Video Game Rentals Delivered

Dead Rising

David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce) David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-05-09 07:14:22

Dead Rising - Rank B, YFKM Award


Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Date: 8/8/06

It's amusing that the first Capcom zombie game for the Xbox 360 isn't Resident Evil, but a tongue-in-cheek satire of the genre. In a stroke of inspiration, they set the game inside that glittering culmination of our grotesque economic excesses: a shopping mall. Somehow, droves of the undead lurching around a galleria doesn't seem too incongruous.

The Willamette Parkview Mall provides a massive "open world" full of clothing boutiques, fitness gyms, movie theaters, food courts, hardware emporiums, music shops, toy stores...every manner of retail establishment you can imagine. These shops are filled with new outfits for you to change into, food and drinks to cook up, books that can teach you new combat and survival techniques, and most importantly, a bewildering range of weapons with which to dispatch the undead.

Each object has a different animation and method of zombie dismembering goodness. You can stick traffic cones or silly masks on their heads, causing them to stumble around blindly. You can knock them down by rolling bowling balls (an Achievement is awarded for knocking down ten or more). Frying pans can be swung to produce a satisfying BWONG sound, or heated up on a stove to sizzle undead faces. Parasols are great makeshift battering rams to shove your way through crowds. Hedge clippers are effective at scissoring limbs clean off. For the traditionalists, shotguns and chainsaws are also available. Personally, I find the way the power drill sends bloody zombie chunks flying to be even more satisfying. Yet even more ridiculously awesome are some of the unlockables. One of them is essentially a lightsaber. You can unlock a Mega Man outfit, complete with his Mega Buster cannon.

This screwing around is the thrill of Dead Rising. It's the Grand Theft Auto of zombie survival horror games. It's simply a blast to explore and combat the undead, shoving coat hangers in their mouths, mauling them with skateboards, or simply plowing them over with a delivery truck. Dead Rising delivers fun no matter what your playing style. You can toy with them by spilling cooking oil for them to slip on, or crush them with sledgehammers.

Dead Rising also gives you plenty of longevity. The protagonist, Frank West, levels up in an RPG fashion. One complete play through doesn't even come close to maximizing his abilities. He gets tougher, stronger, and able to carry more items. He learns ridiculous fighting moves, like a somersault kick, German suplex, or Zangief's double lariat. He eventually evolves from a scrappy photojournalist (taking interesting pictures is one way to earn experience) into a lethal zombie-genociding commando. This is a strong incentive to keep returning to find new and entertaining ways to free the undead from their pitiable mockery of life.

Finally, in case you couldn't tell, this inventive gameplay is wrapped up inside a terrific self-mocking tone of bloody humor, much like the film Shaun of the Dead.

Unfortunately, Dead Rising falters in a couple of significant ways. The save system is downright stupid. You are allowed only one game save. Further compounding this idiocy is the fact that it's possible to save your game in a fashion that renders it impossible to progress. In this case, your only recourse would be to restart the campaign. True, you get to keep any levels and abilities you've earned, but the frustration caused by this insipid design earns a Direman Press "You're Fucking Kidding Me" award.

This potential pitfall is caused by the game's real time structure. You have a finite 72 hours of game time (6 hours of real time) to unravel the mystery of the zombie infestation and complete the game. Along the way, there are specific events that you need to attend in order to progress. If you save at a location that is too far away for you to reach in time, you're fucked. You need to give yourself plenty of time to reach any necessary "appointments". Even ignoring the possible save blunder, the real time schedule puts an unnecessary pressure on the player to quickly accomplish objectives: the very antithesis of a "sandbox" game. It would have been more enjoyable to be able to leisurely explore, and to tackle missions at a selectable pace. While the ticking clock mechanic may be more realistic, it does sober the fun. And we're talking about a zombie uprising liberally sprinkled with comedy; "realism" is not a necessary ingredient to this formula. Once you have Frank leveled up, you'll want to ignore the plot and simply muck around to your heart's content. A pure "survive as long as you can" mode with hunger (dwindling health) is available as well.

Aside from those major problems, you have your usual issues that tend to plague third person action games. You have to occasionally fight the camera, and like many Japanese games, the controls are a tad unnecessarily complex. There are numerous (largely optional) escort missions. I admit, they do make sense within the context of the game; you would need to help survivors to safety. But listen, developers, we gamers hate escort missions. They suck. Stop making them. The plot is interesting, but the ending is lousy. It cops out to set up an eventual sequel.

Despite these problems, Dead Rising is absolutely unique, and every Xbox 360 owner should consider grabbing a copy. Much like Crackdown, it is a deeply flawed game that is nevertheless brilliant and amazing. It's silly, gory, and fighting zombies has never been this deeply satisfying.

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