The House Of The Dead Remake Review: Imprecise Zombie Extermination

The House Of The Dead Remake is a good attempt to revive the classic shooter and it can be fun to relive the original 1996 adventure. Unfortunately, unwieldy controls and precision issues prevent the remake from being the zombie-busting experience that it could be.

The House Of The Dead Remake Review: Imprecise Zombie Extermination

The House Of The Dead Remake is a remake of the 1996 rail-shooter that came out in arcades. Megapixel Studios has updated the graphics and added some new features that give the game more replay value and breathe life back into the classic.

While the remake is fun to play for those looking to relive the moments spent in arcades trying to beat the game, the attempts to replicate that experience on the Switch run into some problems that prevent the game from being an unforgettable experience.

The House Of The Dead Remake is currently a Switch exclusive available at 24.99 USD, though there are plans for releases on other consoles in the future.

The House of the Dead: Remake Review


Story – Stopping A Mad Scientist Again

The story of The House Of The Dead Remake has not changed at all from the 1996 original. Two AMS agents, Thomas Rogan and Agent G, are assigned to investigate the Curien Mansion and stop Dr. Curien. Curien has created zombies which have started to attack his researchers, which is where the agents arrive.

Dr. Curien, the main antagonist, who you need to stop.

Dr. Curien, the main antagonist, who you need to stop.

Throughout their journey, the duo will attempt to save Rogan’s fiancee Sophie, who is one of the researchers and battle against the varied creations that infest the mansion and laboratory. The score you achieve throughout the game will determine one of 3 endings that you get.

The story doesn’t get much detail in the game and you will have to learn more about it from external sources if you are interested (like an old game manual). You can view background information about the various creatures you encounter in the Gallery which does shed some more light on the story, but it doesn’t elaborate on a lot of key story details.

Fortunately, the House Of The Dead series has not been heavy on the story and that has never been one of the game’s big draws. While the remake could have taken the opportunity to expand upon the story, add in more endings or even create additional paths, staying true to the source material keeps the game short and simple.

Gameplay – Zombie Shooting With Imprecise Controls

The strength of the House Of The Dead series has been the gameplay, and the remake remains true to the original while adding in a few extras.

The House Of The Dead Remake is a light gun rail shooter, where you will have to shoot zombies, bats, modified creatures and other horrors. You have 3 lives and will lose half a life if you get hurt (1 life if you get badly hurt). You will need to use your reflexes and aiming skills to take down your enemies before they hurt you.

Aim quickly or small enemies will take away your health.

Aim quickly or small enemies will take away your health.

There is no gun peripheral for this game; you use either your Joy-Cons or a Pro Controller to aim and shoot. You can enable the Gyroscope function which allows you to move a Joy-Con/Pro Controller around as a light gun or you can use the Left Stick to move the aiming cursor.

You are immediately thrown into the deep end without a chance to practice, without a tutorial to tell you which button lets you fire or even how you aim. The game also tries to give you various tips, and while some advice is actually relevant, other tips sound outright silly.

Maybe the game thought that players would try to punch the zombies to win.

Maybe the game thought that players would try to punch the zombies to win.

The House Of The Dead Remake has a learning curve as you get used to enemy locations, attack patterns and survivor locations. But with enough practice, you can start to overcome enemies that you previously struggled against.

Enemies – Varied & Deadly

Defeating enemies will take some quick reflexes and proper aiming. Some enemies like bats or parasitic worms need to be shot down before they can bite you. Others like zombies can be defeated by aiming at body parts (in a manner somewhat similar to Dead Space) or certain vulnerable weak points.

It’s worth noting that headshots, the classic way to defeat zombies, are not always effective. Sometimes the better option is to prevent an enemy from using weapons to hurt you (ie. throwing axes or barrels) or to shoot their body to stop them.

Even shooting their heads may not stop them.

Even shooting their heads may not stop them.

At the end of a chapter, you will fight a designated boss enemy. Fighting bosses will always be a challenge, but there is always a weak point (indicated by a diagram before said fight). Targeting that weak point is the key to your success; you will struggle to win otherwise.

If you lose all of your lives, you will get 10 free retries (as if you paid an arcade machine in advance). If you lose all 10 retries, you can pay 5000 points for an additional retry, lowering your score but keeping you in the game. It’s a great way to not only help newer players get used to the game, but for veterans who were used to gun peripherals adapt to using Joy-Cons/Pro Controllers to aim.

