It's totally not Dawn of the Dead
In Capcom’s newest game, Dead Rising, you enter the shoes of war-time photojournalist Frank West who gets a tip that strange things are occuring within the small town of Willamette, Colorado. The town is completely blocked off by the military so Frank must be flown in via helicopter. The entire first level consists of you snapping pictures of “cool scenes”, such as an exploding gas station and a helpless man beating zombies off the roof of his car with a baseball bat.
After that short little scene, you are dropped on top of a large shopping mall, and given three days (roughly 6 hours in real time) to explore the mall and uncover the mysteries of the City’s odd happenings.
Dead Rising takes place in a giant shopping mall. The developers did a fantastic job of creating an atmosphere exactly like one. Straight down to the off-color florescent lights of the supermarket, the mall replicates any typical mall. There are many different types of environments at the mall, such as a bright and cheery-looking park, or a colorful play area for children. There are hundreds of different stores, each with their own unique displays and general feel to them. This game looks and feels like a real mall (aside from the mounds of bloodthirsty zombies).
Character details aren’t great, nor are they top-notch Xbox 360 grade neither. However, the game makes up for that in the sheer mass amounts of individual characters on-screen at once. The game is capable of rendering thousands of zombies, all independently moving (more like squirming) around. That’s not the best part – this all happens without the game slowing down and lagging. The only thing that seems to make the game choppy is when using a huge weapon like the sledgehammer on a large group of zombies. Though it probably will happen a lot of you’re a fan of the heavy, crushing weapons, it really doesn’t become an annoyance.
One thing about Dead Rising that certainly earns the M rating is the blood and gore. This probably has to be one of the bloodiest games on the Xbox 360. Blood spatters realistically, and depending on what weapon you use, can actually dismember or slice zombies clear in half. One move Frank picks up in one of the later experience levels is called Disembowel, a fun, and funny ode to Kung-Fu films.
I don’t normally say too much about sound in my reviews, but this game makes an exception. Of the over 300 weapons in the game, each one has its own individual sound effect, all sounding incredibly similar to their real-world counterparts. The mall eerily plays cheesy elevator music, with automated announcements ringing throughout every couple of minutes. Boss fights produce oddly well-used screaming rock songs, while escaped prison convicts, whom you find later on, blast echoing rap-rock from their stolen military jeep. Altogether, Dead Rising sounds great from all aspects.
The basic premise of Dead Rising is simple: do missions, kill zombies, rinse, repeat. You can grab just about anything in the mall to hack, slash, and crush your way through literal mobs of zombies. One of the things I found great about the game is that killing zombies over and over does not get boring. Dead Rising uses the zombies in such a way that they aren’t just another enemy, but more of a living, breathing obstacle preventing your way from point A to point B. From the start, Frank starts out with next to no hand-to-hand skills, barely able to handle himself without a weapon of some sort. As you progress through the game, you gain PP, or Prestige Points, used to level up, unlocking new abilities, better stats, and other things with each new level.
There are many ways to gain PP, such as rescuing other survivors, and more obviously, killing zombies. Frank’s camera can also be used to gain PP by taking pictures of zombies or people doing certain things. Even though Frank is a photojournalist, his camera isn’t used for much outside of gaining PP. It kind of seems tacked on, because there really aren’t many times you need to take a picture of something or someone.
I’m a big fan of character customization. Although you cannot change the look of Frank, you can steal various outfits for him to wear, ranging from a super-cool white suit, to a complete MegaMan outfit, to even a flower-print dress if you’re feeling pretty. There are a lot of cool, funny, and odd outfits to choose from and Capcom has put up a bunch of outfits on the Marketplace for free (I myself use one of them for zombie-slaying). Though none of the clothing adds any sort of bonuses or skills to Frank, they are fun to try out and mess around with. Certain achievements will also unlock other outfits for Frank to wear, boosting the replay value of the game.
Depending on how you finish the game, you may unlock Overtime mode, which allows you to see the real reason of the zombie invasion. After beating that, you will unlock the ultra-satisfying Infinity mode giving you free reign over the mall, at the cost of slowly depleting health.
As for the game itself, it is very satisfying, aside from some mistakes that makes this great game a good game. Saving is restricted to one save per Memory Unit, meaning you can save as many times as you want, but you only have one save slot. This can make the game a little difficult, unless you have a Memory Card, allowing you two slots, acting as a safety net. The main thing that makes this one save slot deal an issue is the game’s strict time-limit. You have a certain amount of time to do the main missions, or “cases”, or else the mystery will be gone, and you will be forced to load, or even restart the game.
If you stick to the main missions, the game will eventually give you a generous amount of break time to finish secondary missions, or explore more of the mall. Just be sure to get back to the cases within the time given, or you’ll just end up stuck again.
Another thing in DR that may turn some people off is the difficulty of the bosses, appropriately called psychopaths in which you will run into. Most of them show no obvious weakness, forcing you to wait for them to hit a pause. You may even be forced to hide behind a wall with just enough space to show your gun and pop a few shots off – which is extremely hard due to the game’s horrible auto-aim system, resembling that of Resident Evil 4.
Though it isn’t present in the main missions too much, a good portion of the side missions consist of escorting survivors. Some survivors can handle a weapon, making your job a little easier, but others are too afraid, almost forcing you to literally hold their hand due to their inability to run as fast as you. Other survivors have some sort of injury, needing you to carry them making you unable to defend yourself, though the zombies seem to attack you less – seemingly like an act of mercy from Capcom. Escorting these people would be a lot easier if it wasn’t for the horrible follow AI. Many times your escorts will end up trying to walk through walls to get to you, or attacking zombies completely out of your way. It gets annoying, and will probably end up costing their lives, affecting your chances at certain achievements.
Those things aside, Dead Rising is a wonderful game, despite the blatant and obvious setbacks.
Dead Rising is just pure fun. If you can look past the bad save system, and iffy ally AI, this is a great game, with loads of replay value, and things to do. Zombie-killing never gets old as the game has infinite ways to do it and many other things to do. There are a few outfits, and even weapons to unlock in the game making achievement-grabbing even more fun, bringing out the obsessive-compulsive side in all of us. DR looks great, sounds great, and most of all, plays great. DR is one of my favorite games, due to the just mindless fun it throws.
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