Dead Rising is a ten-year-old series that debuted on the Xbox 360 and has captured hearts ever since with its over-the-top zombie killing, lovable characters, and unique gameplay mechanics. In the first game, there was a three-day time limit, psychopaths, rescuing survivors, multiple endings, and the use of photography to earn extra experience and discover collectibles. In the second, there was the addition of combo weapons and an online co-op story mode, as well, that made replaying the story even more fun—especially if you had a buddy that was as into the game as you. The third was the first Xbox One Dead Rising and brought us outside of shopping malls and casinos, giving us an entire city to explore along with the ridiculous DLC co-op mode that let you dress up as your favorite Capcom characters. Now we have the fourth entry in the series, which revisits Frank West, the original protagonist that everyone loved and adored. We’ve got new combo weapons (not a new mechanic, but still, we have new ones), we have an open map that sort of mashes the Dead Rising 1 and 3 maps together, combining the mall and city. We lost the co-op campaign, and we lost the psychopaths in favor of “Maniacs,” which are basically the same thing but stupidly easy to beat and less interesting. Dead Rising 4 tried some new things, lost some old things, and tweaked the rest, but did that equate to a better game? Let’s talk about it.
Back to Willamette, Ho!
So, Dead Rising 4 takes place long after the original game, about 15 years after, Frank West is a 52-year-old professor that teaches, what else, Journalism. One of his students, Vick Chu, lures him out of his house one night after a particularly strange nightmare for a round of mini-golf. The thing is, however, they’re not going to play mini-golf. She’s taking him to a military site in Willamette, Colorado, which was the location of the original outbreak in the first game. A reluctant Frank agrees to go along for the ride and investigate the base, sneaking into the compound with Vick and taking pictures along the way. They discover that the military is experimenting on zombies, which is peculiar because everyone is supposed to be cured and immune to the zombie virus. So, where did these guys come from? Vick, showing almost a bit too much heart, pity-kills one of the zombies that’s being held in a cell, setting off an alarm and separating herself from Frank. Vick bolts without Frank, leaving him by himself to escape the base.
Fast-forward about a month later, and Frank has made it a point to lay-low and go by a different name, since the government has basically framed him for breaking into the base and killing soldiers. The ZDC sends Brad after Frank to tell him about the new outbreak that’s occurred on Black Friday at the new Willamette Megaplex Mall—not to bring him into custody, but to ask for his help with the matter. I mean, come on. He’s covered wars, you know? Frank agrees to go along after Brad tells him that his former student, Vick, has been seen in the town, and that her part in the situation is unknown. As not to spoil anything that comes after that, I won’t talk too much about what happens except for when it pertains to another point, such as gameplay. The main thing is that Willamette is in trouble, and it’s up to Frank West, the wise-cracking, zombie-killing photojournalist to return and get to the bottom of what the hell is happening to that strange little town.
Little tidbits of side-stories can be found through various collectibles in the game, like text messages, Vick’s audio recordings, newspapers, and the like. There’s no more escort missions—just random survivors that need Frank’s help, but they don’t really have the story bits that they had in previous games. Same goes for the Psycho–ahem, I mean Maniacs that are peppered throughout the game. They’re pretty much just triggered once you get to a certain point in the game, and you’ll have to go a bit out of your way to meet them. They don’t really have cutscenes like they did before and, to be honest, it makes them a little less menacing than before. You just kind of walk to their area, they yell stuff at you, you kill some of their henchmen, and then them. Nothing feels very serious anymore aside from some of the main story missions, which is where the focus and cutscenes fall. And that’s fine, it’s just a bit of a jarring change from previous games. If there were more Maniacs, or if they were harder to fight and kill, they would still feel important. As they stand right now, they add nothing to the game at all. They really, truly might as well just not be there and not waste my time going to fight them. There’s no challenge. They make the player feel no fear, and hardly even provide you with a chuckle. Adam the Clown, we will always miss you and your mini-chainsaws. You were truly a terrifying psychopath.
