The Basic Premise
Frank West is a freelance photo journalist who catches wind of something going down in the small town of Willamette, Colorado. Hiring a helicopter to get him past the military cordon and into the town, as he flies in Frank sees some very strange, violent things. Determined to get a closer look at what is “too quiet” to be civil disobedience, Frank lands on the roof of the Mall.
Well, one thing leads to another (Involving an idiot, a barricade and a poodle), and now Frank is trapped for at least three days in the Mall- which has filled up with zombies. Dead rising is almost the game of land of the dead.
You take control of Frank, and decide how to spend the next three days. Will you try to rescue other survivors? Will you try to get to the bottom of the outbreak? Or will you just wonder around aimlessly snapping photos and lopping off zombie heads? The choice is yours.
This is where Dead Rising really shines. The game has all the elements of a real winner; it’s new, interesting and for the most part solid. Dead rising is a third person game, and revolves around two main concepts- exploration and combat. There are two other concepts which are also important- photography and survivors.
The two main game concepts first. The mall is a big place with many shops, and it slowly opens out more and more as you complete “scoop” missions- these are the things that advance the plot of Dead Rising. These scoop missions take place at set times during the three days of the game, and allow you to find out exactly what’s going on in Willamette. The first time you play through the game though, it’s best to focus on exploring the mall and killing zombies to level up Frank, or else the later missions can be VERY tough. Getting familiar with the mall takes time, but once you’ve learnt your way around and know the spawn points of all the gear (some of which change as the days wear on), the game becomes a lot more fun, and you can try to get the “real” ending without endless frustration. The good thing about Dead rising is the fact that you can still complete the game even if you don’t rescue any survivors, don’t complete any scoops or just spend the game hiding in a cupboard- just don’t expect the good ending if you do!
Dead Rising’s combat is very well done when fighting zombies. Perhaps the most amusing aspect of it is that almost anything in the mall can be picked up and used as a weapon, from Katanas (Very effective, but not durable), through to toy lightsabers (not effective at all). There are loads of thing lying around throughout the game that prove very useful, or in some cases downright bizarre. Handguns, soda cans, Frisbees, hunks of meat, shopping trolleys, park benches, parasols, bowling balls, delivery vans, other zombies… Everything and anything can be used to mash, blast, decapitate, eviscerate and mangle zombies. Check out the dead rising trailer, and you’ll see what I mean.
Combat can be problematic when fighting psychopaths (Insane survivors, The Dead Rising equivalent of boss battles). The slow targeting and movement system works fine for shambling zombies, but Dead rising’s psychopaths can frequently out maneuver you while you aim. With a little practice though, you can learn to compensate for this game flaw, though some psychopaths (such as the three escaped convicts) are VERY irritating thanks to this little oversight.
Now, the other two game concepts. Frank is a photojournalist and so is there to take pictures. Aside from having memories of your best sessions in game, taking photos allows you to earn PP (Prestige points), which are the Dead Rising version of XP. Snapping a lot of photos is key to trying to keep up with the game’s difficulty curve, and players who forget to do it often find themselves struggling against later psychopaths.
The other way to earn lots of PP is by escorting survivors back to the mall security room (the only safe haven in the game from the zombies). Your good friend Otis the Janitor (probably the biggest, most infuriating oversight in the game), will contact you on your hand radio to let you know of survivors wondering around the mall. Some might be psychopaths, but others might be in genuine need of help. Otis, is annoying. When he calls you, Frank stops whatever he’s doing and picks up the radio. Fine. Until you get a call when you’re in the middle of a horde of zombies. You can cancel the call of course, but if you do so then Otis will repeatedly call you back, saying how rude you are and carrying on talking until you let him finish. A neat idea for first time players of Dead Rising, but once you’ve played through and are repeating the game, It’s annoying you need to continuously stop what you’re doing and listen to Otis.
Dead Rising has a strong RPG element. Gaining the aforementioned PP causes Frank to level up, giving him more health, new moves and the ability to carry more equipment. When you complete the game, your XP carries over to a new save making replays a lot more fun. You also need to scavenge food to survive and make tough choices about what to carry with your limited inventory. Will you stock up on food to keep your health topped up? Or weapons to fight the undead? Items degrade In Dead Rising, so sure that Katana is nice and all, but after about 10 uses it’s going to snap in half and be useless. Now the knife may not be as swish, but it’ll last a lot longer… which do you go for? It’s survival horror “meats” (see what I did there?), absurd Hollywood action- in a game.
HD TV’s only. Dead rising is very hard to play without a HDTV, as the text is blurred and hard to make out, and given that everything has a label and you need to be able to read Otis’ messages to find survivors and psychopaths, this can make the game unplayable. Aside from that Dead Rising’s graphics are top notch. The zombies are superbly detailed, and the mall is beautifully crafted. If you can bring yourself away from your zombie mangling for a little while, check out the details on objects and places. Splatter effects are well rendered and very realistic *Ahem*. At night, things can be a little too dark, and playing the game can be difficult. A little over realism there I think. Dead rising is starting to look a little bit dated now, but it still holds its own nicely, as has some of the smoothest animation I’ve seen in a 3rd person game on the 360. I will say it one more time as it’s very important; only play this game on a HD TV.
There is no multiplayer mode on Dead Rising, which is a pity as having a gang of folks wondering around the mall would make a fun game. Still, given how many zombies can be generated on the screen at any one time, it would probably be impossible. There are Xbox live Dead Rising leader boards though.
What Makes it Special
Dead Rising is an interesting take by Capcom on the survival horror genre, an area of gaming they’ve done very well out of so far. The game emphasis has been placed more on the action and “cool” factor than anything else. Having a very interactive environment to explore and take part in is also a plus. The story is well delivered, though hard to continue at times if you aim to complete it on the first try. In fact, to really have fun with dead rising you just need to play through it once, collecting as much PP as possible, then on the replay try to get through the story. The game has its flaws, the psychopaths can be hard to beat due to clunky control rather than actual difficulty, and the learning curve is steep enough to qualify as a cliff. But, this aside, Dead rising is a great game that I would recommend to anyone with a 360.
Multiplayer: Not Applicabale.
Rumors of a PC release of Dead Rising are false. However, Dead Rising 2 should be appearing on the PC as well as all other consoles.