Review by brutusmuktuk
"The only thing rising will be your blood pressure"
Imagine if Capcom approached this game with the Zelda series in mind. There would be a large area to explore (the mall), enemies to fight (zombies and psychopaths), goals to achieve (determining the origin of these zombies), and no time limit whatsoever, with day and night playing a factor. More areas of the mall would unlock only after you reach a certain point in the adventure, which would provide the gamer an incentive to stop doing sidequests in favor of the main game. If Capcom took that route, this game would have been amazing. Instead, Capcom mixed two innovations (at least for the video game world): 1) a mall full of zombies and an arsenal of weaponry consisting of whatever you get your hands on, and 2) a time limit based on the game's clock. In this mixture, the haste of the time limit cancels out the fun of the zombie bit.
+ Fighting zombies has never been more fun
+ The mall provides a large environment to explore
+ The level up system
The time limit doesn't allow you to stop and enjoy the large mall
Some parts are so hard it's frustrating
Ally AI during escorts is really bad
:( Capcom placed such a great concept into the wrong game
Capcom has found a niche in producing story cutscenes. Lately, their games have had some high quality production values, from Resident Evil 4 to Devil May Cry 3 to Dead Rising. The only difference between this game and the other two is that the other two have not only an engaging plot, but good character development. Upon beginning Dead Rising, I hoped for more of the same, but ended up disappointed. While the scenes are well-done, the content leaves much to be desired. The beginning scene, which takes place in a helicopter, is effective at setting up the premise, but it fails because the gamer already knows that zombies have invaded this small town. The scenes shown aren't shocking or surprising. Capcom carries out the story as though the gamer has never seen a zombie movie.
The least interesting thing about zombie movies, for example, is how the zombies became zombies. That Dead Rising's story revolves around how the zombies in this game became zombies is a bad start. It's just not interesting. The dialogue is cliched and many of the scenes are boring. The way the zombies break into the mall is so silly that it ruins the game's attempts at realism. It also shows a lack of imagination on Capcom's part. As the game goes on, a lot of characters withhold key information from Frank so he has to figure it out on his own. That tactic only works if the gamer is interested in what's at stake. Actually, I'm more curious about Frank West's involvement in this than anything. Why him and why is he the only one there to investigate?
The idea of a George Romero-inspired mall setting full of zombies is a great idea for a video game. It leaves the possibility of a large arsenal of items at your disposal as weapons. And this part is very well done. The zombies probably die too easily, but that's fine. What matters is that it is fun to grab an item from the toy store or the antique shop and use it to fight hordes of zombies. There are all sorts of creative weapons, like toy swords, hedge cutters, nail guns, mannequins, chainsaws, and even soccer balls. Each one has a certain degree of effectiveness, especially depending on Frank's strength, and while some, like the katana, are obviously effective, others, like the soccer ball, are more effective than you'd expect (it's scary how easily a soccer ball pummels through zombies). Just exploring the mall and fighting zombies would be worth purchasing the game on its own.
But a game does need objectives; it needs a purpose, or the gamer will wonder what the point of the game is. That's where Capcom includes a story and goals to achieve. This is fine, it's understandable, but why have a time limit? If you fail to achieve a goal by a certain time, it's game over. Early in the game, there's a massive chunk of time given to you to explore, but only a small portion of the mall unlocked.
Huh? What's the fun in that?
And later in the game, when you have more of the mall unlocked, you have a very limited amount of time to achieve the goals. Thus, you have to rush through the mall instead of stop to smell the freshly mutilated zombies. You'll find yourself running through and dodging the undead rather than battling it. And where the game leads you is much less interesting than what you have to leave behind.
As stated, the story line isn't edge-of-your-seat gripping, and neither are the mini-bosses, called psychopaths. Fighting zombies during the whole game would grow boring, but fighting psychopaths during the whole game would just be unpleasant. They're much more effective at close range than not only zombies, but Frank. For the most part, you'll use a gun to fight the psychopaths. The problem is the aiming system. You can either stop and fire blindly or press the R button and look over Frank's shoulder, a slow, cumbersome process. And enemies don't have the same disadvantage. You have to stop, readjust to the new view, aim, and fire, but the enemy can just aim and fire. Getting shot sends you out of the over the shoulder viewpoint. Rinse, repeat.
The worst of these psychopaths, which very nearly ruin the game by themselves, are the convicts. They drive what looks like a Warthog from Halo. It's a jeep with a driver, a passenger with a baseball bat, and a man in the machine gun turret. They drive around the mall's courtyard, which serves as a shortcut from one side of the mall to the other. Running Frank through it is okay, but running escorts through it is just about impossible if you run into the convicts. And they're not at all easy to defeat, despite what one of the Gamefaqs guides states. When you try to aim and fire, the gunner shoots and interrupts you. Based on how the author of said guide defeats the convicts, it still sounds difficult. And time-consuming. Oh, and they respawn. Terrible move Capcom.
Another of the more frustrating elements are the sidequests. Most of them are escort missions, where you have to lead a survivor or more to the security room. This would be okay, except they are plain stupid. The best way for Frank to make it through the zombies is to just run past them. So the escorts run into them and stop to cry for help as they get eaten alive. The larger the group of escorts the harder. Why can't they be as competent as Frank West?
A word on save points. They're actually not as sparse as many of the guides suggest, but there are only a couple of them available right away. Most of them, scattered throughout the mall, require a Maintenance Tunnel Key, which is found deep in the Maintenance Tunnel, which is out of the way of anything. Why require a difficult to obtain key in order to save the game? It would make things less frustrating if there were more save points. Then you could experiment without the fear of losing a large chunk of progress.
There are several modes of this game to play. When you beat it, a difficult feat, you unlock the Infinity Mode. I haven't unlocked it, and after hearing about the fact Frank loses health at a constant rate during this mode, I'm glad I didn't. It was the thing I was looking forward to, and to be disappointed upon unlocking it would have been the ultimate frustration. Difficulty is the hardest thing for developers to get right. If a game is too hard, it is not fun because then it is not a challenge, but torture. Unfortunately, we have a gaming community with hot-headed arrogant bullies who pick on those who say a game is too hard, and thus, gamers won't freely admit when a game is too challenging. Can anyone tell me what they'd rather do than raise their blood pressure? Certainly not play this game.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 04/07/08
Game Release: Dead Rising (US, 08/08/06)
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