The countdown of my personal picks for the best games of 2009 is now underway. For the next two weeks I’ll be running down my top ten. At #7 we show respect, charm and under-f***ing-standing…
7. The House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii)
I’ve never been a fan of light gun shooters outside of the arcade. Yet the genre presented me with two of my favourite Wii games of the year. Dead Space: Extraction, which just missed the cut for this list, drew me in with its expertly directed and surprisingly deep narrative – a unique point of difference within the genre – even if its core mechanics weren’t quite as sophisticated.
The House of the Dead: Overkill took a different tack, nailing the score attack compulsion a light gun shooter demands while delivering scene after scene of dizzying violence and exponential absurdity. If you’re going to be playing through the same levels again and again, you need mechanics and a presentation style to not just sustain but encourage repeat sessions.
The points system is genius. Infinite continues give you the opportunity to learn a level, but actually using them will penalise you enough to deny access to the new weapons in shop. Meanwhile the combo system rewards your skill with ever-increasing amounts of blood and gibs, culminating in the delightfully named Goregasm stage. The Director’s Cut, Extra Mutant and Dual Wield modes, the distracting mini-games and multiplayer options all extend the replay value even further.
Much has been made of Overkill’s “grindhouse” aesthetic – and rightly so. It’s pitch-perfect and often genuinely funny. You can’t help but get carried along by its preposterous swagger all the way to the holy-shit-did-they’re-not-really-going-to-show-that-are-they? oh-god-yes-they-did ending.
But Overkill is much more than just cheap thrills, it’s a brilliantly designed game. Forget Rock Band, this is the best party game around.
Kotaku AU’s Games of 2009 are my personal picks for the best games of the year. I make no claim to have played everything released this year, nor do I pretend to be any way objective in my rankings. I look forward to debating my choices with you in the comments.