Sega loves zombies! That's why they regularly come back to haunt their machines... This year, the Lindbergh unveils itself with the fourth episode in this mythic saga that needs no introduction.
It's me, Goldman.
But first of all, let's refresh your memory: the story begins in 1998. Two agents of the secrect organization "AMS", G & Rogan enter Dr Curien's manor to put an end to his dark manoeuvres. Indeed, this one conducts genetic experiments while many researchers mysteriously disappear. Once arrived there, our two agents discover the horror: the manor is infested with zombies. They clean the place and attend Dr Curien's death, killed by the Magician, one of his own creatures. The case is closed until year 2000 when Venice is overrun by hordes of living deads. This time, James & Gary are called to resolve the case: they discover that a sinister businessman called Goldman was controlling everyting since the beginning. That man, disgusted to see what humans became created the Emperor, a creature whom shall "hate and rule mankind". Seeing that James & Gary manage to destroy the Emperor, Goldman commit suicide. Three years later, we meet again James accompanied by Kate, a new AMS member. While looking for informations about Goldman case in the organization's achives, they get stuck in the room because of an earthquake. Discovering in horror zombies on surveillance screens, they gather weapons and when the door's teared apart, they're ready to face this new nightmare.
For the first time, Sega uses a 16/9 62" DLP screen (for the deluxe version) and the result is quite impressive to say the least! In addition, the cabinet is decorated with living dead illustrations that dissipate any doubt about the game content. Notice the fact that either to prevent vendalism or for economical reasons, the skull sculpted weapon holsters seen on the japanese cabinet are missing from the european version. The attract shows us that Goldman's machiavelic project hasn't disappeared with him. But before inserting a coin, it would be wise to look at the cinematic explaining how to play because the gameplay gained some new features since HOTD3...
As you surely already know, you exterminate the vermin with UZIs this time. Lighter than previeous episode's shotguns, these new wepons are also handled differently. For instance, you only have to tilt the gun down then raise it to reload. A button on the side is used to launch grenades, only if you have at least one remaining of course. You'll find these by exploding particular scenery elements or by accomplishing some tasks. These grenades will be very useful against the hordes of creatures who will overwhelm you. Some of them will manage to catch you, you'll have to vigorously shake the UZI to get rid of him. You can have some fun by shooting the scenery: shoot the lightbulbs and the light will flicker, tear apart enemies clothes,... But you won't be the only one to do so because they can interact with the scenery too: for instance some will lift doors while others destroy walls to surprise you better.
The City of the Dead.
Convinced to know all of the game's subtleties, you trustfully start a game. So you meet James & Kate in AMS basement. Suddenly, the door is broke open and the first flesh eaters are charging you. Immediate immersion; no time to think, you have to act (and quickly)! Once you're out of that trap, you realize there're lots of them, fucking lots! The whole building is already overrun, walls are dripping of blood and it's clear you're the only survivors. A first choice is offered to you: either you go forward where they're many of them or you go down a stair on the right where there're as many as above. Indeed, you can choose your route at some key points. So we rediscover a variation of House of the Dead 2's branching system. It's less subtle this time since now the choice is explicitly displayed on screen in opposition to HOTD 2 where the route taken depended of your actions.
After having cleared a path through the basements and took an underground infested by zombies led by a boss equiped with a giant chainsaw, you come to light at last only to discover that the city has been totally destroyed! Therefore you'll contiue your adventure in post-apocalyptic setting... This is the way the first 2 chapters end (amongst the 6 the game counts). As in the previous episodes, each chapter ends with an unavoidable fight against a boss. If you finish the game (that's longer than the previous opus), you must know that different endings exist. The one you'll see depends of your performance. Notice that in one of them appears a well known character of the series and this cameo isn't the only reference to previous games since many winks (flashbacks, known places and musics, ...) will please ancient players.
Being the first representative of the Lindbergh line-up, we were lying in wait for HOTD 4 for its graphics. Without being the awaited visual revolution, the graphics aspect doesn't disappoint and it's rather the high level of details that makes the defference. The most outstanding evolutions are the quantity of living deads displayed on screen at the same time and the very realistic lightning. Indeed the machine is capable of diplaying thirty or so enemies at the same time, all very detailed and every one of them behaving his own way. However, we could think that developers waited to have a hardware powerful enough at their diposal to narrate this part of the House of the Dead story requiring to show hordes of ennemies on screen. The improvement can be especially seen on some zombies that are updated version of their previous episode's counterpart. For example, the "big ones" with their fat moving according to their movements. All special effects seen in nowadays video games are used here: bump mapping (seen for instance on enemies' visible muscles), effets de lumières saisissants (réflexion sur les murs), particle effets (on impact), fog (in the sewers), high polygons count (each monster is very well detailed). All these effects coupled to realistic sceneries take part to player's immersion in the game's glaucous and oppressing atmosphere. Unfortunately, there're no more dismemberments nor other pleasures that were typical to this series because, due to the weapon's nature, gun fire only provokes numerous flesh flakes. It's therefore a bit less bloody than what we where used to... Of the sound, we'll mainly remember that the musical themes are still so well done and catchy. Amongst those we can hear with great pleasure some remixes of episode 2's main themes. Regarding sound effects, there's nothing special to note: effectives (living deads growling, crackling detonations) but not unforgettable (except for the "I have a bad feeling about this", reffering to a certain well known saga). Characters exclaim themselves with a living voice but unfortunately, sound doesn't always match lips movements.
The House of the Dead 4 is following the series path and we won't object to it because as Sega understood it well, you don't change a winning recipe. However, we don't fall in monotony since this episode brings its lot of new features and unveils a key moment of the saga's story: when the zombies take over the world. The objective is reached: the pleasure to kill zombies is still intact and that's what makes it a sure bet.
|On the deluxe cabinet, the wide screen is impressive and the machinesl'écran large est impressionnant et la machine is ornamented with "pretty" glaucous zombies artworks. This deluxe version is ideal for multiplayers.
|Numerous zombies are shown but the demo being very story oriented, people who haven't played to the previous episodes can't understand it. In addition, the scene showing Goldman on his rotating chair should have been avoided...
|The introduction sequen,ce is very well done, you're straightly put into the atmoshere, crowds of living deads assaults you. In spite of a little deja vu feeling, killing them is still enjoyable.
|Originality isn't this title's strong point, but there're some good new features thanks to the new weapon's handling. It's the first time there're so many enemies on the screen.
|The good scenario gives you the will to progress further in the game (especially for the veterans). The pleasure to kill zombies gives you the desire to play again.
|Always more beautiful but it's the level of details that makes this game stand out; complex lightning effects, fog, realistic water, detailed monsters models, elaborated scenery.
|The catchy music's a positive point of the game. Nostalgic players will love the remixed musical theme from HOTD2.
|Lighter gun than in the previous episode, emergency grenades, new reloading method and the "gun shaking" trick form a new and pleasant way of playing.
|Worthy sequel to the series, The House of the Dead 4 will please both fans and newcomers and has the necessary qualities to become the shooter of the year.
Text/Pictures: Sophie & Nomax.
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