The Meat and Potatoes (Mostly Meat): Killing Zombies
So, the attitude of the game’s story is a bit lighter, but how about the gameplay? Are any of us ever truly going to get sick of mowing down hordes and hordes of zombies with flaming swords, electrified battle-axes, or laser-blackhole-guns? Probably not. It’s mindless, stupid fun, and with a whole bunch of new combo-weapons to choose from and create, the possibilities are pretty much endless (okay, maybe not endless, but there’s a lot). I do feel as though we should discuss on big addition, the Exo suit, which seemed to have a lot of people teetering and trying to figure out if Dead Rising was just going completely bonkers. The Exo suit is extremely fun to use. It’s over-powered as hell, especially when you get any of the power-ups for it, such as the vacuum power-up or military power-up that essentially turns you into a human tank. The exo suits only last for so long, though. They’re sort of a fun, little treat that you can use to rack up some kills while you’re wandering around, either between missions or trying to track down collectibles. In some of the story missions, however, you’ll be given an exo suit with unlimited battery, and that eliminates any and all challenge for pretty much the rest of that mission. It might as well be a ten-minute cutscene of Frank demolishing zombies and soldiers.
This is one of the most annoying parts of Dead Rising 4: even if you’d never played one of the games before, the game is too damn easy,. I did not die once during the campaign. I always had plenty of health and plenty of healing items afoot—I don’t even know what the HUD looks like when you get low on health. Does the screen flash red, or do blood splatters fill the corners of the screen? Nothing about the game is challenging in the slightest as every weapon that you get can demolish a mob of zombies. Some of the first skills that you can unlock in the game reduce the amount of damage that you take from physical attacks and gunfire, making you even more of a tank. Don’t get me wrong, I love having a good time and killing stuff in crazy ways, but I also enjoy having a bit of challenge in my games. This game truly has none. You could put your brain on autopilot for about ten hours and beat the game that way. You won’t 100% complete it, but you’ll beat it easily.
That leads me to the last big thing that’s different about this game. There is no time limit to your shenanigans in this game. Not three days. Not seven days. Nothing. This, once again, adds to the casual feel of the game in making it just feel way too easy. There is absolutely zero sense of urgency in this game, and if you really wanted to, you could easily 100% complete the game in your first run. This, in essence, gives the game almost no replayability in terms of the campaign, because you don’t truly have a reason to go back and play again. Well, you can go back to fiddle with the goodies you get from beating the game, but that’s nothing more than some new toys you can use to kill zombies with, and that won’t last you more than a few minutes. While it is nice to just run around and do whatever you want, it’s a double-edged sword because it’s really the last nail in the coffin that completely buries any difficulty the game could have had. When a game isn’t challenging and doesn’t compel the player to try, it sort of feels like you’re just trying to get to the next cutscene to get some semblance of story to absorb that pulls you back into the game.
I will point out, really quick, however, that although there’s no day/night cycle to give us the more powerful night zombies, we have two new kinds. Fresh zombies are zombies that have literally just turned and have retained their speed and reflexes, making them harder to hit. They can take one or two extra hits, but they still aren’t too much more resilient than the others. The other new zombies are the Evolved Zombies, which are glowing, super strong, super fast zombies that you’ll meet a few cases into the game. Once again, they’re tougher and can actually take some decent abuse before they go down, but they don’t dish enough damage to really be scary. The new version of zombies are welcome. They do their part in replacing the need for the day/night zombies, and provide you with a good reason to bust out your best combo weapon you have at the moment.
My last brief point that I wanted to make about the mechanics is the addition of detective-like sequences in which you must use Frank’s camera to investigate scenes. This would be lame if you just had to take pictures, but you also have a special night vision lens as well as a spectrum lens. It’s never explicitly mentioned what the spectrum lens does exactly, but it can see through things, see fingerprints, and unlock keypads for you. I won’t even try to explain that videogame logic because it’s pointless, but it’s also fun to take a little break from the action and try to figure out what’s going on in Willamette. Frank being a photojournalist is a much bigger point in this game than it was the last time he was given a full game release, and that’s a good thing. It gives him more character aside from making jokes and killing stuff.
