House of the Dead 2, The Download (1998 Arcade action Game)

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Based on past industry history, the port of arcade gun shooters to the PC is often an "iffy" process, resulting in the loss of gameplay and flavor in the transition. There's no denying that gun shooters in the arcade and even home consoles can be fun, if played with the gun, but transferring control to the mouse for aiming often makes for second rate first-person shooters with restricted movement.

Within the context of its arcade origins, The House of the Dead 2 is a decent shooter, offering many types of enemy designs, ranging from slow lumbering zombies to speedy zigzagging creatures intent on ripping your head off. The boss designs are varied, with more than the standard "big guy" throwing lots of things. Although the beginning and end of each stage is always the same, the paths change depending on your success in saving certain civilians.

Unfortunately, the same gameplay that makes The House of the Dead 2 fun in the arcade falls flat on the PC. Normally, first-person shooters on the PC are designed to aim with the mouse, while simultaneously moving the character using the keyboard, allowing for the ability to shoot on the run. In this ported version, the mouse is used to aim, but all movement is done by the game -- most FPS fans will bemoan the loss of control that ignores the PC's capability. Nothing else in the game replaces the loss of control, so gameplay becomes tedious.

Localization is tolerated to a higher degree by console gamers, but is a real problem that will annoy most PC gamers. The House of the Dead 2 obviously has Japanese origins, and the English phrases used in the game, while technically correct in terms of syntax, often sound strange to native English speakers. The game's absolutely horrible voice acting, easily some of the worst in the genre, compounds the problem, as every line of dialogue is somehow mangled, whether by deadpan voice acting, incorrect inflections that give phrases different meanings than intended, or overemphasis of every single syllable.

The House of the Dead 2's gameplay is fundamentally enjoyable, especially for PC gamers without much experience in fast and furious point-and-click first-person shooters. Conversely, veteran first-person shooter fans will regard the game as not much more than a poor man's FPS without the ability to move your own character.

Graphics: The individual graphical elements look dated, with blocky zombie and monster 3D models, but graphical elements combine to create a fairly compelling atmosphere.

Sound: Awful voice acting ruins the effect and offsets the decent music.

Enjoyment: Gameplay consists of fairly enjoyable fast-paced action with plenty of different monsters. Experienced FPS gamers will be disappointed in the restrictions placed on movement.

Replay Value: The alternate paths in each level offer decent replay.

The House of the Dead 2 is a near-flawless PC conversion of the hit arcade game of the same name. The game is a 'rail shooter' like the first game, i.e. you are 'led' by the game down a path similar to Rebel Assault, shooting at zombies and other monstrosities that get in your way. Although the English version that is being distributed by Empire Interactive unfortunately doesn't ship with the PC gun like its Japan counterpart, HOTD2 still manages to be a fun and addictive FPS that everyone should enjoy.

Similar to its predecessor, HOTD2 is not a 'shoot everything in sight' game. You have to be careful not to hit any innocent civilian, and rescuing them from the clutches of the monsters often rewards you with power-ups or, better yet, new paths to follow. This makes the game somewhat replayable as you can do something different (e.g. saving someone's life as opposed to watching him die in the last game) to open up new branches. As well as the original arcade modes, there is plenty of extra effects. There are 5 game modes including Arcade and Boss, 12 different kinds of zombies including the chainsaw wielding Max and the disgusting Ebitan. End-level bosses are appropriately difficult to kill, although some of them are far too easy to dispose of once you find their weak spots. With an excellent co-operative multi-play option (across LAN) and 6 chapters of mayhem, HOTD2 is a much more attractive, varied, and longer game than the original. Be warned, though: near-superhuman reflexes and tenacity are prerequisites to finishing one of the best rail shooters ever made. There are even plot twists to keep things interesting, as well as multiple endings.


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