Archives by Day

June 2024

Dead Rising

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


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Xbox One Review - 'Dead Rising HD'

by Thomas Wilde on Nov. 8, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

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.

Buy Dead Rising HD

Given Capcom's love of ports and re-releases, I'm surprised it took them this long to put the original Dead Rising back out into the world. It's been 10 years (good lord, it's been 10 years), and this is the first time DR has come out for any system besides the Xbox 360.

Dead Rising was supposed to be a launch title for the 360, and in a lot of ways, that shows. In retrospect, it has a lot in common with the kinds of games that Japanese developers tended to make for the Xbox, like Gun Valkyrie, Otogi or Phantom Dust; it's an experimental, punishingly difficult game aimed at a hardcore audience. It was initially announced and pitched as a zombie sandbox, where you could use any- and everything you could find as a weapon, but then it came out and — surprise! — it was a vicious series of timed missions with next to no room for error. You can pummel a thousand zombies to death with squeaky toy hammers, yeah, but the zombies are really only there to run interference for the clock.

I played DR to death when it was new, and I was obsessed for a couple of months with the idea of a "perfect run," which a lot of people thought was flat-out impossible at the time: In a single game, finish the story missions, save all the survivors you possibly could, defeat all the bosses, and do all the side-quests. It is possible, if only barely, and that weird little project of mine means a lot of the game is still jammed into my brain 10 years later. (And yes, like everyone else who's ever played this game, the first verse of Lifeseeker's "Gone Guru" is always going to make me grit my teeth.)

In 2016, it's startling how dated it feels. A lot was sacrificed in the name of pushing as many zombies onto the screen as possible, so everything that isn't specifically about zombie slaughter is functional at best. The mall used to feel huge and expansive, but 10 years later, it's startling how empty it seems, with a lot of stores that only contain a handful of interactive items. Characters' AI is prone to breaking at the slightest provocation, boss fights are full-contact games of Rock-'Em-Sock-'Em Robots, and the UI is barely useful at all. Most notoriously, the on-screen text was illegible back in 2006, when most of us were still playing on CRT televisions, and it isn't much better now. Dead Rising is a stark reminder of just how far a lot of game design has come in just the last decade, especially if you play it for a bit and switch to one of its sequels.

The one thing I've missed about the original, however, and which I think the series has needed to go back to for a while, is its relative seriousness. DR2 is set in a self-conscious parody version of Las Vegas, where the survivors range from eccentrics and drunks to the genuinely insane, and Dead Rising 3's cast all seem to be doing their best to ignore the zombie apocalypse happening outside, as if it'll go away if they don't pay attention to it.

In the original DR, however, everything is played absolutely straight. You're in a small town in Colorado where most of its inhabitants have been turned into zombies, and the only shelter to be found is inside the brand-new local megamall. The survivors you run into are traumatized or panicking, you can easily run into a boss fight you cannot win with no warning, and every new development in the story is one more reason why you and this town are utterly screwed.

Yeah, there are a couple of encounters that are weird as hell, like the fight with Adam the chainsaw-juggling clown, but nobody in Dead Rising is interested in winking at the camera. It's a horrifying situation to be in, and it's treated like one from the very start. The attract screen features a more frightening sequence than anything you can find in any of the sequels. When you add that to the natural urgency of constantly having to rush all over the mall before a mission timer expires, it's a tense, desperate experience that none of its sequels even tried to reproduce.

To my mind, that's what makes Dead Rising interesting in 2016. It hasn't aged well at all, and it's a sort of time capsule for late sixth/early seventh-generation design, but it still has a quiet intensity and sense of genuine dread that none of its more famous sequels even tried to match, and which in many ways stands alone in recent video game history. If you can come to grips with its relative user-unfriendliness, it's an experience worth having.

Score: 7.5/10

More articles about Dead Rising
blog comments powered by Disqus