There’s a certain perverse joy found in killing digital zombies. They’re people, but they’re monsters, so it’s OK to annihilate them because if you don’t, you become one. Fair enough.
It’s something that’s fuelled a lot of games of late, but nowhere perhaps more enjoyably than in the rejig of The House of the Dead: Overkill called The Typing of the Dead: Overkill, which I picked up for cheap on Steam a while ago, but have only just been able to move to the top of Mount Backlog for its moment in the wintry sun. (I figured I needed a break from crowbars and headcrabs.)
The main attraction of the game is that it is fantastically over the top, even by the fairly low-culture standards of zombie media. Basically, it’s presented as an adults-only grindhouse-style series of films, with all the out-of-focus film, bad sound and clichés which go with the territory.
Yep, down to the Intermission sign.
The story’s simple: two cops are after a mad scientist type, Papa Caesar. Caesar wears a lot of gold jewelry, and in a film would probably have been played by Ricardo Montelban. There’s big hair involved. The two cops are, as you’d expect, stereotypes: a clean-cut type called, mysteriously, Agent G, and Isaac Washington, a streetwise double-gun type who uses the word ‘motherfucker’ the way someone unafraid of heart disease uses table salt.
Additional characters include a wheelchair-bound genius, Jasper, and his sister, the boobtacularly silly-named Varla Guns. Candi Stryper, a co-worker at Guns’ pleasure pit place of employment, plays the requisite ditzy blonde. Then there’s the prison warden who loves his mother a little too much, if you know what I’m saying.
These ratbags populate an on-rails shooter, much like the rest of the House of the Dead series, though the spin is different: here, the action is presented as small movie scenes, each introduced with a cutscene trailer. A lurid voiceover gives the b-movie setup weight, and sets up excitement for what’s to come. The whole thing is an excellently dumb mash-up of Russ Meyer, Roger Corman and Tarantino, and lovingly so.
(There’s some technical issues – torsos sometimes alarmingly disappear if you’re using an AMD video card – but I think I filed that under bad special effects and went with it. )
I’d played the original Wii version of the game when it came out, as it was one which used a gun-shaped controller. That was OK to play – fun enough – but the real reason I played this version was because it involves typing as a mechanic.
See, there’d been a version of the original game where the arcade light-guns were replaced by keyboards, and the player had to enter words successfully to kill opponents. Think of it as Mavis Beacon’s Walking Dead. Typing of the Dead: Overkill is the Wii game with the typing element strapped on, and having played both the gun and the key version, the latter is superior.
Why? Well, look at some of the random phrases you have to type in to progress.
The difficulty level ramps up, and it does become difficult after a while. I’m a good typist – hello, 98 per cent accuracy, sitting on the lounge – but it made me aware of how much better I could be. That’s a good thing, I think. I wouldn’t have thought killing zombies was going to improve my typing speed but here we are.
Additionally, this version allows for DLC dictionaries. With my playthrough, I had the standard dictionary working, as well as the Shakespeare and swearing options. This meant that I was able to type in things like LAERTES and MAN-MILK to slay my opponents. All while my fellow motherfuckin’ cop tells me that this shit ain’t right, and we better get the fuck out of this motherfuckin’ house.
Sometimes, simple things are best.
(Thanks to Steam’s Workshop feature, anyone can submit a dictionary. I imagine some of the programming language dictionaries would make this a very, very difficult game.)
What’s interesting about the game and its ending – which, while shown in a relatively coy way, is one of the more gross things I’ve seen in a video game, in that joyous fake-horror film kind of style – is that throughout, the developers are entirely aware of how un-PC and OTT the events are. I mean, we’re dealing with zombies and incest, so there’s already a certain element of inherent fucked-up-ness that needed to be exaggerated to be funny rather than depressingly vile. But what’s intriguing is that in a final cutscene, the two cops – now buddies! – have a discussion on contemporary feminism.
This, in a game where there’s a strip-club level, is a bit of a breakthrough. Baby steps, I guess.
The game took all of about eight hours to complete, though there is a hardcore mode (cheerfully labelled Motherfucker) which I haven’t yet completed. It’s a New Game Plus mode, and I imagine would make one’s fingers bleed with the key-pounding intensity it brings. There’s also a version of the original game – mouse and keys controls – that you can play if typing’s not your thing.
I’ll get around to that sometime, I’m sure. But I don’t feel I’ve been robbed of the experience by having not completed it. If you’ve a couple of bucks and a couple of hours spare, this is worth your time. Assuming, you know, that headshots and motherfuckers are your thing.
(Admit it. They are.)
(This was written as part of my 750words daily practice, so it is fairly unedited and looser than normal writing.)