(PC Review) The Typing of the Dead: Overkill

Developer: Modern Dream
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Action / Typing "Edutainment"
Players: 1
ESRB: Mature
Reviewer: Philip Smith

Overall: 7.5 = Good

Minimum Requirements:
Pentium 4 2.0 GHz Dual Core, 2 GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce GT 220/ATI Radeon HD 6450/Intel Integrated Graphics HD 3000, 10 GB Hard Drive space

When masses of reanimated corpses take to the streets and begin mercilessly massacring and munching on any hapless passers-by unfortunate enough to cross their paths, there’s only one thing left to do: type. You type with the fury of a special agent or vengeful stripper packing a small arsenal and whose hunt for a criminal mastermind has been annoyingly interrupted by a zombie outbreak. And that is, coincidentally, the story behind The Typing of the Dead: Overkill.

This isn’t the first time that Sega has pitted gamers’ fingers against the dislocated, decaying jaws and claws of the undead. Overkill’s predecessor, The Typing of the Dead, was released for both the Dreamcast and the PC back in the early 2000s. The original is undeniably charming, with the special agents carrying a Dreamcast backpack and a keyboard as their only means to take down the game’s many bloodthirsty monsters. Overkill doesn’t bother with that conceit; it simply informs that typing is attacking, so start typing. The series’ premise might be ridiculous, but rarely has typing been so much fun—and gory.

Overkill works on several levels. In addition to the profanity-laden dialog and grindhouse aesthetics that are constantly bombarding the senses, there are numerous TV, film, and game references that pop up amongst nonsensical phrases and age-old adages to both delight and distract as zombies rush in from all directions. Whether it’s a reference to a current hit (“Winter is coming”), a cult classic (“Evil dead”), a reference to Sega (“Shinobi”), or an in-joke (“Pray for release”), there is almost always something to “Oh!” at while blasting off decaying appendages. Then there are the purely bizarre phrases (“I sold photocopiers”) that elicit chuckles or plain bewilderment.

It’s important to keep a level head and steady hands because a scoring system keeps track of all keystrokes, rewarding combo bonuses for successfully entering consecutive strings and dinging for missing too much or taking damage. For those who want to take the challenge a step further, a special Hardcore mode is unlocked upon completion, which requires proper spacing and punctuation for each entry. Leaderboard support for all levels ensures that there is more to a strong performance than an A ranking, and that’s seeing the superiority of one’s typing above their hunt-and-pecking inferiors in a statistically defined hierarchy.

However, a few things immediately stand out. One is that the words that come up to be typed are not nearly as vulgar as the profanity-laced dialog that plays during the cutscenes and throughout the levels. Some of the words or phrases might be double entendres or a bit suggestive (“Love gravy”), but they are nowhere near the level of what comes out of the characters’ mouths; I don’t think I’ve ever played a game or seen a movie that uses the word “fuck” so much. The dictionary of words and phrases could’ve put this in the ESRB’s Teen category had it not been for the gore and steady stream of expletives. That said, the gore isn’t as bad as it could have been, which is largely the result of a rough-and-tumble upscale job making everything look blocky and pixelated; the various graphical filters helps to mask some of the blemishes, but they can only do so much. Things can be heavily minimized for those who tire of the incessant over-the-top, in-your-face design by muting the dialog and turning off subtitles, which does a good job of toning down the ridiculousness for extended play sessions. I would also suggest those familiar with American English make a trip to the options before playing because there is something even more horrible at work here than boil-covered mutants and ravenous zombies: British English. Unless players prefer such grotesque mutations as “mum” and “honour,” a dictionary change to “US” is heartily recommended.

In addition to the nine story levels, there are collectibles, mini-games, and a rather hefty bonus in the form of the original PlayStation 3 version of Overkill. The collectibles are scattered throughout the levels and come in the form of 3D models, concept art, a comic book, and a jukebox that plays collected tracks from the eclectic twang-, funk-, and rock-heavy soundtrack. There are three mini-games in total, all fairly decent distractions: Victim Support, Stayin’ Alive, and Money Shot II. Throughout the story, there will be times when a civilian is in trouble and requires the steady hands of a trained zombie killer to help them make their escape, and that’s the goal of Victim Support. Perched atop a catwalk, players take down zombie prisoners as those still living run for safety as a clock ticks down. There are no powerful slowdown-inducing pick-ups here: it’s all about speed. In a similar vein, Stayin’ Alive is a wave-based mode that has players face down waves of increasing numbers of zombies, with each successfully completed wave adding a few seconds to a countdown timer; it’s not all bad news, as the health pick-ups from the story appear every so often. The last of the mini-games, Money Shot II, is a carnival-themed shooting stall that sends targets zipping around a stage for players to take down.

The PlayStation 3 version of Overkill is a significant addition, but unfortunately, it is more of a novelty, unless you’ve a PC-supported lightgun readily available. The most common input devices are the mouse and controller—the Xbox 360 controller is used in the manual—both of which fail to offer the same kind of excitement as a lightgun (or in the case of the Wii and PS3, a Wiimote and Move controller). Considering that the original The House of the Dead was sold in retail for PC with only mouse support, the inclusion is remains notable. The game itself includes the same features as the console version, with the biggest hook being the ability to purchase new weapons and weapon upgrades, a feature unnecessary when the keyboard is king. The Director’s Cut variant is also available once Overkill is completed, but again, this is best left to those with a lightgun.

The Typing of the Dead: Overkill is the most balls-to-the-wall typing game on the market. If that sentence does nothing for you, then neither will Overkill. But if you enjoy your games with their tongues planted firmly in their cheek, and in a mouth that happens to spew more expletives than the game does zombies on screen, then it’s a great way to wear down a keyboard. For those with a lightgun, the inclusion of The House of the Dead: Overkill and its Director’s Cut extras provide a fantastic bonus, but for everyone else, they’ll just have to make do with the most violent and revolting edutainment title on the market.

(This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher.)

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