Tag Archive: overkill

Starbreeze Studios may have had one of the more shocking announcements of E3 2015, and it happened before the show even officially started!

As part of a pre-E3 preview event, the developer behind the Payday series, the Syndicate reboot, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and many other games unveiled their brand new virtual reality headset called StarVR yesterday evening.

Being the resident EGM VR junkie, I was fortunate enough after the announcement to be the first person in the world outside of the studio to actually go hands-on (head-on?) with this new piece of hardware.

The demo we were given was based on Overkill’s The Walking Dead, which was also announced to be the first game for StarVR. It was explicitly stated, however, that the demo we played would not be part of the final game, but instead would convey a feel for the title, while more importantly, showing off what the headset could do.

In the demo, I was a recently infected person who was on his last legs. The pair of people I had been traveling with did not want to leave me behind, or at least not until they could get my car and some supplies from me. So, they strapped me into a wheelchair and gave me a shotgun. As they pushed me through the halls of a hospital, I would have to cover them. It was an absolutely beautiful looking rail-shooter experience, but I felt it was a tad too heavily scripted for my tastes. At the very least, though, it gave me a solid sense of what StarVR was all about as it really let me put the headset through its paces.

Starbreeze global brand director Almir Listo stated beforehand that the StarVR headset provides a 210-degree horizontal field-of-view, which is easily the largest of any VR headset revealed to date when you look at the 120-degrees of Microsoft’s Hololens, the 110-degrees offered with Oculus’s Crescent Bay and Valve’s ReVive, or Morpheus’ 100-degrees. I can confirm that in my experience, StarVR provides more peripheral vision than any headset I’ve tried (just Hololens eludes me at this point), and only when I looked to the extreme right or left could I see the very edges of the displays.

Speaking of display, StarVR touts a 5K resolution due to dual 5.5-inch screens. The picture for The Walking Dead was crisp, clear, and had no framerate drops, but I can’t definitively say it was better or worse than the others without putting them side-by-side. StarVR also features orientation and positional tracking, so every time I moved my head around during the demo, my character in game would do the same.

This was critical because at this moment, StarVR lacks more traditional input devices so at least moving my head around gave me a sense of being in the world until I finally received my shotgun. In regards to controllers, Starbreeze CTO Emmanuel Marquez admitted they were still working on them, and were keeping an eye on what other companies in the VR marketplace, like Valve, do in that regard. It was also mentioned that they would love to be compatible with a wide array of devices, including those of their own design like the prop shotgun I was able to play around with and that was featured in the above video.

The idea that Starbreeze could come out with a special line of prop weapons for shooters like The Walking Dead is intriguing, and it’d be far from the first time we had large plastic guns in our hands to play games with. The prop shotgun, even with some sensors attached to it, felt like a real gun (minus the lack of kickback). Every time I did the pump-action, it responded in game. I could fire blindly behind me as we ran down an alley, or I could look down the sights to make sure I put each and every zombie down with a single shot. I’m just concerned how much it would cost to package extra sensors and a large toy shotgun with every copy of Overkill’s The Walking Dead. And what about other weapons? It was an interesting idea, and having a prop in my hands helped with immersion, but I honestly don’t know if it’s completely sound to think every gamer would collect prop weapons to play VR games with.

In terms of plug-ins, StarVR features a USB 3.0 port and a 3.5mm headphone jack so players can use their own headphones for comfort and ease. Of course, unlike Oculus with their built in headphones, this means that, for the moment, positional audio is not a part of StarVR and was noticeably absent from the demo I played.

A nice surprise from Starbreeze’s headset, though, came in how comfortable it felt on my head. While it’s a bit bulkier and larger than an Oculus Rift in terms of shape and size, it felt about the same in terms of weight and the cushions on the inside really kept it from feeling like it was pressing into my head at all. I actually think it may be my favorite headset so far when it comes to just how it feels on top of my head. It should be mentioned, however, that the headset was tethered to a nearby PC, but I was told wireless functionality is on the docket for future versions of the StarVR.

No potential release date or price point was set for StarVR during the event. Lionel Anton, Starbreeze’s lead VR hardware designer, said that what I got to go hands-on with was “a first prototype”, leading me to believe that, along with everything I saw yesterday, that Starbreeze is still some ways off from being ready to stand toe-to-toe with Oculus or Sony. They certainly seem to be on the right track, though. Expect more info and insights about StarVR this week at E3, where it’ll be fully on display.

A lifeless, zombified PS3 port

Back in 2009, an arcade classic was in desperate need of a makeover—and, of all places, it came from the Wii, surprisingly enough. The House of the Dead: Overkill served as a prequel for the immensely popular lightgun House of the Dead games and explained, sort of, both the origins of Agent G (the series’ main protagonist) and the zombie-causing formula he’s fought for 15 years—all wrapped in a ’70s B-movie setting with over-the-top voice acting, tons of sex and swearing, and cheesy moments galore. Looking to capitalize on that surprising success, Sega’s ported the game over to the PS3 with some upgrades in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle with a new audience.

Unfortunately, anyone who played through the original House of the Dead: Overkill will note Extended Cut for PS3 just feels…off. For as many problems that have been fixed from the original—like repetitive zombie skins and short game length—new ones seem to have cropped up. And the most glaring is way the game looks.

See, the poor graphics were actually part of the original’s charm. Throwing in a film grain to cover up the Wii’s weaker processing power was a masterstroke that helped give Overkill a B-movie look that fit perfectly with the depraved humor and unabashed, over-the-top moments. Bringing the game into full HD on the PS3 actually takes away from the original experience and shows that film grain and great graphics just don’t mix. But the visual changes don’t stop with the HD upgrade—Extended Cut also includes added 3D. Enemies chuck weapons in order to add a few 3D moments to the experience, but it feels forced and unnecessary the whole way through, and it’s just another knock on these new-and-“improved” visuals.

Another flaw comes with the controls, since most players don’t actually own a PS Move—and that’s how this game is meant to be played, with the Move serving as a makeshift lightgun to help re-create that arcade experience. If you don’t own a Move, the controls don’t translate to the DualShock, since you’ll more than likely try to overcompensate with the reticule and overshoot your target, making the game’s multiplier combos almost impossible. Looking back, the game worked so well for the Wii because the Wiimote’s essentially designed as a light gun to begin with.

Extended Cut includes two new levels that follow zombie-fighting stripper Varla Gunns when she’s not with Agent G and Isaac Washington, and those definitely add some replay value and extra humor—though the spotlight still shines on the relationship between Washington and G. These areas introduce new characters while also bridging what some might consider plot gaps—but I just think of them as part of the charm.

In the end, I can’t believe I actually found myself pining for the Wii version, as this PS3 incarnation found a way to use technology to suck out all the fun and charm of the original and deposit it in a steaming pile of disappointment on my living-room floor. If you’ve never played the original House of the Dead: Overkill and happen to own a Move, then this game might be worth checking out. Otherwise, I hope you’re ready to dust off your Wii—because I’d actually recommend that version, which you can probably find in the bargain bin these days, to get the better overall experience.

SUMMARY: It may sound preposterous, but you’d be better off checking out the far-better Wii version of this PS3 port.

  • THE GOOD: Two new levels extend the campy, on-rails romp
  • THE BAD: HD graphics with a film-grain effect is like a visual oxymoron
  • THE UGLY: The Mother boss in full 3D

SCORE: 6.0

Originally Published: February 2, 2011, on youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As my final review for CGR, I looked at House of the Dead: Overkill for the Nintendo Wii from SEGA.