Unfortunately, aiming properly can be a struggle in the remake.

Aiming – A Struggle To Get Right

The Gyroscope controls are not enabled by default, but provide the most fun as you can use your Joy-Cons as if they were gun peripherals/a light gun.

Unfortunately, there is no testing available and you often have to take a chance by adjusting the settings to get it just right. This often means having to fiddle with your settings in the middle of combat, ruining a good run or several just to get the aiming right.

The Gyroscope controls are available for Pro Controllers and handheld play as well, but you don’t get the same excitement as holding the Joy-Cons as a gun. You will have to configure those settings as well, getting the right sensitivity to shoot zombies.

The game can sometimes shift your aim and make you miss at bad times.

The game can sometimes shift your aim and make you miss at bad times.

Even with the right settings, you can still run into shooting errors where the game doesn’t seem to recognize that you have hit a weak point or are hitting a zombie. As you are still moving your Gyroscope to the Switch’s screen (not your monitor), your aim can be inconsistent at the worst times.

If you can get an optimal sensitivity for your controller, the game becomes significantly more enjoyable, though it will take some patience that comes after several runs of testing.

Replay Value – Tries Your Patience With Decent Rewards

Completing The House Of The Dead Remake will not take players more than 2 hours, even less if you have experience. Fortunately, the remake has new ways to keep the game fresh.

You have 4 difficulties, Easy, Normal, Hard and Arcade to challenge yourself and earn more points. You also have Classic and Modern scoring which give you different amounts of points. Modern scoring is more generous with points, which will help newer players who struggle and run out of retries. You can also play with a second player, either in a co-op scenario or a contest for the high score. Playing with another person makes the game more entertaining, though you will need a single Joy-Con for both players.

You can adjust difficulty, scoring and game mode to challenge yourself.

You can adjust difficulty, scoring and game mode to challenge yourself.

Saving all researchers/survivors in a single run will unlock the Armory, which scatters new weapons throughout future playthroughs. Finding a weapon gives you permanent access to it, such as a crossbow and an assault rifle. You can switch up weapons and try new tactics against enemies to succeed where a regular handgun would have failed.

You also have Horde mode which introduces significantly more enemies during a single playthrough, and has its own rewards and difficulties.

While Megapixel Studios worked hard at bringing the classic experience and varying it up, you can’t help but feel that there were some missed opportunities to help replayability. Sticking to the original formula is great, but creating new paths, new endings and possibly new modes are possible areas of expansion that could prolong the game’s replay value.

While the rail shooter playstyle will eventually start to feel boring, the new additions allow you to work towards more goals than simply trying to beat the game repeatedly.

Audio & Visuals – Fresh Designs & Atmospheric Music

The enemies you encounter have never looked better, and the updated designs look reasonably scary. It is easy to tell when an enemy is going to attack or when a projectile is headed your way. Looking at each enemy model in the Gallery gives you a great way to appreciate the designs and compare the work that went into pointing out the weak points of all enemies.

The new design looks fantastic and is fleshed out more.

The new design looks fantastic and is fleshed out more.

The music fits in with the locations that you visit, and the overall dark tone that you would expect when fighting against the undead. The boss music also sounds intense, fitting in with the theme of a powerful enemy that you need to take seriously.

Unfortunately, voice acting is a let down. While it hasn’t been the game’s strongest point (there isn’t much dialogue), the voices feel monotone and don’t often reflect the situation that a character finds themselves in. It can be jarring to hear a voice that sometimes sounds silly or corny in contrast with the dark environment and creepy music.

The House Of The Dead Remake is a lot of fun, especially if you can get a two player co-op/competition going. Even if you can only play the single player mode, you get to experience the classic arcade shooter with achievements, new weapons, various difficulties and a new mode to keep things fresh. Unfortunately, the controls leave a lot to be desired, while getting all the unlockables and achievements in the game will test the patience of even the most hardcore fans. It has its moments, but the flaws stand out just as much as the strengths.
  • Succeeds in delivering the classic arcade experience
  • Add-ons make the game more entertaining & challenging
  • New designs & music fit the game well
  • Aiming can be a nightmare unless you can configure it properly
  • Unlockable rewards & achievements will require a lot of patience
  • Poor in-game advice can feel like an insult

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