All the zombies in the house yell "brains!"
Now throw your hands in the air!...Yuck.
The first bit of wisdom I've always had for people confronted by a house full of evil is, "Don't go in the house." Seems pretty logical. A house full of hungry undead is bound to be extremely dangerous at best. If it were me, I'd get right back in my car, drive to the airport, fly to the Bahamas, and then call the Army from my hammock on the beach while I sipped on a frosty rum drink. However, while ideal for me, this would not make a very exciting video game (Unless your plane was hijacked by zombies... - Ed.).
Fortunately, our intrepid heroes in movies, TV shows, and video games are always more brave (or foolish) than I am, and never fail to give us plenty of zombie blasting, brain-splattering action. And that's where House of the Dead 2 from Sega comes in. The king of coin-op zombie games has come to the Dreamcast as the first gun game for the system. Zombies.. Guns.. I couldn't be more excited.
The first thing that should be mentioned is that this is definitely a gun game. Sega, on the other hand, will not be releasing a gun peripheral in the US, and House of the Dead 2 will not come packaged with a gun. This is most likely due to the lawsuit against Sega's japanese gun (Sega insists this is definitely not the reason... yeah, right). Anyway, this means you need to go and buy a gun from a third party manufacturer. It's worth it because the game is, unsurprisingly, not much fun to play with the controller. I have been playing it with the Interact StarFire LightBlaster, a weapon adequate to the task.
"What is that task?" you ask at this convenient juncture. Well, it has been a couple of years since you killed Dr. Curien and his undead monsters. However, nobody bothered to find out who was funding Curien's evil research. Turns out, it's the even-more-evil Goldman, and now he has a zombie army of his own which is attacking an unnamed, vaguely Italian, European city. Your job, as a special agent, is to kill zombies, save people, and get to the bottom of this plague of living dead.
With gun in hand, you'll interact with the real stars of House of the Dead 2, the zombies. What? You thought it was the special agents? Or maybe Goldman? No way. Those losers could take voice acting lessons from Stephen Hawking. Fortunately, there's a button to skip through the badly translated 'dialogue.'
The zombies, on the other hand, look and sound great! They stumble menacingly; they punch and kick, rend and slash, bite and stab. They'll have your brains and eat them too. There are over a dozen different zombie types and most of them look fantastic (in a decomposing sort of way). Not only are their body movements good, but their eyes and mouths move independently as well. There's even a fat zombie whose bloated belly jiggles revoltingly. Oscar material.
However, the most beautifully disgusting part of the game is the damage system. You can wound a zombie almost anywhere, complete with flying blood, chunks of flesh, and even the loss of major limbs. I blew a hole in a zombie's chest so big, I could actually see out the other side, and he was still coming at me. Now that's dedication.
The Dreamcast programmers were slightly less dedicated, because there isn't much new to the DC version that wasn't in the arcade. There are really only a few modes of play. Arcade mode is just exactly like the coin-op. Original mode is exactly like arcade mode except that you can also get bonuses and powerups, like larger ammo clips, that you can use your next time through the house.
Technically, there's actually no house in House of the Dead 2. You can blast your way through quaint European streets, a couple different civilian homes, canals, a coliseum and a big, glass skyscraper. There are a ton of alternate paths to discover depending on who or what you shoot and which civilians you manage to save.
Finally, there's a poorly named 'training mode.' It doesn't really have anything to do with training. It's more a short series of different gun challenges reminiscent of Point Blank, and it's at least as hard as the regular game.
But what review would be complete without a few complaints? While the zombie graphics look great, the special effects aren't very special. Splashing water, disintegrating zombie bodies, and other background graphics are very primitive. Like most gun games, there's also not much depth. With only one playable character and one mission, House of the Dead 2 is great, frantic entertainment without being particularly engrossing.
Still, what the house lacks in depth, it makes up for in sheer bloody mayhem. Gun games have a carnal, visceral satisfaction that other games lack, and House of the Dead 2 appeals perfectly to the action hero in all of us. Point your gun at the living dead, pull the trigger frantically, and watch the body parts fly. Now if only they'd make a game where you can be the zombie...