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Dead Rising

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: Sept. 13, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Dead Rising'

by Brian Dumlao on Oct. 17, 2016 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Dead Rising is survival horror game where you play as Frank West, a grizzled freelance photographer who has made his way to an idyllic suburban town to get his hands on the scoop.

Ten years ago, Dead Rising was released on the Xbox 360. It came out before the zombie craze exploded in games and showed off the system's capabilities by having hordes of the undead fill the screen. The amount of freedom you had in terms of what you could use was amazing, and it's still unmatched by anything else outside of the series. It was also a very hard game and punished people long before the likes of Demon Souls hit the scene. It was wildly successful, but outside of the truncated experience on the Wii, the original game would never venture outside of its original console. On the game's 10-year anniversary and a few months before the fourth proper game hits, the original has finally gone multiplatform and joined its brethren on the PC.

The story takes a few cues from the movie "Dawn of the Dead." You play as Frank West, a freelance photographer who got word of strange occurrences in the small town of Willamette, Colorado. After flying in and seeing some of the carnage, he's gets dropped off at the mall, where he sees the carnage firsthand. Over the span of 72 hours, he'll try to save anyone left and get to the cause of the outbreak. Most importantly, he has to survive.

At its core, Dead Rising plays out like any third-person adventure game, and it has some mechanics taken from open-world games. Frank can run around the mall and choose to either ignore zombies or bludgeon whoever crosses his path. There are specific missions he can take on in various parts of the mall that advance the story, or he can choose to help stranded survivors by leading them to the mall's upper maintenance room to await rescue. Bosses with odd personalities are also waiting to be encountered, from the chainsaw-wielding clown to the stressed-out grocery store manager who runs at you with a deadly shopping cart. You can try to take on every possible task to get a better ending, but you can also completely ignore everything and make it back in time to get picked up, so you have some freedom even in a relatively confined space.

What makes the game appealing is that just about anything not nailed down is yours for the taking. Just about anything you can think of — benches, pieces of wood, sledgehammers and toolboxes — can be used against your foes. You can still guns, but ammo is scarce, and it's more fun to use a frying pan or mannequin against a zombie anyway. Things like Servbot heads or buckets can be placed on yourself or on the zombies for fun. Food is also lying all over the place for the taking, so yogurt, smoothies, and large bread loaves can provide a quick health boost.

Another appealing aspect of Dead Rising is photography. You are a photographer, after all, so it makes sense that this aspect can also give you XP, alongside killing zombies and completing missions. Like real photography, you're rated on how well you keep your subject in the center of the shot and how many other important elements are included. Likewise, scenes of brutal violence or drama and humor are worth tons of XP, so shutterbugs can boost their levels rather quickly. Having said that, you'd have to be pretty quick on using the shutter, since going into photo mode doesn't protect you from everything else happening in the world.

Aside from the obvious thematic influences from the Romero zombie classic, the gameplay is influenced by two specific things. The first is the constant time pressure and limits from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. The 72 hours you're given are finite, and the tasks you're given have time limits of their own. Taking on one mission could prevent you from taking on other missions. Likewise, traveling to a short mission could cut into a chunk of a larger mission, since it's halfway across the mall grounds and up or down a few floors. You have to contend with time management, which isn't present in many adventure games.

The second influence has become a genre of its own: the roguelike. You start off pretty pitifully as you don't move fast, have pretty low energy, and can't hold too many items at once. Leveling up solves these issues, but it can be pretty easy to die if you're careless. Your typical answer to death is to reload from the last checkpoint, but if you forgot to save, you can always restart the game from the very beginning. This means that you'll have to go through the same cut scenes and scenarios again, but now you'll do so with a much stronger version of Frank. In a way, you're encouraged to die and start over multiple times because you'll come back stronger and there's no way to get the best possible ending the first time you play. The mechanic isn't novel anymore, since we've now been inundated with roguelikes, but it remains interesting.

Even if you were to discount those two major influences and the mechanics they bring, Dead Rising is still pretty difficult. The mall is quite large, almost as if you're fighting in the Mall of America instead of a typical suburban shopping center. Even if you're fully leveled up, it takes a while to get from one end of the mall to the other, and that's not counting the different floors and outdoor spaces. Bathrooms and beds serve as your save points, but they're spread so far apart that you're hosed if you're hounded by a horde and need a bit of a reprieve since you don't want to repeat everything since the last save. Without automatic checkpoints, the game is very tough if you aren't in the habit of seeking out save points. Also, if you're just coming into this game after playing Dead Rising 2 or beyond, you'll notice that the crafting mechanic isn't present. That doesn't make this title any less fun, but if crafting is what brought you to the series in the first place, then this might be a little disappointing.

For the most part, the game is exactly as tough and fun as you remember it being. However, there are a few things that could've been fixed but weren't. The AI for the civilians you rescue is bad. They do a poor job of following closely behind you, often necessitating that you wait for them once you reach the door for the next area to ensure they don't get left behind. You can give them a weapon to defend themselves, but they go on the offense instead of acting defensively, making you ponder whether you want to babysit them instead. Aiming is rather archaic. Going into aiming mode relegates the aiming to a single stick if you're playing with a controller, but you're also forced to stand still. This is fine if you're in a clear area and aiming at slow zombies from a distance, but doing this against any of the psychopath bosses guarantees some health loss if you look the wrong way and have to reorient yourself before they get in a shot.

As far as presentation goes, it's largely unchanged from the original Xbox 360 release. On the sound front, the music is good, and the voice work is well done, even if some of the pauses between characters goes on so long that it no longer feels like normal conversation. Graphically, the game hasn't received many changes. The character models look odd — especially the eyes of people who aren't important to the story. Clipping still occurs in places, and the texture work doesn't look like it's improved at all. It does support a full set of resolutions, and it doesn't take much to run the game at a full 60fps, which is intentionally interrupted since the game pauses once you kill a zombie.

Though it hasn't aged that well, Dead Rising remains a good experience. The game can be tough as nails due to the intentional design choices and flaws that stand out in comparison to modern conventions. The story is fine, and the characters are likeable enough to make it work. While it would have been nice if the presentation had been updated with more than 60fps and a gamut of resolutions, the fact that Dead Rising is playable outside of the Xbox 360 is enough of a reason for series fans to give this a shot and see what they're missing.

Score: 8.0/10

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