House of the Dead: Overkill launches pretty much everywhere next month, and looks set to be a mini-upheaval for Sega's venerable lightgun series.
While shooting zombies in the face still plays a major role, Brit developer Headstrong Games has introduced a '70s horror theme, time manipulation, new enemies, and a ton of extra content. We lined up Lead Designer Alastair Halsby in our shotgun reticles, and fired several rounds of questions his way. Join us after the break for a discussion on grindhouse, censorship, and the "ballistic ballet of zombie destruction." Heads up!
Overkill's visuals and presentation are unlike other House of the Dead games, and grindhouse cinema gets mentioned a lot whenever the game is discussed. What kind of films (or otherwise) inspired the game's visual style?
To be perfectly honest, it wasn't so much the pulp films themselves we were emulating -- it was their trailers. Quite a few of the more exploitative titles were pretty low budget, so they marketed themselves heavily with dramatically cut trailers and promos of their most expensive shots, so we got in loads of those and tried to emulate the same style.
"Our philosophy has been to encourage everyone, but to really reward the skilled player."
Is an effort being made to retain a SEGA or House of the Dead "feel?" Can you identify the elements that make such an impression?
Absolutely -- it's a thoroughbred SEGA and House of the Dead game, through and through. We're not trying to be anything other than the most fun we can be, for the widest audience possible. We wanted everything to be really simple to pick up, but we were also acutely aware of our hardcore fans. Our philosophy has been to encourage everyone, but to really reward the skilled player.
Have you received any advice or feedback from the developers responsible for the first four games?
At every point in development we have been supervised by SEGA, including the AM R&D department.
Is the game longer or more involved due to being designed for a home audience, or is it faithful to the arcade style?
Overkill is definitely the longest House of the Dead so far, as it has been specifically designed for a home console.
However, we have done our utmost to ensure that it feels like playing an arcade machine -- albeit an arcade machine that is out to entertain a paying customer, instead of one that is trying to lever money out of players. Our players have already paid their money, so it's also our job to make sure they have a thrilling ride. That said, our high-score tables and awards are going to be very tough for any but the hardcore to achieve.
Can you give us a rough estimation of how long the single-player game will last? What measures are you taking to extend lifespan?
Obviously it depends on the player, but the initial single-player game stretches to several hours, depending on what weapons and awards you've managed to unlock. However, it doesn't end there. Once you've finished the story (and you will want to finish the story) then our 'Hardcore' mode unlocks, and you'll be able to play "Director's Cut".
This mode is brutal -- more, tougher enemies, extra content in the levels and a much more punishing credit system. Finishing "Director's Cut" -- let alone getting all of the awards from it -- is a Herculean task for only the elite gamer.
Will there be options to disable the reticle and calibrate the targeting? If so, is there going to be less lag as compared to House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return and Ghost Squad?
Both those options are already in. You can disable the reticle and recalibrate -- both during gameplay if you desire. I'm not aware of any lag in aiming, either.
Standard zombies aside, what other things can we expect to be shooting?
Armoured zombies, weapon wielders, crawlers, weapon throwers, fatguys, nurses, rednecks, vultures, plus special enemies like Furies and Pukers. And that's not including the bosses!