If you like blasting zombies apart limb-by-limb (and who doesnít?), then look no further. House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return includes both of the games in all of their mindless zombie-blasting glory and it only costs $30. It might seem like an easy purchase, but even $30 almost feels like too much to pay for these incredibly short games.
In House of the Dead 2, you move through a city thatís basically in chaos as you blast through armies of the undead. Since you move automatically and have unlimited ammo, you can concentrate on shooting the zombies. It feels gruesomely satisfying blowing away zombies by the dozen, and you can even blast away their limbs, creating a gaping hole in their chest, or even blow their head clean off (which usually kills them in one hit). The game is very fast-paced; faster than similar on-rails shooters for the Wii like Ghost Squad and Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, and the action rarely lets up for more than a few seconds.
Occasionally, youíll have to rescue a civilian from the zombies. You donít have to do it, but you should, since you can get life bonuses for saving them, and the path that you take through the level can change based on who you save (or donít save.) This is actually a good feature because it gives you a reason to play through it multiple times, since itís impossible to see everything your first time through. Also, sometimes there are barrels or crates that you can shoot that will occasionally reveal a life or score bonus.
This version comes with some additional options and game modes. Thereís the ďArcade ModeĒ, which is identical to the arcade game, Original Mode, which gives you access to some extra items (extra life, larger ammo clip, etc.) that make the game a bit easier. The Boss Mode, which letsí you select any of the gameís bosses (which range from a headless knight to a five-headed sea serpent) and try to defeat them as fast as you can. Lastly, Training Mode lets you play a variety of practice mini-games that teach you how the game works (recommended if youíre having trouble in the main game). You can also adjust the number of continues, how much life you have, and a choice between Red or Green blood (Note: The Green blood sucks).
Anyway, one thing that House of the Dead 2 is famous for is its dialogue and voice-acting being so horrendously bad that itís unintentionally hilarious. Itís hard to get through some of the cut-scenes with a straight face. Unfortunately, this does have a drawback, and thatís the story, which is virtually incomprehensible (although I guess it doesnít help that itís completely ridiculous in the first place). Heck, the ultimate villain in this game is a guy in a suit that talks like a robot. All of these things combine to make one incredibly fun (but very short) shooting game.
Both games have 2-player co-op mode and support the Wii's light-gun controllers.House of the Dead 3 plays a lot like House of the Dead 2, but with a few changes. First of all, it takes place in the future (2019) inside a research facility this time. The laboratories arenít bad, but they simply donít provide the atmosphere that the first two games did. On the plus side, the same chaotic on-rails shooting action that was in the second one is here, too, and this time youíre equipped with a shotgun (awesome!). The voiceovers and dialogue are a step up from the second one, but itís still pretty bad, and itís no longer full of unintentional humor.
Another big difference is that you donít rescue helpless civilians like you do in HotD2. Instead, your partner (thereís two main characters, even in the one-player mode) occasionally gets into trouble and youíll have to save him. Since youíre alerted about it beforehand, itís pretty easy to save him. Also, the paths branch out differently. Instead of taking different paths depending on who you save, you actually get to select which path to take at certain points. Itís a good idea, but for some reason the paths simply donít branch out as much as they do in HotD2, which means it has less replay value. The modes available for HotD3 are basically the same as HotD2, except now thereís a Time Attack mode where you must complete the levels under a time limit instead of having life and continues. House of the Dead 3 is a good shooter, but it simply isnít as fun as the second one.
One thing thatís really good about the Wii version of these two games is the control. Not only is the Wii remote far more accurate than the Xbox and Dreamcast light-gun controllers ever were, but you can even calibrate it for even more precise control. The music is also very well done. Unfortunately, the graphics arenít nearly as good. Since these ports are seven and ten year-old games, they look fairly dated. HotD 2 has decent-looking environments, but the characters look downright blocky. HotD3ís visuals have held up much better, but still nothing particularly good by Wii standards.
For some reason, the fat zombies take a lot more shots to bring down.
Another big problem I have with this game is its lack of content. Sure, you have two fun games for only $30, but both of these games can be completed within an hour. Thereís not really any bonus content either, save for some extra game modes and a few ďtutorial videosĒ (which are fairly useless). It would have been much better if Sega had made an effort to include the original House of the Dead or House of the Dead 4, but they wouldnít include the original because they deemed the graphics ďtoo datedĒ (translation: Weíre lazy and canít be bothered to add it in). Yes, the graphics in that game look pretty bad, but it still needed to be included, especially since it is referenced multiple times in both HotD2 and HotD3. Also, I feel the need to point out that HotD3 is available on Xbox with HotD2 available as a hidden extra, so this Wii version offers virtually nothing new.
In the end, House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return offers a fun dose of arcade shooting action on the Wii. Unfortunately, itís difficult to recommend due to its lack of content and replay value. If the other two HotD games had been included, this wouldíve been a no-brainer, but as it is, I can only recommend it to die-hard fans of the series or light-gun shooters in general. But if you combine this with Ghost Squad, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles and the just-released House of the Dead Overkill, thatís probably all of the light-gun shooting youíll ever need on Wii.
Graphics - 12/20
Sound - 18/20
Gameplay - 24/30
Longevity - 13/30
Overall - 67/100 = 67%