December 19th, 2009
I’ve been meaning to chat about the differences between House of the Dead II and III since I finished the Wii “remake” a few months ago. Basically there are two fundamental differences between the games:
House of the Dead II employs a more organic progression system than the series’ third installment. By saving civilians or shooting important props (such as keys) the path branches off to a divergent stream which runs parallel to the main path. These “triggers” will also turn up on the alternative streams and if they’re not activated then they’ll send the player on another course, often back to the main path. Each level in House of the Dead II is therefore a tree of branching routes which shoot off and intersect with one another. Since activating the “triggers” is skilled based, the respective path which opened up are often scaled to the corresponding difficulty. That is, if the player reacts quickly to the situation, then they’ll be diverted to a path which increases the challenge. Alternatively, if the player misses a “trigger” then they’ll remain on the same path or revert to an easier course. What this means is that a novice and professional player will likely have different experiences through the same levels. As such the experience unfolds dynamically in real time, catering to needs of the player.
House of the Dead III on the other hand is mostly linear, instead offering the player to choose their path at two select points in the game. The first point (the car park) only allows the player to follow a single route from a selectable two for the duration of the level. The other point though simply asks which order the player wishes to complete a set of three levels. In this sense, House of the Dead III is a more rigid game.
From my perspective, part of the joy of House of the Dead II comes in discovering new routes and secrets, even 10 years after its release I’m still finding new content in the game and that itself is rather worthwhile.
In House of the Dead II rescuing civilians is the only way to regain health. Some generous civilians hand out health packs just after you’ve rescued them, otherwise the game will reward you with a health pack at the end of level if you’ve rescued a certain quota of civilians. Often though I’ve found said quota to be beyond my reach.
Besides the cast themselves, House of the Dead III’s setting is completely void of hapless civilian fodder and as a result the health system has been slightly altered. House of the Dead III, even during single player, features two protagonists, so instead of saving innocents the player must save their partner in a series of fixed sequences throughout the levels, by which case they’ll receive their bonus health pack. The contrived nature of these sequences, whereby they interrupt regular gameplay, isn’t as natural as rescuing civilians. House of the Dead III is sure to separate these parts from the rest of the game, yet in House of the Dead II they’re seamlessly interwoven with the fabric of the core gameplay.
Health packs can still be gained at the end of a level, but this time the requisites lead into a sub-system unique to House of the Dead III. The player receives a alphabetic ranking at the end of each level which is determined by accuracy, head shots and whatever else, along with time. The enemies in House of the Dead III now have two levels of death, so to speak. The first level is that a zombie will die straight away if you target their weak spot. The second level, being that if you just shoot them enough, they’ll die but take longer to clear the screen, sucks up precious time. Players can then save time by either attacking weak points or quickly dispel zombies with another round of led after the initial blast.
Based on these observations I guess it’s easy for one to assume that House of the Dead II is the superior game—and truth be told it probably is—but I don’t necessarily think so. Rather House of the Dead III is a more controlled experience that House of the Dead II, however that’s interpreted depends on the player. I personally adore House of the Dead II, but both games offer different interpretations of the genre and therefore worth playing.