Despite a promising launch, the Playstation Move craze has well and truly come to a screeching halt. While Sony have their long awaited Move exclusive Sorcery lined up (we saw this back at E3 in 2010), it would be safe to say that few have picked up their Move wands over the past few months.
Looking to fill the void and keep the wheels rolling, SEGA have stepped in with their back catalogue of cherished arcade ‘light-gun’ shooters; a genre that suits the Move’s motion tracking technology beautifully. The House of the Dead 4 is the latest in their PSN roll-out and a quick follow-up to last month’s release of the third game.
For those who remember it at the arcades, The House of the Dead series is an on-rails survival horror shooter where players must blast their way through wave after wave of zombies that want to play with your innards. The game relies on limited ammo, extremely limited peripheral vision, and heart-attack inducing extreme close-ups.
The House of the Dead 4 is set in 2003, three years after the events of the second game, and it revolves around the drama facing AMS agent James Taylor, who marks a return to the franchise. He is joined by newbie agent Kate Green, who appears to suffer from a serious case of ‘Sarah Jessica Parker Syndrome’, or SJPS. She has a rocking body, but a face that looks like it’s been crafted by smashing two rocks against one another.
Naturally, our cast of two are surrounded by hordes of the walking dead who want nothing more than to feast on their wobbly bits. Cue a whole bucket-load of shooting and a serious index finger work-out as you attempt to escape a facility with all of your organs intact. The premise for the light-gun genre is always a bit weak, but thankfully The House of the Dead 4 offers new additions to the tried and true formula that helps expand the gameplay.
For starters it features plenty of variation to keep gamers hooked. While you will be shooting non-stop from start to finish, the range of enemies will keep you on your toes with every corner turned. For example you might be just getting used to slow staggering zombies when you are presented with lightning-fast acrobatic crawlers emerging from the ceiling. Later on you’ll need to deal with long-range toad-like fiends that spit bile at you; or better still a dual-knife wielding zombie who will block and dodge shots. If you try and aim for his head (a known natural zombie weak-spot) he’ll simply deflect it with his knife, requiring you to aim at different limbs in order to take him down. Even subtle changes to clothing and skin colour make The House of the Dead 4 less repetitive and more memorable.
Also aiding in this department is a variation to the standard, completely linear track that The House of the Dead helped introduce to the genre. Occasionally you’ll be offered an alternate path which leads to different challenges and varying degrees of difficulty later down the track. The gameplay is modified slightly with the introduction of special objectives too, with players having to complete several cycles before they achieve their goal and move on. For example you might need to destroy a particularly nasty creature in a room, or simply earn a set number of points before being able to leave. Finally the addition of grenades to quickly clear a room of zombies is a much welcomed new feature..
Chances are you’ll only be getting this game if you own a Move controller, as this game seems completely pointless without one. That said though, The House of the Dead 4 does let players attempt it with your standard PS3 controller. For those brave enough to try it, you’ll find yourself desperately fiddling with the analogue stick in a futile attempt to keep up with the action.
The Move wands, however, work exceptionally well. The Eye camera does an excellent job of tracking your glowing orb, and aiming with the on-screen receptacle is almost like the arcade experience. It’s particularly ideal for those fortunate enough to own the slightly overpriced Sony PlayStation Sharp Shooter gun peripheral.
In fact the Sharp Shooter gun accessory makes The House of the Dead 4 a far better gaming experience in general. One of the main issues with playing with only the Move wand is reloading your gun (which you will do constantly), which requires you to shake the controller. Naturally this not only takes a couple of precious seconds, it also completely removes your crosshair from the screen meaning your next shot needs to be repositioned. Reloading with the Sharp Shooter however is performed by simply pulling the reload barrel back, giving players a huge advantage. Meanwhile the Move button located under the trigger allows you to throw a grenade, which is also made easier by the Sharp Shooter’s two handed design.
The graphics in The House of the Dead 4 aren’t going to win any awards, with obvious polygon deficiencies and crude textures throughout. However this only amplifies the game in a twofold manner. For starters, it’s a nice homage to the original 2005 arcade shooter; but more importantly it gives the game an intensely creepy vibe. Everything feels raw and gritty and some of the rough, unpolished visuals are guaranteed to make your hair stand on end. The sound effects and atmospheric music also work well and with the lights off and the volume set high, this game is sure to raise the pulse.
The House of the Dead 4 is now out on the PSN Store and will set you back $15.50. This might seem a bit steep for a game that clocks in at around 45 minutes - but remember this is a port of a much beloved arcade game. We challenge anyone to stand in a boiling hot arcade parlour wiggling their index finger for more than half an hour without feeling stupefied. This game feels just right in duration and should be worthwhile for horror fans looking to get more use out of their dusty Move controllers this Winter.