Review by CrimsonGear80

"Walking through a mall full of rotting zombies is STILL healthier than eating at Sbarro's"

Trapped…alone…surrounded by the living dead…you just wanted to but some Reebok's but NO! This is the experience Capcom's 2006 Xbox 360 exclusive Dead Rising was told to give you. I say “told” because I actually never played Dead Rising, although being trapped in a shopping mall fighting thousands of zombies sounded like a pretty fun game that I wouldn't mind playing. Well Capcom has answered my prayers and announced a port of the game…for the Wii. Ummmm….Ok, I'll admit that my initial thought was “How the hell would that work out?” The 360 original was well-known for allowing hundreds upon hundreds of zombies on screen at once, and it was pretty obvious that Nintendo's console didn't exactly have the horsepower to pull that kind of thing off. But, for better or worse, the port was released under the name Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop. Is it worth the trip to the Willamette Mall for newcomers to the series? How about those who played the original and weren't satisfied with some of it's gameplay decisions? Perhaps…maybe…we'll see.

“I'VE COVERED STORIES, YA KNOW“

You play as Frank West, photojournalist extraordinaire who has covered…ummm…werewolves, weapons, weirdness…I forgot, something that starts with the letter “W” though. Anyway, after hearing that the National Guard has surrounded and quarantined the town of Willamette, Colorado for an unknown reason, Frank charters a helicopter and flies right into place to find out what's going on and get a huge scoop. Good job keeping the city quarantined and locked down, US National Guard! Frank orders the chopper to drop him off on the roof of the town's huge mall, with the pilot telling him that he'll be back to pick him up in 72 hours. After going into the mall, Frank finds out just what is happening to Willamette: zombies! Zombies in the morning, zombies in the evening, zombies at suppertime! When zombies have taken over your town, you'll be dead in no time! Now trapped in the mall, Frank has 72 hours to help rescue survivors and find out the truth behind the zombie invasion. It's a pretty intriguing tale, with Frank overall being a likable guy. However, there are some plot holes (the cult basically showing up once, then disappearing for no reason), some pretty cringe-worthy dialogue, and one of the lamest ending I have ever seen in a video game. It will at least keep you walking the undead-filled shopping center until that end, but don't expect to NOT roll your eyes at multiple points during the proceedings.

“I'VE COVERED GAMEPLAY, YA KNOW”

Now I may not have played the original Dead Rising, but I have done my research on it in an attempt to tell those who have played it what major gameplay changes have been made in CTYD. First off, the original DR had only one save slot to utilize, and that apparently irked some people. CTYD features 20 save slots, so you can make multiple save to your hearts content. The original DR was set up as a sandbox style game, that let you roam the mall freely fighting off zombies, having missions take place in a “right place, right time” way. The mall's janitor, Otis, will occasionally call Frank up on a walkie-talkie with “scoops”, which will lead Frank to survivors that need to be saved or bosses that need to be taken out. There is a timer on the screen at all times counting down from 72 hours until the helicopter returns, meaning that the game ends in about 6 hours no matter what you do. There is also an “Overtime” mode that is unlocked by getting a “A” ranking in the main story mode. CTYD is set-up in a more linear fashion: the story missions, or “cases”, are given to you automatically and you progress through the game like any old mission-based action game. Between the story missions, Otis will give you the survivor rescuing missions, so he doesn't call you for these. There is no timer counting down the 72 hours, and Overtime mode is integrated into the story mode. Basically, this means that while you can still walk around the mall doing whatever you want, you can only do so when a mission is taking place. Finally, in the original game you can take pictures with Frank's camera of the zombies and other carnage to earn extra experience points. In CTYD…not so much, there is no picture taking. Frank's camera is just for show, and I really have no explanation on why they would take this feature out. Overall, the steps to make Dead Rising more accessible to the casual gamer crowd have been made here with CTYD.

