Review by Iamthebigfish
"The Good, the Bad, and the Undead"
The premise of dead rising is simple: you are photojournalist Frank West, trapped in a mall for 72 hours with a horde of hungry zombies. Armed with nothing but your wits and your camera, you have to survive, rescue survivors, and find out what is really going on with the zombie outbreak. That said, the game CAN live up to its purpose, but getting it to do so can be difficult and frustrating. This is a game where they should include a mandatory strategy guide, not because the game is difficult to get in to or play, but because there are so many fine nuances and hidden little bits that make the difference between the game being fun and fast paced or sluggich and akward.
The game ultimately boils down to four key areas that determine how fun the game is, and how fun it could have been. First on the list:
Weapons: The Sandbox of Blunt and Sharp object you can find in a mall
Dead Rising is certainly innovative in what can be used as a weapon. Pretty much anything that isn't nailed down can be picked up, and used to fight the zombie hordes. This is certainly a cool aspect of the game. The problem arises in that many of these objects are slow and cumbersome. Many of them are powerful, but only last for a single kill. Some are fairly powerful, and last for several hits, but ultimately end up breaking before you can fight your way out of the area you picked it up in. This is remedied, to an extent, by the option to pick up books from book stores, which will increase the amount of punishment you can deal out with a weapon before it breaks, but this same feature also ends up pigeon holing the player in to a limited supply of tools, as some weapons get greater benefit than others.
Of course, no zombie game is complete without a wide array of guns and firearms, and Dead Rising certainly delivers in this regard. There are 5+ different types of firearms available to the player, and once you locate them, they are very simple to acquire. Ammunition is limited though, and their is one glaring difference from melee weaponry. Guns don't aim themselves. Melee weapons do. If you swing away with a baseball bat or a katana, Frank will turn to hit the nearest enemy. Using a gun puts you in to an over the shoulder camera where you have to manually aim where you want to fire. Or you can shoot from the hip and not hit anything anyway.
You can also hop in a car or a motorcyle and mercilessly run zombies over Grand Theft Auto Style, but being trapped in a mall means there aren't a whole lot of places to drive aside from some tunnels underneath the shopping center, which are drab and empty except for wall to wall zombie hordes.
Over all, you get a wide variety of weapons and instruments of death, but ultimately the choice is rendered largely moot by the fact that most of said weapons absolutely SUCK outside of their initial novelty.
Time Limit: You're on the clock
The premise of the game being that you are trapped in a mall for 72 hours tends to lean itself to the notion that you will have plenty of time to fool around. Not the case if you want to rescue all the survivors and crack all the case files. By 72 hours, the game really means 6 hours of gameplay, which is more often than not so packed with trying to ferry survivors around that you can't really take in the sandbox element of the game. Certain cases and survivors only appear during certain windows of the 3 days, and if you don't snag them then, you can miss out on their part of the game.
This leaves players with 2 options: either follow the schedule and see everything, or don't follow the schedule and be left with large stretches of time to play in the sandbox. Both have their benefits and drawbacks. Following the schedule lets you save a bunch of people, see a lot of cool stuff, and get that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you did everything you could. Ignoring the schedule lets you run around and do what you want, but sadly, the sandbox just isn't that fun after 30 minutes of zombie killing. The fact that you can't do both concurrently is a defenite drawback.
Of course, following the schedule and saving all the survivors introduces its own nuances, namely, the stupid AI of survivors. Managing a group of survivors is difficult enough in its own right, worse still that you are left to more or less figure out how to control them on your own. Survivors do behave in character. Some are gung ho fighters ready to bash heads and take names, while others are bumbling cowards. Problem is, you rarely have a survivor in tow long enough to really appreciate what giving a gun can do for them, as the 2 guys who are extremely capable in a fight are overshadowed by the crushing stupidity of cowards who run right in to a pack of zombies, get caught up on corners, and various other crap that makes you more than happy to set the competent people to guard an area while you hold the hands of the morons too stupid to keep themselves alive.
Story: Its not a zombie game if we don't elaborate on where the zombies came from
The plot elements of Dead Rising are certainly intriguing. The game offers a fully fleshed out zombie story worthy of any good B-movie. The characters and enemies are diverse and interesting, and the over the top presentation adds a certain touch you don't often see in modern games. If you like to play games based on their story, Dead Rising will not disapoint.
Metagame: All the Other Stuff
Dead Rising has a number of issues that should have been addressed before this game hit the shelf. Survivor AI is terribly stupid when it comes to pathfinding. The leveling system is unneeded and overly complex. The basic controls are intuitive, but advanced techniques aren't really explained. The lack of an option to start a fresh game from level 1 is annoying. The tiny tiny text is hard to read on anything that isn't an HDTV. The combination of sandbox and timed story events doesn't mesh well. The photography aspect is pretty silly, being necesary at 2 points in the game (and not explained well at all during those points, might I add), and completely ignorable the rest.
The game gets a 7/10. Its defenitely worth the play, but I would strongly suggest a good FAQ to get you through and see all the good stuff.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 09/25/08
Game Release: Dead Rising (US, 08/08/06)
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