Out With the Old Co-op, in With the… Boring Co-op
No longer do we have a co-op campaign, but now we have a 4-player co-op mode that’s totally separate from the single-player story. Players choose one of four survivors (who actually do appear in the single-player story) and have to survive a certain amount of different trials before getting to the safe house to win. It’s pretty basic, but there is a leveling up system that allows you to unlock passive skills like in the campaign, and it’s fun to kill zombies with other people. This, however, is not going to hold anyone’s attention for very long—maybe hardcore fans of the series, but I can’t imagine that the multiplayer in this game is going to have a huge following. Honestly, I wish that I could say more about the multiplayer, but there’s just not a ton of really attractive substance within it. It’s just kind of there, hanging on to the side of Dead Rising 4‘s face like a wart.
Capcom Knows How to do Fan-Service
Capcom knows how to make its fans feel all warm and fuzzy inside…unless you love Megaman. Still waiting on that, Capcom. Seriously, we’ll forgive you for Megaman X7, just throw us a bone. Dead Rising 4 is filled to the brim with all kinds of easter eggs, costumes, music tracks, sound effects, and items from other Capcom titles. I won’t reveal any of the costumes so that you’ll all be pleasantly surprised when you get to dress up as your favorite Capcom character, but it’s pretty cool. One example I do want to mention is the alarm that plays in safe houses when you have to clear zombies out of them. There’s a very distinct noise that sounds off, and if you’re a fan of the Megaman X series—specifically the 4th, 5th, and 6th games—you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a very cool little touch. Being that this game marks the 10th anniversary of the series, I’m sure that this was all on purpose. It shows that Capcom really does have a soft spot for us long-term fans. That, or they know how to get those sneaky little fingers into our coin purses.
Another War, Covered
So, the big question is, how did everything add up when it came to Dead Rising 4? It does a lot. It changes a lot. But just because you add a bunch of things and only take away a couple of things, that doesn’t mean that the game is now better. The multiplayer is just unnecessary—it’s fun to fight zombies with your friends, but it gets boring fast, and there’s tons of better, more challenging co-op games you could play with your friends. The story is decent, and Frank West, though he has a different voice actor, is still as funny and quippy as ever (although a couple jokes are borderline dumb and juvenile). The few characters that the story focuses on are all fleshed out just enough to make you not want them to all take a nose dive into a swarm of zombies. It’s fun to make combo weapons and mow down hordes of zombies, although not really that rewarding for anything more than satisfying the “How high can I really get that combo counter?”-mentality. The difficulty is nonexistent, and it kind of makes the game feel like a trip to Six Flags. You go, you look at all the flashing lights and things that move fast, eat some junk food, then leave. You’re not really any more enriched than you were when you arrived, but it was fun while you were there.
Fans of the series will either love or hate the game. It will sell well enough to maybe warrant another sequel, or at least spin-off of some sort, but that’s all she wrote. It’s not an amazing game. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s also not awful. I hope nobody thinks that it’s absolute blasphemy to the series or anything like that, because it’s not. Hopefully Capcom will see the feedback that they get for the game and maybe add an extra difficulty setting or a hardcore mode to bring back the time limit or something. They do listen to people—game developers, I mean, and the good developers will listen with open-mindedness and give the fans what they want. Capcom Vancouver, here’s hoping that you’re one of those open-minded developers and that next time you’ll give the fans more of what they want and less of what you think they want.
Side Note: When playing through the last chapter of the game for the first time, all of the audio in-game aside from sound effects cut out. There was no music, no audio from characters’ voices, no subtitles, nothing. It just all went away for no reason. It was working fine till then. I finished the game, quit the game, closed it completely, started it again, and it worked fine. I played through the whole last level again just for the sake of knowing what the characters were saying. If anyone else comes across this problem, I recommend just closing the game and then going back in.
“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”
The writer of this review was provided with an Xbox One digital copy of this game, for the purpose of this review.