House of the Dead 3

by Jason Brookes

It’s the dawn of the day of the night of the living dead and you’re looking a lot like zombie chow. What do you do, hero? What do you do?

According to Webtender.com, it’s possible to build a better zombie by mixing rum, creme de almond, sweet and sour, and coconut juice. With a twist of lime.

Zombies have an annoying habit of reappearing just when you think there can’t possibly be any more. They waltzed endlessly through The Night of the Living Dead, staggered through countless sequels and homages, hobbled alongside Michael Jackson in his “Thriller’’ video, and kept Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine up all night in Resident Evil. (“Jill... What is it?” “It’s another zombie you idiot.”)

And they’re back, once again, this time courtesy of Sega and House of the Dead 3. In a similar twist of fate to that of Crazy Taxi, the game series has migrated from the Dreamcast to Xbox (and from the small screen to the big screen: ludicrously, both titles have movie spin-offs planned, as well). It appears that this second sequel was originally also heading for DC and Naomi 2, but plans have changed and—despite the arcade technology still to be confirmed (it’ll launch simultaneously on the Xbox and in the arcades, and we’re expecting the arcade game will run on Xbox-based hardware)—the game’s console home is now exclusively Xbox.

First things first: Don’t ask about a light gun, as there’s bound to be one. Just don’t expect a fanfare to surround its release; violence in video games is a touchy subject these days. Do, however, expect a coin-op quality gun game, and one that hopefully puts the Xbox through its paces as well as the original worked the Dreamcast hardware. “There were many things that we wanted to do before, but were never able to,” Sega representatives at Wow Entertainment say. “With Xbox, many of these things became possible. So not only can we build upon the concepts of the previous game, but we can increase the size of the game itself and do tremendous things with the design, graphics, and even the sound.”

Oddly, the game’s visuals seem to have gone through something of a transition in recent months. Initial screenshots employed a beautiful, cel-shaded approach that seems to have been toned down—perhaps in light of the favorable response to Capcom’s ultra-realistic Resident Evil for Gamecube, or perhaps negative reaction from online forums (“Oh no, it’s Jet Set Radio Future with zombies!”).

To clear this matter up we asked the developers what’s going on: “It’s not so much cel-shading as much as the properties of some of the techniques used in eel-shading that we wanted to employ to make the game look more realistic,” they explained. Apparently the game still uses “lit, cel-shaded effects” but the overall look has been changed to “a more realistic polygonal form.” “We’re also considering utilizing the powerful shading techniques often used in American comic books as an added layer of atmosphere,” they add.

Wow is also striving for a “bigger, more open” game to prop up these visuals. “With the advancement of hardware, we’re attempting to create a zombie-action game that has never been done before; rethinking the very basics behind the fear that zombies exude. You’ll feel a level of fear and anxiety that you’ve never felt before.”

While the Dreamcast’s HotD 2 was enjoyable and well received, it’s debatable just how much replay value games such as these retain. “We can’t give any more details at this point,” Wow said, “but we have included features that, when you see them, you will think, ‘What?! They put this kind of stuff in here too?” We eagerly await.

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