A real-world plague doesn’t mean that you should stop blissfully shooting zombie hordes. The House of the Dead: Remake reimagines Sega’s classic light gun game as a $24.99 Nintendo Switch game. The scripted action has never looked better thanks to the majorly enhanced visuals. However, Remake’s short length and mediocre controls reveal that this house was always more at home in the arcade.
Released in 1996, the original House of the Dead was an on-rails shooter. That means you didn’t control where or when your character moved. The camera took you from scene to scene, while you shot the shambling undead to stay alive and rescue survivors. It was much harder than it sounds. Boss fights challenged you to aim at tiny, moving weak points, and the unforgiving arcade difficulty sucked quarters from your pocket. Repeated playthroughs revealed hidden paths that gave you more reasons to blow your change.
All this remains true in The House of the Dead: Remake. The dialogue may be re-recorded, but it maintains the same schlocky, B-movie charm. You’ll still need to stay on your toes, even with a more generous credit system that lets you use points to buy extra lives or restart from any chapter.
Unfortunately, as a straightforward remake of a 1990s arcade game, The House of the Dead: Remake is extremely short. You can breeze through the four chapters in less than an hour. Granted, these games are meant to be replayed, but it’s still disappointing to quickly see all the content, even at the budget price. The grindhouse-inspired House of the Dead: Overkill was a much more substantial console rail shooter.
Developer Forever Entertainment says that it’s working on a House of the Dead 2 remake, as well. Frankly, it and House of the Dead should’ve been bundled together. Despite the vastly different subject matter, New Pokemon Snap shows that the rail shooter formula works on consoles if you expand it in smart ways.
In terms of visual upgrades, The House of the Dead: Remake is the most successful zombie facelift since Resident Evil 2 remake. The Nintendo Switch may not be the most powerful console, but the game’s highly choreographed action lets the designers pack set pieces with detail. It’s a night and day difference between it and the original version. The grotesque mutant designs, including hulking brutes who toss oil drums to agile, little knife guys in trench coats, have tons of personality. You can even read about them in the gallery.
The game offers two graphics settings: Quality and Performance. Quality mode features stark and atmospheric lighting, contrasting nicely with the shadowy corridors. Performance mode sacrifices spooky lighting effects for a higher frame rate. Personally, I preferred quality mode’s aesthetic, but performance mode is the way to go if you’re chasing high scores.
The House of the Dead: Remake’s graphics are the biggest upgrade by far, but the game has many other enjoyable extras. Partner with a friend to blast zombies in local multiplayer action, and compare scores online. Unlock new weapons for your next playthrough. Earn achievements for winning (or losing) in unique ways. Turn on the new scoring system that rewards you for combo kills. There’s even a remixed horde mode that greatly increases the number of zombies you’ll face during a run.
All the fancy graphics in the world can’t save a shooter if the shooting doesn’t feel satisfying, though. Just to get it out of the way, none of The House of the Dead: Remake’s control options feel as good or accurate as aiming a light gun at the screen. There are few good solutions, outside of somehow recreating the Wii remote’s sensor bar setup or using a boutique device like the Sinden Lightgun(Opens in a new window). But it begs the question: Why port a light gun game to consoles if the controls won’t smoothly translate?
There isn’t a single, great control option, but there are many. You can aim using the analog sticks, and adjust the sensitivity (good for playing the game on a Nintendo Switch Lite). You can detach a Joy-Con controller, and use motion controls to aim at the screen, while using the stick to make adjustments or recenter yourself. You can even reduce reload time to zero, so that you’ll never need to stop shooting. That feels like a cheat, but it helps make up for time lost from sluggish aiming.
Just to be thorough, I connected a USB keyboard to my Nintendo Switch to see if there was some secret homage to Typing of the Dead. Alas, there was not.
Suffer Like G Did
The House of the Dead: Remake is a gross and gorgeous recreation of the classic arcade game, but its short length and control issues highlight the fact that light gun games only make sense in an arcade setting. Series fans might get a kick out of the nostalgia, but everyone else should opt for modern, linear shooters, such as Doom Eternal or Titanfall 2.
For more recommended Nintendo Switch titles, check out The Best Nintendo Switch Games and The Best Nintendo Switch Games for Kids. And for in-depth video game talk, visit PCMag’s Pop-Off YouTube channel(Opens in a new window).
The House of the Dead: Remake (for Nintendo Switch)
The Bottom Line
The House of the Dead: Remake gives the classic zombie-shooting game a frightfully fresh coat of paint, but its arcade roots create new problems as a home console release.
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