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House Of The Dead

Interview: Overkill developer Headstrong on how to succeed with an adult Wii game...

It's not easy to enjoy sales success on Wii with a game that doesn't feature babies, ponies - or, more to the point, Nintendo characters.

And surely the genre that struggles the most is the '15' or '18'-rated adult title.

It doesn't matter how critically acclaimed a game may be (see MadWorld), if it's at all bloody, it doesn't seem to go down well with the Nintendo crowd.

Last year's House Of The Dead: Overkill was very much an exception to this rule - and still sells respectable numbers each week on the system.

The game - which was clever enough not to take itself too seriously - was developed by London studio Headstrong.

CVG caught up with studio head Bradley Crooks to pick his brains...

Now the dust has settled on Overkill, what will you take from the experience? What worked and what was challenging?

It was an interesting project from beginning to end. As ever with making games you always start off saying you won't make the mistakes you made last time, that you'll build on your past experience and just make things better. But in reality, the creative process, the process of innovation is all about making mistakes, some of which you've made before but you need to revisit them to see if there wasn't some merit in some of that thinking.

Sega were very supportive of us. It took some time to get to the creative core of what Overkill should be and, when we got there, there were some concerns that Sega and AM1 in particular wouldn't like where we were taking it. We spent a nervous week waiting for the feedback from Japan but it was worth it as we got an overwhelmingly positive response.

We had great fun with the story of course and at times we would have meetings and say to one another "Can we really do this?!". We pushed the envelope pretty far with Overkill but always tried to keep it firmly tongue-in-cheek which, I think, worked ultimately. There were some things though where we said "No, that really is going too far - we can't do that!". Perhaps we should do an outtakes reel...

We squeezed a lot out of the Wii. That was a challenge. We wanted Overkill to be a great looking game but also to be intense, with lots happening on screen. The Wii isn't renowned for that. The team developed all sorts of tricks to get the most out of the Wii and I think the results speak for themselves. Dismemberment was also a big challenge but I think we really pulled it off in the end.

Finally I have to mention the music and audio. We worked closely with Pitstop Productions, John Sanderson's outfit, and they threw themselves into the project with complete abandon. Some of those songs are genuine classics and the music from the game is instantly recognisable. The lyrics stay with you for a while as well...

What has the typical reaction been from gamers to the title?

Extremely positive. I can't tell you the number of times people will say to me "You guys did House of the Dead: Overkill? It was awesome!". We had letters from die-hard House of the Dead fans telling us it was the best thing they'd ever seen. It's great when you get that sort of feedback. It made the team feel proud and helped to offset all those late nights...

We had a good Metacritic in the end. There were some strange reviews of course. A few people seemed offended by the swearing which wasn't so odd I guess - but some people just didn't get it. They missed the irreverence of it. I thought we made that pretty obvious...

What was particularly interesting was the amount of feedback we got from people wanting it on other platforms. They didn't have a Wii but wanted it for their PS3 or 360.

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