The House of the Dead: Remake is a remastered version of the classic released back in 1997 for arcades & the SEGA Saturn. With the on-rails shooter genre on the wane these days, can this piece of arcade history resurrect some of that nostalgia & love for the genre? Lets have a look.
Dr. Curien has gradually gone insane due to his research into the cycle of life and death, and decides to unleash his biologically engineered creatures on the fellow scientific staff working at the Curien Mansion. Two days later, after getting a distress call from Sophie Richards, AMS agent Tomas Rogan decides to go to the creature-infested mansion and put a stop to Dr. Curiens insanity.
That’s about it for story, which is delivered in small cutscenes, as you would expect of an arcade classic there is no sweeping narrative or philosophical chin stroking to be had. The remake does expand some of the cutscenes to make them a little longer, but it really just adds some extra segments without adding to the story – compared to Saturn release at least. Once done with a play-through you can do it all again with the new horde mode or bring a friend along for some coop (Steam remote play supported too) so you can find yourself blasting your way through the game several times to get your monies worth, there’s even multiple endings and leaderboards for the more competitive.
To get a sense of the upgrade work for the visuals I plugged in the ol’ Saturn for a refresher. This remake is quite the upgrade over that version of the game. There’s a surprising amount of similarities though, the layout of stages and landmarks within it are a decent match, only now everything is much more detailed. You can still pick out characters and foes easily, so even with the additional detail layered on top of the original designs, nothing really looks out of place. The remake also makes use of volumetrics and fog occasionally to add atmosphere, something sorely missing from the Saturn port of the original.
Sound follows a similar route to the visuals, it’s crisper yet still carries that cheesiness you remember from the original. It’s not quite the same, probably for licensing issues, but the new tracks have a similar feel and the voice-acting is still bad in a fun way, so anyone coming from the old versions should feel right at home. Performance seems good, my PC (R5 1600/16GB/RTX 2080ti) had no issues and still had headroom when running at 4K/60, so there should be plenty to tweak and gain frames with depending on your system. It’s a shame there’s no retro graphics mode though to play around with for old times sake.
Unsurprisingly this plays just like House of The Dead you remember, a light gun shooter without the light-gun here though. There is controller support, but the mouse is better once settings are nailed in (default feels sluggish) and if you have a controller that sports a gyro then it can be even better. You’ll be gradually making way through stages and dropping monsters & zombies, while saving scientists etc to gain additional health, before hitting the boss at the end. Boss fights offer some good variety as they usually require finding the weak spot to drop, with additional variety coming from multiples characters to play as, that offer different abilities, or the odd different route to take
Original mode pretty much plays out 1:1 with the Saturn version of the original I played recently for a refresher, enemy placement etc was almost a match with some added bonuses here & there. The other noticeable addition, aside from the remastered graphics, is the new Horde mode. The game still follows similar paths to the original through stages, but now there more enemies. A lot more. Where there was just a couple before, there’s now half a dozen, sometimes even more as on-screen foes can hit double digits easy. This makes for an obvious increase in difficulty over Original, but you really gotta be Johnny on the spot with headshots too or you won’t survive long – reloading at the wrong time is a quick death.
The House of The Dead Remake is a surprisingly good remaster of the arcade original that should please fans for the most part and is good for a few hours of retro blasting. The classic gameplay is intact and refreshed with some new modes, and a hefty graphical update brings the series into the modern age. Some of the new designs and changes may not always please everyone, but the new Horde mode in particular should entice returning agents eager for some punishment.
Manages to do a good enough job of upgrading a classic whilst simultaneously tugging on that 90’s nostalgia.