Zombies have fascinated humanity for a very long time. The idea of the dead coming back to life, to feast on the living is one that has sparked many movies and horror stories alike. Yet when it came to the world of video games, Capcom was the only developer able to become the heavy hitter in the battle against the undead. Capcom, who produced the survival horror dynasty Resident Evil, has unleashed another serving of living dead ass-stomping for the Xbox 360 with Dead Rising.
The game takes place in the small town of Willamette, Colorado. A freelance photojournalist named Frank West goes there via helicopter to follow a lead that something big is going down. After seeing that the town is completely quarantined by the National Guard, Frank touches down on Willamette Parkview Mall, after telling his helicopter pilot to meet him back on the helipad in three days. Once inside, you meet others who have started to barricade themselves in the mall. In no time, however, the zombies gain entrance to the mall and you’re running for cover.
Yet compared to its blockbuster cousin, how does Dead Risingfair in battling the hordes of walking corpses?
When it comes to great gameplay, Dead Rising has it in spades. The basic premise is to survive as long as possible while running over, slashing, kicking, smashing and basically destroying the unending sea of zombies. To do this, Frank has over 250 different weapons at his disposal in the mall. You’ll find everything from submachine guns to less conventional “weapons” like toy light swords. Although it’s obvious what type does the damage, it’s always amusing to watch a zombie go down after you slam them in the face with a scorching hot frying pan, charring their face beyond recognition.
You can’t survive this ordeal with just weapons alone. A man’s got to eat and Capcom put that into consideration when making this game. Throughout the mall there are little places to get food which will help you regain health. Different foods have different amounts of health they can replenish and some of them even need to be warmed up or mixed properly in order to get the desired effect. Speaking of mixing, if you find a blender in a game, it’s always a good idea to put two food items in it to see what will come out. There are seven different kinds of mixed drinks that you can make in the game that benefit Frank in some way, like making him run insanely fast or giving him the ability to kill zombies when he hocks a loogie at them.
The walking dead aren’t the only foes you’ll face during your visit to Willamette. Throughout your stay in the air conditioned house of consumerism, you will be face to face with some definitely unique characters. The strain of the events of the past few days have taken a toll on these people and now leave you with a couple warped individuals hell bent on protecting themselves against everything, including you. These encounters bring a certain feel to the game because some of these instances have you either laughing at how silly one of them may be, but instantly being a little disturbed or weirded out by another one.
Dead Rising isn’t all killing and death, however. One of the things you’re encouraged to do in this game is to scour the mall for any survivors. There are about fifty people in the game that need your saving. Most of them will follow you, but some will need your assistance to get back to the security room. If that’s the case, you’re going to spend your time escorting these people by holding their hands, lending them a shoulder to lean on or some other method of help. That may sound hard but when you’re able to give your companions a weapon for the journey back to safety, it really helps that out a bit.
As people join your party and you’re able to save them, you’ll gain things in the game known as “Prestige Points” (known from here on out as PP). These are like the XP (experience points) you gain in role playing games, causing Frank to level up, allowing him to gain new features like more health or some killer moves that will help him survive the onslaught. You can also gain these prestige points by taking good pictures within the game as well as doing certain things like interacting with the environment in a certain way. Taking these pictures as a way of leveling up seems like a nice way to incorporate the fact that Frank West’s a photojournalist and still not have it be too cheesy.
From a technical standpoint the game also does very well. The sound in the game is good with the soundtrack being mostly music that you’d imagine you’d hear in a mall, sounding very much like elevator music at points, although that’s not all that you hear in the game. The low groans of the zombies are enough to be blood curdling if you’re not careful. Weapons also have a great sound to them, both the firearms and the melee weapons. The sweet “ping” sound of a katana as it goes through the torso of a zombie is a sound that quickly comes to mind when I think of this title.
Another technical point of the game that’s stunning is the amount of zombies that can be on the screen at any given time. To me that’s what next-gen is all about. At any given time, especially in the mall, you could have an area crawling with zombies, all standing around and reacting independently to your arrival and actions. The graphics are good for a 360 title and the player models are outstanding as well.
With all of these cool gameplay features in the game, there also are some glaring faults within it as well. The very first issue that comes to mind is the saving system. The problem with this isn’t the fact that you have to run to a bathroom or the security room to save because that makes the game a bit more challenging and isn’t as troublesome as Capcom’s other game Resident Evil. The big problem with the saving system is the fact that when you die, you get the choices of “Load from last checkpoint”, “Save and Continue” and “Return to Main Menu.” If you click save and continue it doesn’t save the game and continue from where you left off. What happens is the game restarts the game all over again except this time it keeps your level status and all of the things that come with those level ups. Although this does make the subsequent runs through the game ridiculously easier, it can become a little frustrating.
Another problem is the font with which the game’s information and cues are written in. On a standard definition TV, the words that are needed to be read to follow the story or read any scoop information are very small, almost to the point that it isn’t legible at all. The only real “quick fix” to this problem is to play the game on an HDTV, which for a majority of gamers in the market today, just isn’t a manageable solution. There has been a large outcry for Capcom to do something but they’ve denied that there’s a patch in the works to fix this problem as of late.
The third and really last big problem with this game is the transceiver gameplay mechanism in Dead Rising. When you first start out, one of the security guards of the mall named Otis gives you a map and transceiver so that you can communicate with him in the security room, allowing him to give you tips and scoop information. The only problem with this, however, is the fact that he seems to call you at the most inopportune times, barraging you with this annoying beeping sound. Although that doesn’t seem as bad as it sounds, it does once you realize that when you answer his calls you’re completely vulnerable to any attack from zombies. That’s right; when you answer the transceiver you’re no longer able to defend yourself. What’s worse is if you’re hit or you jump to escape the clutches of a zombie, the communication’s cut off and two seconds later you get another call from Otis starting with him scolding you for your rude interruption of what he had to tell you.
Dead Rising has a little bit in the department of extras. On top of the Overtime and Infinity modes, after completing the 72-hour mode with an A ranking, there are a couple things that you can unlock after doing certain things within the game. Luckily for most, those things are actually some of the fifty achievements that count for 1000 gamerscore points. For example, if you get the Zombie Genocider achievement after killing 53,594 zombies (there’s a reason for that number, you’ll see) you’ll get a pretty nice goodie for your zombie killing needs.
Just as with other Xbox 360 titles, some extras are acquired through the Marketplace. Luckily for Dead Rising fans these downloadable costumes are free to download, so Frank can wade through the hordes in style.
Of all the games currently available for the Xbox 360, there are very few that get as much attention from the fans that Dead Rising has. Within its first two weeks on shelves in North America, it sold over half a million copies. I think that right there speaks volumes on how well received this game is on so many levels. With so many games releasing with so-so reviews it’s very refreshing to see such a fun zombie game come out for the Xbox 360.