could see, it was still the same game I loved as a child, if I had a light gun in my hand I could complete this game on my first attempt, no problem but with the Xbox controller? No chance. HOTD (any version) should not be played with a controller.
Overall, this remake does feel very rushed. The in-game graphics look fine and it is possible that they have literally just painted, scene for scene, over the original game but the cut scenes could have been redone and updated a tad. When you say ‘remake’ nowadays, you are dipping your toes into some vast waters. Capcom’s remakes of some of their Resident Evil games, from the same generation as HOTD, have been completely rebuilt from the ground up and received high critical and more importantly, fan acclaim too. This remake feels more like a quick cash-grab on the part of the developers and publishers, with very little love shown for the original. Complete with a lack of effort to bring a new breath of life into a long rotting franchise.
Thanks to Dave Corn for the review. Just a quick little addition from me though. Looking at reviews of this on Switch, they all bring up a poor control scheme. PCMag UK says: “Lacks a control scheme that’s as accurate as a light gun”. ScreenRant says: “The joystick method isn’t particularly satisfying, as it’s akin to dragging a mouse cursor around the screen to shoot at enemies. The gyroscope control scheme is even worse”. IGN say: “…frustrating controls, poor gyro aiming…”. Nintendo Life said: “Controls can be annoyingly inaccurate”.
I’ve not found a review, on any platform, that hasn’t had something negative to say about the controls. So I don’t think this is something exclusive to the Xbox version as even Switch reviews bring up the poor control system. How you mess up the controls on a light gun game, I have no idea. It is literally just point and shoot.
The whole game seems to have been a bit of a sloppy effort, as far as I can tell. I mean, go back and re-read the quote that I copied & pasted from the devs themselves about the the game. The poor grammar is a dead giveaway.
Even worse, the same team are ‘remaking’ the The House of the Dead 2…coming soon.
Anyway, I just wanted to add this bit at the end.