Controls here are pretty simply: the analogue stick moves Frank around, with the camera zoomed in right behind him. You can press down and the Z button on the nunchuck to perform an 180 degree turn, while pressing Z and A on the Wii-mote together performs basic actions, like examining things and opening doors. It's a little weird at first to be pressing two buttons together for such a basic function, but you eventually get used to it. The A button is Frank's basic attacks (throwing punches), the 1 button brings up a map of the mall, and various Wii-mote motions are utilized to perform strong attacks on dazed zombies, like a football tackle or a home run swing with a baseball bat. One of DR's big selling points is the ability to pretty much pick up whatever isn't nailed down and use it against the undead hoard. It's no different here in CTYD, as chainsaws, pipes, drills, benches, soup ladles, swords, lightsabers, shopping carts, skateboards, and even soccer balls are used by Frank to rack up the kills (the game keeps count Dynasty Warriors-style of the numbers of enemies you take out). Frank is able to carry around one sub-weapon on him at all times to use to his heart's content until it breaks from too much zombie bludgeoning. Sure, using whatever you can find is fun and all, but CTYD shines with it's gun combat. If you've played the Wii edition of Resident Evil 4, aiming and firing guns should be very familiar here, as it's handled the same exact way. Frank's first gun will be a simple pistol, but he will eventually get to use shotguns, an uzi, a sniper rifle, and a magnum as well. Frank will aim his weapon by holding the B trigger, and you use the Wii-mote's pointer to aim with the on-screen crosshair, and press the A button to fire. You can turn Frank left and right or up and down with the nun chuck's analogue stick while aiming. It's a very easy and very accurate system to use and you'll be blowing away zombies in no time. However, herein lies the problem. In an attempt to make the game more accessible, Capcom has but a bigger emphasis on gun combat in CTYD, as all the guns are pretty overpower and defeated enemies constantly drop ammo for every one of them. This of course takes away from the “use anything that's nailed down” aspect that made the original DR memorable, because who's going to use a melee weapon that can take out one or two zombies at a time when a single shotgun blast can take out a whole pack of them.

Another big disappoint here are the enemies themselves, which of course consist mostly of the shambling walking dead. Simply put, zombie AI here is god awful. Correct me if I'm wrong, but zombies are supposed to actively hunt for and attempt to grab and eat humans that wander into their vicinity, correct? At least that's the way it is in the movies, and the way it is in most zombie-filled games I have played (and I have played quite a lot). Capcom seemed to have forgotten that here, as zombies seem to be content with just standing around literally scratching their necks as a buffet of manliness known as Frank West just runs right past them. Every once in a while the game may make one or two of them lunge at you or grab you, but they are easily shaken off with a Wii-mote gesture and health can be regained with the plentiful health items that are around the mall (mostly made up of fruits and vegetables). This crap gets even more ridiculous when human enemies (AKA, the stupid-ass raincoat cult) show up as regular enemies…and they just stand there amongst the zombies just hanging out with them! Hey zombies how's it going? Oh hey, you hate that West guy too? Well damn sons, let's go find him and kick his ass!

……..

STUPID, STUPID, STUPID! Makes no damn sense whatsoever! But wait, the ridiculous crap just keeps coming! In an attempt to give you some form of dangerous enemy, the game will eventually throw different types of zombies at you, including really fat security guards that taser you, ones that use flying karate kicks and wear Back to the Future-style orange vests, and steroid-induced lumberjacks that come at you with double-machetes. I am not making this stuff up. These guys CAN do damage if you get close enough to them, but like their zombie brethren they don't take much ammunition to take down. You don't think that was it, did you? How about (brace yourselves)…zombified poodles and parrots. Yes…poodles as in the dogs and parrots as in birds. Later on in the game, the parrots will start spawning grenades that they will drop on you. I swear on my life that I'm not making it up. I'll give these guys credit though, they are the toughest regular enemies you'll face in the game, even though they too can be taken out really easily. Finally, we come to the game's boss fights, which are against “Psychopaths”, humans driven mad by the zombie invasion. I'll just get to the point: these guys are pathetic. Every single one of them has one attack: run around like a jackass and hope they get a lucky hit in on Frank. Meanwhile, you shoot them a bunch of times until they die. The “QTE”-only fight and the fairly challenging last boss fight doesn't make up for this crap.

