The House of the Dead is a relic of its era – an arcade classic from SEGA credited, along with Resident Evil, for the popularisation of zombies in mainstream entertainment.
As an on-rails, first-person shooter designed to be played in an arcade with a plastic gun, Forever Entertainment’s The House of the Dead: Remake has no place on a modern console with little more than a pair of analogue sticks and a wildly inaccurate gyroscope to play with.
Unfortunately, I found The House of the Dead: Remake virtually unplayable on PlayStation 4, with the Dualshock 4 controller’s motion controls proving far too unwieldy to provide any entertainment, and even caused some pain in my wrists; meanwhile aiming with the analogue sticks is about as responsive and enjoyable as riding a bike with no tyres.
You play as one of two characters, whose default weapon is a pistol with just five rounds in the barrel. Naturally, you’ll want to empty this into rotting flesh as quickly and as often as possible, which means that a great majority of the game’s hour-long campaign is spent mashing the R2 trigger to shoot, and also remembering to intermittently pull L2 to reload before your clip is empty.
The physical motion of frantically pulling both triggers disturbs the gyroscope to the extent that it becomes ridiculously hard to aim your crosshair with any precision. Instead, hitting a boss’s weak spot, or scoring a time-sensitive headshot to save one of Curien Mansion’s scientists, becomes an act of luck rather than skill.
The House of the Dead consists of just four stages, although the fourth is technically a rehash of the first three stages’ boss fights, plus a particularly cumbersome final boss. Any supposed longevity comes in the form of finding alternative routes, saving the aforementioned scientists from their demise with quicktime event-style set pieces, and in true ’90s fashion, rooting for that all important high score.
As fresh as it looks in high-definition, with lovely new visuals offering a vast upgrade over the 1996 original, it’s all polish and no substance. The House of the Dead: Overkill and 2 & 3 Return handled better on the Wii over a decade ago, thanks to its sensor bar which allowed for 1-1 precision aiming.
In fairness, The House of the Dead: Remake does the best it can with what the PlayStation 4 hardware has to offer – the game is just so poorly suited to the conventional controller that it’s almost impossible to judge the game at face value.
The House of the Dead: Remake (PlayStation 4) verdict
For those with a certain level of nostalgia for this dying breed of video game, or perhaps with fond memories of playing this particular title in arcades back in the day, then Forever Entertainment must be commended for not only preserving The House of the Dead on modern hardware, but also remaking the source material from the ground up.
It’s such a shame that its interface puts up more of an impenetrable barrier to entry than SEGA’s arcade unit’s coin slot.