Ever wonder why despite little innovation and constant critical panning over the years, light-gun games still remain in abundance? It's because the logic required to play gun games isn't based on the grammar of typical videogames (joysticks, combos, and CGI). It's based on the understanding of firearms and in a country that has the right to bear arms "guaranteed" in its Constitution (via the Second Amendment), guns understandably dominate our landscape and consciousness. Take my girlfriend (American as she is), for example, who tried her hand at Soul Calibur and was frustrated beyond belief at the extensive techniques. But when I put a light-gun in her hand, she laid waste to a couple of zombies faster than you can say "Go ahead, make my day!" Gun games (along with driving games) represented mainstream gaming long before Myst ruled the sales chart and it stands as a source for social commentary how easy it is for anyone to pick up a gun and fire away. So it's no surprise that with the coming of the Dreamcast, a new light-gun game bearing the House Of The Dead name would be available in its budding library to appeal to that particular mass-market.
The home version of House Of The Dead 2 is a pixel-perfect console port of Sega's popular arcade gore-fest franchise and as far as light-gun shooters go today, it's as straight forward as it gets. You won't find heated 2-player competition like in Point Blank, no ducking feature like in Time Crisis, or any attribute build-ups like in Elemental Gearbots. What you do get is an endless parade of zombies, monsters, and creatures to be wiped out with extreme prejudice while being automatically guided through the stages like in an amusement park ride. There are also helpless civilians who often need to you to save their whiney hides from the marauding undead as well as a multitude of branching paths that can be altered by the player to keep things interesting.
Yet even with its obvious lack of depth and traditional simplicity, House Of The Dead 2 remains somewhat addictive, especially the home version's exclusive 'Original' mode. This mode allows players to take along either one or two (if played cooperatively) items, weapons, or power-ups at the beginning of the game. This arsenal consists of items (unique to this mode) recovered from previously played games and can be accrued depending on how many times a player is willing to go at it in on one sitting. The challenge becomes to find the right combination of power-ups in order to complete the game, which starts you out with a barely adequate amount of continues. Of course, all the 'Original' mode nonsense can be passed up for the classic 'Arcade' mode, which simply replicates the coin-op experience. Then there's the 'Boss' mode, which allows you to do battle with only the main baddies and, finally, the uncompromisingly tough and self-explanatory "Training" mode.
Graphically, House Of The Dead 2 is worthy of the 128-bit processing power that the Dreamcast is capable of. The environments are lush and convey a sense of being in a horror show. The amount of monster villains are diverse and well distinguished by good character designs and animate smoothly with only a smidgen or two of slowdown. Audio is equally impressive with great sound effects and a wicked musical score. The only real sore spot is the horrid voice-acting and script that appear during cut-scenes in between stages. Sounding like a cast with partial lobotomies, House Of The Dead 2's voice-acting sounds cheaply made and ruins what would be an otherwise fine overall package. It was so annoying, in fact, that I dropped the score down a half point because of it.
House Of The Dead 2 is well-crafted and a solid entry, but no one should go thinking that this is anything more than what it appears to be. This is still a light-gun game in the traditional sense and designed to appeal to the mainstream, which means little thinking and plenty of clicking. Despite the alternative routes, this is still a generally short game that won't require too many attempts before completion; all of which makes the game more of an ideal rental. For those who enjoy this sort of gunplay (like I do), House Of The Dead 2 will provide the expected bullet-riddled action with next-generation quality graphics on the surface. Those who never liked the genre to begin will only need me to confirm their inclination to stay away.