As stated, CTYD follows a mission-based linear progression. An arrow at the top center of the screen will point to where Frank needs to go. He will always start off in the Mall's security room where the other human survivors are holed up, and go from the vent in there, to the roof, to the elevator, and onto the ground floor of the mall. Early on in the game, you save one of Otis's fellow janitors who will allow you to use shortcuts to go to the gun shop or right to the area where your objective lies. However, you have to pay him upwards of 3000 bucks for him to do it! Heartless son of a *****! To be fair, the gun shop shortcut is free, but still…what a ****. You earn money by picking it up off of fallen zombies and by doing the survivor missions that Otis gives you in-between story missions. You basically follow the arrow to the survivor(s) who need rescuing, talk to them to get them to join you, and lead them back safely to the security room. Sometimes survivors won't cooperate and need to be punched a couple times before following frank. Some may even need more extreme measures, like Frank needing to find a Japanese translation book in order to talk to some tourists. However you get them to follow him, it doesn't matter since the zombie AI poses no threat anyway, so leading survivors back is usually a breeze. When you complete a survivor mission, your graded based on your performance and awarded items and money depending on how you did. Besides shortcuts from jackasses, money can be spent at the mall's gun shop where Frank can buy new weapons, increase the amount of ammo he can carry, and buy books that teach him new maneuvers, like a German suplex or neck twist. Tying together everything you do and kill in the game is a fairly neat experience point system. A bar fills up underneath Frank's health bar when you earn experience and when it maxes out Frank goes up a level, which in turn increases his strength, item slots, and books he can buy at the gun shop. It's a fairly basic system but one that encourages you to kill as many zombies as you can, and that's really not a bad thing. Another thing that isn't bad is the ability to customize Frank's look by going into various stores in the mall and helping yourself to their inventories. The stores have a pretty good combination of clothing, hats, hair colors, and the like to make Frank look unique. Ever wanted to kill thousands of zombies while wearing a dress with pink hair? Well, here's your chance.

“I'VE COVERED TECHNOLOGY, YA KNOW”

If the game's gun combat didn't tip you off (or the fact that the guns you use and their reloading animations seem very familiar), then you should know that CTYD runs on the same engine that powered the Wii version of Resident Evil 4. While RE4 is still a pretty good looking game, CTYD will obviously be compared to it's 360 original, and in that respect the results are not good. The mall itself is still fairly well designed, human character models aren't bad, and there's some amusing gore effects, but everything else in the game is an obvious downgrade. The biggest perpetrator is the amount of zombies on screen, as the draw of the 360 version was the ability to have hundreds of zombies on screen at once, giving you the feeling that you truly were deep in the crap. Here, however, the most I've counted on-screen at a time was between 15-20. The most being maybe 50 or so in the mall's maintenance tunnels during a couple of pivotal story missions. Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge difference to say the least. Then of course you see the zombies up close and mistake them for blurry blobs of ugly because of their terrible models. The games cut-scenes are also pre-rendered from the 360 versions in-game ones, making them look less than sharp. Thankfully, the game does run pretty well in widescreen and 480p. Still, even for a Wii game there are better looking third-party offerings out there.

The game's sound is another matter, as I found it to be pretty good. The graphics may diminish any feeling of being surrounded by hundreds of undead, but the zombie moans that come out of the back channels of your surround system sure won't. Sound effects, from gunshots to chainsaws cutting through flesh get the job done well enough. Voice acting isn't offensive in any way, and the muzak that plays throughout your mall escapades is a nice touch. Could have done without the very crappy sounding metal boss themes, though. Overall good stuff.

“I'VE COVERED BETTER GAMES, YA KNOW”

CTYD features a healthy amount of replay value, surprisingly. After beating the 8-10 hour main quest, you'll get an overall score that can earn you bonus items, including special weapons and clothing. You'll also earn special items by getting good scores in the survivor mission as well. You can then start a New Game+ with Frank's level and all the items he had in his inventory from the previous game. You'll also unlock “Odd Jobs”, a collection of various mini-games where you can earn even more swag. Dedicated players will get their money's worth.

Still, Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop didn't do much for me. Despite the excellent gun combat and the fact that killing thousand of zombies is always fun, I found the game to be very shallow to be of any value. Newcomers and casual gamers are the obvious target of this port, and those who have played the 360 original are probably better off sticking with it unless they really must see how the Wii version works. Don't worry Mr. West, there are plenty of other wars to cover, ya know?

KEWL
+Frank is a likable character and the story is fairly intriguing
+Gun combat is excellent
+Some may consider the changes to gameplay from the 360 version to be for the better
+Killing thousands of zombies is always fun
+Experience system works well
+Excellent sound design
+Lots of replay value for the dedicated

LAME
-Some bizarre plot holes make no sense
-Enemy AI is garbage and makes the game easy as hell
-Boss fights suck
-The focus on guns makes the whole “use anything as a weapon” draw of the original game extinct
-Less than stellar graphics, even when compared to other Wii titles
-Good luck finding more than 20 zombies on the screen at once


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 03/18/09

Game Release: Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop (US, 02/24/09)


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