The House of the Dead: Remake Review

Matt Lorrigan

The first thing you're greeted with when you boot up The House of the Dead: Remake is a series of shockingly unsightly menus. In an age of stripped back, minimal UI design, it’s almost surprising to be met by the kind of gaudy, in-your-face ugliness that was a trademark of arcade games from the late nineties. The sort of design that was defined by aggressive fonts, garish colour combinations, and jpeg blood splatters chucked about willy-nilly, perfectly sculpted to tap into the mind of a young pre-teen, and drain away their hard-earned pocket money. It’s startling at first, but it doesn’t take long to get used to, and once you do, you realise that developer Forever Entertainment couldn’t have crafted it any other way. To create a truly modern and clean UI to accompany The House of the Dead: Remake would strip away so much of the clumsy campiness that makes the series so beloved, and more importantly, so memorable.

Seriously, this game needs a lightgun.

This design ethos is also injected into the actual game itself, and it works surprisingly well. If you were to put The House of the Dead: Remake side-by-side with the original arcade game, it’d be all too easy to see the massive graphical upgrade that its environments and enemies have received. It was primarily built for Nintendo Switch, before being ported to more powerful PlayStation and Xbox consoles, but the most important thing, is that it looks exactly how you remember The House of the Dead in your head. It manages to capture that slightly janky, exaggerated visual style that would draw your eye from across the arcade, upgraded with a clear  fondness for the original, that makes it pop on modern displays. Zombies burst and break apart when shot, with cartoonish spurts of blood and gore, and bits of flesh flying off of them; while the NPC character models move and talk with all of the believability of a waxwork model brought to life. To anyone choosing to make The House of the Dead: Remake their first foray into the franchise, it might all look a little… off. But for fans of the series, like myself, it’s a nostalgic throwback to the days of the bowling alley arcade.

Unfortunately, despite all of the care and attention given to reanimating The House of the Dead’s specific brand of zombie nonsense onto modern consoles, The House of the Dead: Remake is hamstrung by the very thing that gives it its identity - it is an arcade lightgun game from the ‘90s. This brings with it problems on multiple fronts. The first of these is the length. The long and the short of it is that, well, it is very short. You can start a playthrough of The House of Dead: Remake at 6 o’clock in the afternoon, and you’ll be pumping the last remaining bullets into the final boss no later than quarter-to-seven. There are several reasons to play through multiple times, of course - trophies to be unlocked, new paths to find, and some nice new weapons to wield, should you save all of the scientists from being eaten alive - but that doesn’t change the fact that you can roll credits within about 40 minutes of booting up the game for the first time.

The second problem, however, is the most egregious by far. The House of the Dead: Remake is a lightgun game, with no lightgun support. The classic plasticky lightgun peripherals of the PS2 era simply don’t work on modern LCD and OLED displays, and the days of Wii pointer controls are also long behind us. A recent development has seen the creation of the Sinden Lightgun, which actually does work with modern TVs, but it’s something that developer Forever Entertainment has chosen not to support.

This means that, on PlayStation, you’ve only got two control options for aiming, and neither is ideal. Using the analogue stick alone, you’ll find yourself dragging a cursor to-and-fro across the screen, which is hardly ideal. After all, this is a game that was entirely built around the idea of pointing and shooting quickly at targets. Every enemy has a specific weak point (or two) that you’re meant to take advantage of, while bosses take this a step further, asking you to concentrate on a single spot to deal any damage at all, which does not pair well with analogue stick controls. The second option is utilising the controller’s gyro to aim the cursor, which provides an experience that’s much closer to that of the original arcade game. However, the gyro aiming can quickly drift to the edges of the screen, and even with a dedicated recalibrate button, it’s painfully inconsistent. Frequently, towards the end of each of the game’s ten-minute chapters, we’d find the gyro controls would completely desync altogether, to the point where pointing the controller upwards would send the cursor veering off to the left instead, which can prove to be a game-breaking experience.

Here be zombies.

Even once you get your head around the control issues (as best you can, at least) the incessant need to press the ‘fire’ button can be very uncomfortable on your thumbs, and by the end of a forty minute session, you’ll want to take a long break from holding a controller. 

These glaring and fundamental issues that come with remaking The House of the Dead are all the more frustrating, though, for how much the game gets right. It’s a really good remake of an iconic game, and it knows what fans love about the series. The voice acting has been redone, but it’s still stilted and campy, because if it was suddenly actually good, then it wouldn’t be The House of the Dead, would it? Equally, the soundtrack is absolutely brilliant, and will instantly transport any fans of the series back to the sticky carpeted floors of your local arcade. Simply put, it’s hard not to have a good time with The House of the Dead, despite the game’s best efforts. But unless it miraculously gets patched with true lightgun support to combat its glaring control issues, it’s also a difficult title to recommend.

The House of the Dead: Remake

The House of the Dead: Remake is a lovingly crafted remake of an arcade classic that unfortunately fails on a fundamental level with its subpar control scheme. Without true lightgun support, it’s a difficult recommendation.

Form widget

There are some legitimately great tracks in The House of the Dead: Remake, the sound effects are good, and the new voice acting nails the 'so bad it’s good' vibe of the original.


The House of the Dead: Remake manages to stay true to the visual style of the original arcade game, while offering a nice graphical update to shoot your way through. The menus are weirdly ugly and the game is slightly held back due to its Nintendo Switch origins, but it’s mostly a success.


Everything about The House of the Dead: Remake is a wonderful representation of the original arcade game, with the exception of the controls. Analogue sticks and gyro aiming can’t replace a proper lightgun experience, and the game is significantly worse for it. Frequent play sessions can also leave your hands feeling cramped and achey.


The House of the Dead: Remake is an incredibly short experience, with a single playthrough able to be completed during your lunch break at work. There’s added content to incentivise you to play again, but too many of these additional experiences ask for a level of skill that feels impossible using the current control schemes.


The trophy list actually becomes the saving grace of The House of the Dead’s short runtime, rewarding you for diving back in and finding all of the content that the game has to offer. If the controls weren’t so haphazard, this would be a fun list to come back to again and again.

Game navigation