History can weigh heavy on plenty of things, and that is no exception when it comes to gaming franchises. For The House of the Dead series, it all began about 20-odd years ago in the arcades as an on-rails shooter that featured zombies, monstrosities, and fun lightgun action. Since then, however, there have been subpar efforts at transitioning it into entertainment at home, and with The House of the Dead: Remake for the Nintendo Switch, there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.
As much fun as it is blasting zombies in the head and racking up a new high score, the game developed by MegaPixel Studio tends to get in the way of itself too much, and that can be frustrating for players straight from the off. Controls are not exactly tight, performance can be hit or miss, and the repetitive nature of the gameplay will not hold your attention for long.
Players will take on the role of either Agent Rogan or G and attempt to stop the mad scientist Dr. Curien from ending mankind with the hordes of undead. The solution is a bucketload of bullets into these monsters, and that is pretty much what one can expect from The House of the Dead: Remake. There are three different endings to hunt down, and it all comes down to how well a player does, so there is still some incentive there.
At least the shooting remains as entertaining as one would recall from the arcades. With the element of movement removed from the equation, players can focus solely on taking down the zombies. There are tons of monsters to kill, and there are even alternate paths that can be taken depending on the situation. It helps add to the replayability of an otherwise short game, and keeps things fresh just for a little bit.
If enjoying the game alone is not enough, having a partner in tow makes things even more enjoyable. Limited to local co-op, The House of the Dead: Remake features both competitive and cooperative co-op for a pair of would-be zombie killers. The former is all about getting the highest scores with your own pool of continues, while the latter sees a shared pool of continues while trying to garner a great score together.
There is also a new game mode that players will be able to sink their teeth into, even if it is only a slight variation on the Story mode. Horde mode delivers almost the same experience, albeit with up to 15 times more zombies onscreen. Not only do players have to deal with more undead, but they also take more hits to go down. Add the escalating difficulty modes into the mix, and series veterans will have their hands full to prove their mettle.
Should you start running out of continues, the points earned can also be used to buy more lives. Precise shooting and a sharp eye will serve players well, and you can always go back to classic scoring for a more traditional experience. Sadly, for those looking for a boss rush mode, that is something missing from the remake.
The biggest challenge lies in the controls of The House of the Dead: Remake. There are several options to choose from – use a Pro Controller like a first-person shooter, use dual Joy-cons for gyro-aiming, or a singular Joy-Con in co-op (which is an extremely odd limitation) – but there are little niggles to get used to.
Firing and reloading are the most used functions, tied to the A/ZR and B/ZL controls, and when you have unlocked additional weapons through saving all of the scientists, players can use the d-pad to switch between weapons. As for the aiming, it can be done by using the thumbsticks, gyro controls, or a combination of both.
The latter two options will require tweaks to be made for personal preference when it comes to sensitivity and speed, and that is probably too troublesome for a title that is meant to be plug and play. When you are looking to shoot zombies and get high scores, the last thing you would want to do is spend too much time in the menus. If gyro-aiming is the preferred way to play, using a Pro Controller or even handheld mode will yield better results.
As a modern remake, one would have expected something beyond the rudimentary updating of visual fidelity and the like, but unfortunately, there is no additional meat on the bones beyond the original story. Fleshing out more of the universe would have been a nice touch, and with the sequel on the horizon, this would have been an excellent way to lead into it and lengthen the remake beyond its 30-40 minute runtime.
The House of the Dead: Remake also suffers from performance issues, particularly when things get too hectic. There are instances of freezing even in Performance Mode, and loading can take a while in between levels. While I was not expecting instant loading, for a game that looks like this, the time needed for everything to load is just unbelievable, even on the Nintendo Switch.
At the end of the day, The House of the Dead: Remake is a modern version of the arcade classic that is serviceable enough for fans looking to play at home. It brings added replayability with its difficulty, the scoring systems, and the new Horde mode, but is held back by poor performance, frustrating controls, and a lack of new content. Unless you are a big fan, The House of the Dead: Remake is not the best way to experience this classic for the first time, and it would have probably been better off dead than revived in this form.
Reviewer: Jake Su | Copy provided by Publisher.
Reliving classic horror.
Shooting zombies is still fun, especially in co-op.
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