As you may know, I’m a huge fan of light gun games. I have fond memories of feeding quarters into arcade cabinets like Operation Wolf and Beast Busters back in, well, let’s just say the last century. The House of the Dead franchise has always been one of my gory favorites, so I was happy to see 2002’s The House of the Dead 3 receiving the HD treatment on the PSN.
HotD 3 takes place in the distant post-apocalyptic future, (my second favorite kind of future) the year 2019. The world has been ravaged by some sort of parasite, or virus or... something - I don’t know. The point is: Zombies! Shoot’em! Players take the rolls of Lisa Rogan, the daughter of the first HotD’s main protagonist, Tom Rogan, as well as the intrepid former Special Agent G. Why is G a “former” special agent? Shut your mouth and shoot some zombies, that’s why. Our pair of heroes find themselves at the source of the global catastrophe, the EFI Research Facility. The towering skyscraper is crawling with the ghoulish undead, horrific monsters, and golden frogs.
Lisa Rogan and G are on the ca- Oh my god! What's wrong with their hands? I hope those are gloves.
If you’ve played the recent HotD: Overkill - Extended Cut, you know the drill. Use your Move controller (or Dual Shock, if you hate yourself) to position your sight reticule over a baddy’s head. Pull the trigger. Ride the invisible rails to the next area. Repeat. That’s the game. Two players can play through the whole thing cooperatively while competing with each other for high scores and bragging rights. Don’t worry, Sharp Shooter owners, I didn’t forget about you; yes, the peripheral is supported.
Unlike HotD:OEC, this game features none of the insane writing, weapon upgrades, swearing, incest, matricide, zombie strippers, and otherwise awesome/icky stuff from that title. HotD 3's story is completely unnecessary, and the developers seem to pride themselves in that fact. The voice acting is delightfully bad. HotD 3 is from a simpler time, when blowing softball-sized holes through chunks of rotting flesh was enough entertainment in and of itself. The graphics are dated and cartoony, but that didn’t hurt my experience with the title. Unsurprisingly, the game looks better than the House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return bundle that was released on the Wii four years ago.
This is what an uncropped screenshot looks like. No 16:9 aspect ratio for you!
The House of the Dead 3’s greatest flaw is its brief length. There are only five chapters, eight, if you count the three chapters which can be played in reverse. Light gun games are inherently short. That being said, most players will be able to knock out the entire campaign in about 40 minutes. That’s counting controller calibration, bathroom breaks, diaper changes, and feeding the dog. The actual gameplay for our initial run-through was 28 minutes. Yikes.
If you like playing for high scores there is some replay value, as local and online leaderboards will track your best efforts. Both players are scored at the end of each round and given an “S”-”C” letter grade. There are probably scores lower than “C,” but we never messed up badly enough to find out. Okay, you caught me. The scores go as low as "E," which I assume stands for "Eh, you suck." If you get an “A” rank you’ll be rewarded with extra health. If you receive an “S” rank you’ll get double-extra health. There are also hidden targets, such as coins, frogs, and wind-up robots, scattered throughout the levels. Each offers precious bonus points. You’ll need to play through the game several times to maximize your score.
Honestly, now - do these gaping chest wounds make us look fat?
If you find the game too challenging (or too easy) you can adjust health, credits, and difficulty in the Free Play options. Your scores won't post to the online leaderboards, but you'll still be able to blast through the game at your own pace. If you set the game to "Very Easy," your shotgun becomes fully automatic and auto-reloads.
The Co-Optimus review of House of the Dead 3 is based on the PSN version of the game which was provided by the publisher.