Dead Rising 4
Xbox One, PC
Ever since the early days of the Xbox 360, Dead Rising has been serving up zombie mayhem to the masses. The first game had a lot of problems, but it did have something about it that keep players coming back for more. Each successive iteration of the franchise has improved and the game has built on that foundation that the first game laid. So with Dead Rising 4 (actually the fifth title if you count “Off the Record”) what we have is the ultimate Dead Rising experience. The developers have chopped what didn’t work and focused on what did, making a game that confidently achieves its goals as a zombie-fulled barrage of crazy fun.
I have spent quite a bit of time with the Dead Rising games in the past, but I have never felt the urge to actually finish one. That is until number 4. What surprised me most about this entry in the series was the wonderfully silly, exciting and entertaining story. Frank West, the hero of the first game, has come back to the scene of his previous heroics after another zombie outbreak has plagued the town. From this humble beginning, the story weaves through investigating government cover-ups, tracking down enhanced zombies and aiding the local survivors in their plight. The story, while absurd at times, had me enthralled from start to finish and for me it was the hook that kept me smashing Zombies until the credits rolled. Frank himself is the classic sarcastic egotist with a heart of gold and makes for a surprisingly endearing lead character and the supporting cast of agents, reporters and survivors all add to the tale in enjoyable and sometimes surprising ways.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dead Rising game without thousands of zombies to kill in completely ridiculous ways. The weapon combo system from Dead Rising 3 is back so I was forced to hunt down blueprints before I could create some crazy weapons of undead death but I didn’t have to stray too far off the beaten path to find these plans. The weapons range from ridiculous (an electrified Blanka outfit) to awesome (a Warhammer crossed with grenades) to surprisingly effective (A Chinese lantern mixed with Firecrackers). I had a lot of fun discovering ways the best way to use each and every one to rain death on the zombie hordes. The biggest new inclusion as far as killing power is concerned is the new Exo suit. These suits can be found scattered about the world and they amplify Frank’s killer power. They too can also be combined with everyday items to increase their capacity for carnage. My favourite of these combos was with a slushie maker. It turned my hulking robot armor into an ice tornado launching machine of wintery decimation. It was glorious. Car combos are also back and are just as insane as everything else in the game so I found it well worth hunting down each and every blueprint, just to see what senseless, impractical and absurd thing the developers had dreamed up to help me on my way.
The world of Willamette is a fairly large place with plenty of variety. The game starts in familiar territory, the shopping mall, before moving into the town proper. Within the town limits, there are industrial areas, housing suburbs, farming areas and even an Army base, all populated with hundreds and thousands of Zombies as well as some nasty military types and survivors that have lost their grip on reality. These different enemy types do spice up the action and forced me to alter my usual “wade into the zombies with a flaming hammer of death” technique. They did bring to the fore the game’s biggest issue however, the AI. It is perfectly fine for Zombies to be mindless and unresponsive but it is another thing when the enemy is supposed to be a trained soldier. There were numerous occasions when I killed a soldier from a distance that his buddies, standing right next to him, failed to react. It happened enough to take a little shine off the fun, but not enough to sour the experience.
A controversial move by developers was to remove the limited timeframe from the game. Personally, I loved the fact that I was no longer pressured by a ticking clock and I could wander, explore and kill with wild abandon, but I am sure there are others out there that will miss the pressure it adds to the experience. Speaking of experience, I did find the game a little on the easy side. In fact, I am pretty sure I only died once during the entire campaign and that was at the final boss. I would heartily recommend that people who have played the previous Dead Rising games play this one on hard to get the most out of it. That said, it may not have been a super challenge but there was a lot to do. It took me about 17 hours to complete the game with a moderate amount of exploration. That 17 hours got me to 67% complete so there is quite a bit left for me to discover if the mood takes me.
Dead Rising 4 also includes a multiplayer mode which consists of 4 player missions with goals and objectives. I didn’t get to experience much of these as I played the game before release but what I did play successfully mixed the Dead Rising formula with something similar to Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer and struck me as a good bit of harmless fun. I can imagine this being quite the drawcard with a group of like-minded friends out for a bit of zombie dismemberment.
What Capcom have created with Dead Rising 4 has been years in the making. Each successive game has improved, tinkered and expanded and Dead Rising 4 is the result of that. The game has a wonderfully insane vibe that grabs players and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. If you are looking for a good bit of carnage that is a little on the offbeat side of things then Dead Rising 4 should be on your wishlist. Looks like there is still a bit of life left in the Zombie genre yet.