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SummaryA great arcade shooter gets a horrible, horrible port.
The GoodThe manual is written as if it was the journal of the game's villain, Dr. Curien, which is amusing.
The BadHouse of the Dead is overflowing with visual problems. The environments are sparsely detailed compared to the coin-op. If the zombie models were any lower-poly, they'd be flat sprites. The textures are garbled and full of fist-sized pixels. All the colors are bland and washed-out. Characters will routinely clip through walls, individual polygons will flicker in and out of existence constantly, and many of the models appear to be missing sides (many of the zombies' severed heads have no bloody neckhole on the bottom, for instance). And despite all this lack of graphical detail, the game engine moves like a shambling corpse, struggling to maintain a framerate in the low 20's.
Shoddy graphics could be overlooked to some extent if the game at least played like its arcade counterpart, but Saturn HOTD falls down here too. The slow, constantly fluctuating framerate basically ruins the gameplay - not only will your targets almost pop from place to place onscreen when the action gets even moderately heavy, but the choppy screen updates also cause sounds to lag or drop out entirely. And more importantly, the slowness affects your aim. There can be a half-second interval between pulling the trigger and seeing the shot onscreen in some of the heavier sequences, and the white flashes that accompany each shot last roughly twice as long as in games like Virtua Cop (making 2-player mode nearly unplayable in spots).
Add to this the fact that, despite the game's "M" rating, you need to enter a code in order to see red blood, and you have a serious contender for the worst arcade port of all time.
The Bottom LineSega's Saturn was by no means a 3D powerhouse, although it was capable of some impressive graphics in the right hands - search the Internet for the demo reel of the unreleased Saturn version of Shen Mue for an example. But getting good visuals out of the console was supposedly a serious headache, and not every developer could be expected to put in the same amount of work as Yu Suzuki and AM2.
But Sega's port of Virtua Cop 2, released two years before HOTD, runs at a constant 30fps and looks and plays a great deal like its arcade counterpart. The apparent lack of effort in HOTD is, therefore, inexcusable. It could never have been an "arcade-perfect" conversion, but it should be a hell of a lot better than it is.