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Previews

The House of the Dead: Overkill

Preview: We enter the hospital of the dead for our first hands-on play...

Headstrong are anything if not enthusiastic about Overkill. Sitting down for a hands-on session with a brand new level - a mutant outbreak in a hospital that makes MRSA look like TLC - we spotted a curious pre-level title card: 'Presented in Slater Vision'.

Chatting later to studio head Bradley Crooks we're told that Slater is Mark Slater, the lead artist on the game. "We were having a little bit of fun and we thought, 'you know what, Sega's given us such a broad remit to approach this how we want, we thought we'd go to town'," says Crooks. It's a nice aside and perfect for the desired 'grindhouse' feel.

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Talking to one of Overkill's sound supervisors we discover the game goes beyond homage to deliver authenticity - the tarmac-drinking gravely throat that rasps out the trailer's promise to make you "cry blood from your own eyes" belongs to an Actual Trailer Man. And the waka-waka-waka porno music? That's courtesy of an actual waka-waka-waka porno session musician. Gore sounds, on the other hand, are all Headstrong's - the innards noises are just someone chomping mushy food, we're told.

Disabled parking
Not that our hospital jaunt gave us much downtime to admire the ins and outs of, erm, audio ins and outs. Feeding one lonely mutant a lead-flavoured snack out in the car park gave the brain-munchers the green light to come out and play. Arriving in their masses these shambling cranium-cravers clearly graduated from the same school of lightgun villains as Ghost Squad's terrorists. Think you've cleared a room of them? Turn around and you'll see seven more have poured from a mystery vehicle. Must be one of those seven-seat jobbers Griff Rhys Jones used to bang on about.

All the more mutants to test out our bang-sticks, say we. The pistol is puny, but fast and accurate. Tapping 1 switched to shotgun - bucking all over the shop, but leaving a satisfying amount of jam as it did so. Our co-op cohort - begrudgingly holding the knock-off zapper shell while we spill 100% Nintendo-endorsed death - had a machine gun. Either he had doddering grandma hands or the weapon is wildly inaccurate, spilling bullets fast but everywhere. He assured us it was the gun. We eyed him suspiciously as a dev explained gun upgrades.

In a manner not dissimilar to Ghost Squad, earning points during the levels - chaining shots in an attempt to reach the 'goregasm' multiplier - enables gun upgrades to be bought for use in replays. Ghost Squad could squeeze an impressive 50-plus hours from its arsenal, so we just hope Overkill's more meagre six guns can feel suitably different with this tweaking. When asked about replayability (always a concern in lightgun titles) the dev mentioned a hidden Director's Cut mode. More mutants and new areas - and all with limited coin-op credits. Rated 18 for user swearing.

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Carrion doctor
As we decorated the walls with mutant (blood flows in Carrie proportions) and left the odd leg comically littering the floor, we found ourselves moving deeper into the hospital. Along with patients and the occasional shirtless obese man, we found plenty of the staff turned by the mutagen: nurses with blood-splattered scrubs and grey-haired doctors with murder in their eyes, their expensive medical educations vaporised in a shotgun instant. It would have been grim if it weren't for Detective Washington by our side, spilling out sweary exclamations with each takedown.

A third of the way in we caught a glimpse of the level boss. As we edged towards a shrouded figure in a darkened corridor, she turned around to reveal a face we can only describe as dog food and let out a wail that sent us reeling back to the floor. The tumbling viewpoint is one of many nice touches that's been added to give a sense of a human perspective, rather than an automaton on rails. There's a similar moment later, when Agent G and Washington dive and roll through a window - a nice little FPS technique.

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