An arcade classic finally returns to home systems as Forever Entertainment launches House of the Dead: Remake on all major console systems and PCs – we checked out the Switch version first and then moved on to the PlayStation version on a PS5.
Anyone who’s been inside a videogame arcade in the 1990s or early 2000s will no doubt remember seeing quite a few lightgun games there. With ‘arcade games’ coming within reach of home console owners because of the arrival of PlayStation and Xbox consoles that could play games like Ridge Racer, the arcade experience shifted towards games that were much harder to replicate at home. The lightgun genre quickly boomed, with games like Virtua Cop and Time Crisis being evolutions of games like Operation Wolf a decade earlier. Chief among them was House of the Dead, Sega’s zombie shooter that is still going strong (with a new arcade game launching as recently as 2018).
Although you can play House of the Dead 3 and 4 on the PlayStation 3, with the Move controller acting as a lightgun, the original game in the series has been much harder to find for home use. There was a Saturn port as some point, and a mouse-controlled PC port, but neither was as exciting as the arcade original. This new remake, developed by MegaPixel Studio, doesn’t just bring back that game to audiences, but also significantly improves its graphics.
The gameplay/story is unchanged though – you still travel to the Curien Mansion where you fight your way through endless hordes of the undead, frantically reloading and firing your weapon as you go along and try to save those who still survive. As an arcade game, it’s incredibly short for a home release, but a one hour campaign isn’t uncommon or strange for a lightgun title, and branching paths do offer a bit of replay value.
As with the original, you can play a local co-op game and tackle the mansion together, and you have the ability to adjust the game’s difficulty level to suit your skill level. Are you an expert at these? Then you’ll want to try horde mode, which unleashes even more enemies upon you than the already challenging original campaign did.
Visually, this remake looks great – updating the aging graphics of the original to modern standards very well. With higher resolution graphics and more detail on-screen, the game even surpasses the PS3 versions of House of the Dead 3 and 4, making this the best looking title in the series for home consoles at the moment. The Nintendo Switch struggles to maintain a solid framerate during the game though, which is especially frustrating and noticeable during busier scenes and stands out more because this is (by nature) a short game. A performance mode is included, but this downgrades the visual quality of the game while (ironically) failing to completely eliminate these performance issues as well. It’s definitely more enjoyable though, so we recommend having this turned on by default for a better experience. The PlayStation version fares much better in terms of performance, so if you have a choice then you’ll want to go with the PS4 version of the game, which we tried on a PS4 Pro.
Another big change lies in the game’s control schemes, giving you two options to try and remedy the Switch and PS4’s lack of lightgun controllers. The default option (which also works on the Switch Lite) is aiming a targeting reticle with the thumbstick, but the more exciting prospect was to use Joycon/DualShock controllers to play with gyro controls to allow for an actual “aiming at the screen” experience, somewhat akin to using a lightgun.
But while this worked great on the PlayStation 3 with a Move controller, and even better when using a gun attachment, using a Joycon or DualShock’s gyro controls feels like a disappointing alternative. We can get over the sense of the Joycon feeling tiny and not at all like a gun, but when aiming feels very imprecise it ruins the immersion and thumbstick controls become the lesser of two evils.
MegaPixel Studio is planning on giving the sequel the same treatment, so here’s hoping that some third party hardware producer will come out with a good lightgun alternative before that releases. The game is rumored to get a patch that will support Move controllers on the PlayStation version though, and that is likely to be a fantastic upgrade for the improved visuals. If we happen to get our hands on it, expect this review to be updated and the score below to improve.