Dead Rising is important to me, I can distinctly remember waiting for months and months for this game back in 2006, in fact it was the only reason I had bought an Xbox 360. 10 years on and I was just as excited to play this game following the announcement of a remaster early this year and, apart from the obviously dated graphics and unorthodox game mechanics, this game is just as weird, just as violent, and just as brilliant as it was a decade ago.
Of course, since its initial release we have seen several sequels to this game, but none have managed to nail the same vibe that the original game had, and I think this down to later titles being developed by US based developers, there just something distinctly Japanese about this game, whether it be the weird and often perverted sense of humour, or its baffling mission mechanics, Dead Rising has just the right balance between humour and horror that it remains completely timeless.
You play as Frank West. A photojournalist with an interesting taste in outfits and a dab hand at undead slaughter, who receives a tip off that sends him on an investigation to the town of Willamette, Colorado. Upon his arrival, he discovers that the town is swarming with hordes of zombies. After holding up at the nearby mall, he discovers that the mystery of the Willamette Mall runs deeper than first thought, and he sets off in search of his next ‘big scoop’.
One of the biggest gripes people had with the original Dead Rising was its time mechanic, Frank is given 72 before he is picked up by his helicopter pilot, and seeing everything the first time around is almost impossible, however upon completion of the game, whether by finishing the main story and unlocking the ‘Overtime Mode’ or by making it safety to the helicopter after 72 hours, you can transfer all of your progress onto the next save, keeping all of your power-ups and outfits. This encourages plenty of replayability and I think many will find that it will require 1 or 2 play-throughs before Frank is sufficiently levelled up enough to take on the latter chapters of the game.
Dead Rising’s pioneering technology of the time was the amount of zombies it could have on screen, and even though it’s not quite as impressive as it once was, the sheer number of undead cannon fodder on screen is still quite a sight to behold, and cannon fodder they are, (at least during the day, where the zombies are sluggish and weak, at night they become more active, tougher, and more numerous) as Frank can use almost anything he finds as a weapon against the increasing horde. Some of the weapons deal minimal damage, some massive amounts, I have to admit, whilst the concept is a bit ridiculous, using a giant pair of shears to snip a zombie in half never gets old. Frank can also change his appearance, ever wanted to walk around as a bald cross-dresser wielding a sickle? Well Dead Rising allows those dreams to become a reality.
Bosses in this game are fantastic, with each one having a different attack and defence pattern, and a different method required to defeat them. And some of these bosses are tough, and I mean really tough, and it can take plenty of tried before you can finally defeat them, but all of them of brilliantly designed, Adam the Clown being a particularly disturbing highlight. And they often drop unique weapons or unlock areas of the mall previously unreachable, so defeating as many of them as you can is essential.
Dead Rising incorporates an XP system based on earning Prestige Points, or ‘PP’ points as they’re named in game. Being the aforementioned hard-edged photojournalist he is, Frank is able to take pictures of his exploits throughout the game. Prestige Points are earned for taking pictures containing Horror, Drama, Erotica, Outtakes and Brutality elements will all earn you PP points for their respective categories. This is not the only way PP points however, as completing the main Case Files of the story will earn massive amounts of points, as well as escorting survivors to the security room (if you have the patience) levelling up Frank will unlock special moves and increased health, so it’s a good idea to take as many pictures of zombies slipping over on gumballs, or pictures of skimpy undead stripper zombies as you can.
I said earlier that Dead Rising is a full of weird and often annoying game mechanics, and none more so than the survivor escort missions. Let’s be clear here, we all hate Escort Missions, they rank up there along with the Tail Missions from Assassin’s Creed as some of the most frustrating and tiresome forms of game design. Dead Rising’s escort missions are so bad that they’ve managed to transcend the boundary of bad game design and become one of the best things ever created. The survivor AI is laughable. You will spend hours and hours waiting for these idiots to follow your commands and making sure they don’t get devoured by the zombies that they seem oh so keen to walk straight into the path of, and once you’ve finally managed to get all of them into the security room, you get the absolute pleasure of hearing them say the same 3 lines over, and over, and over again.
It sounds like I’m complaining but without these little quirks, Dead Rising wouldn’t be the same game, it’s a wholly unique experience, one that I’m so glad I’ve been able to enjoy again in 1080p and 60fps. The PS4 version ran superbly for me at a stable framerate, and from what I’ve heard the PC version is an almost flawless port, so kudos for Capcom for bringing this game to the 8th generation of consoles and the PC. This is without a doubt one of the finest zombie games you will ever play, and even its own sequels have can’t hold a candle to it, a worthy remaster.
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