Review by NWalterstorf

"Words from a skeptic: Dead Rising"

Enter the Skeptic. The skeptic is a foul, biased being, one who tends not to believe in favor of one subject contrasted with another. I was a skeptic once. When I saw this title being advertised on the internet and in numerous video gaming magazines, I was completely skeptical. "Repetitive" ran through my mind. "Boring", "no story." You know what? It's a good thing I was wrong on all three accounts. Let me explain to you how Dead Rising has quickly become one of my favorite titles of all time.

The city of Willamette, Colorado was shut down. All roads blocked, no information and communications passing through. Everything, shut down. Frank West's, a photojournalist, knew something big was going down, so he sets out to invest this town. Immediately upon entering this town via helicopter, his suspicions are answered. A town shut off, wreaked in havoc, nation guard blocking all methods of entrance. He lands on perhaps the largest landmark in an otherwise small town. The mall. From there, he has 72 hours to discover the truth of the incident. 72 to discover this truth before it forever vanishes into the darkness.

And this is where the story gets you.

I was hooked to the story from the get go. The hero lands into the mall and everything is immediately thrown into chaos. The story pace moves rapidly, casting the player through numerous scenarios all involving the incident taking place. By completing cases, you discover more and more information concerning the situation of the mall. At first, when I approached this game, I assumed that the story would be lacking, and that it would all be a gimmick to play in the mall for 72 hours. Boy was I wrong.

The story is well thought out. Gripping. Each case passes through, raising more questions, answering so little, until the climax of the game which I dare not speak a word of lest I ruin the entire plot. The story is filled with messages about government, culture, and social control. Cover-ups, scams, tricks, discoveries, all of these wrap into a delicious package of direct story-telling through engaging cut scenes. The story is a case where I'm glad my prejudice skepticism was wrong. The story also has numerous endings depending on how you choose to play the title, none of which I will spoil for you.

Now, for the game play.

This is where the game shines. My prejudice view of "repetitive" was wrong. I'm glad. The game play is fun. There's lots of stuff to do. Trapped by a zombies closing you into a room? Barricade the entrance using objects to keep them out. Trying to cross a hallway to get to a certain shop? Grab a potted plant. It helps to get a "don't touch me I'm dangerous" point across. Need to have a little more accuracy minus the danger of being too close? Grab yourself a gun. The aiming features of the guns is great. No mistakes, no problems. The camera zooms over your shoulder via Resident Evil 4 and Metal Gear Solid. The best thing about aiming with a gun? The targeting reticule only appears when you go to shoot a gun or throw an object. At last, no annoying cursor in the middle of the screen!

The game play offers so much. Many different weapons, many ways to use them. The first time I hit the mall, I found myself surrounded. I grabbed a bench and did away with two zombies approaching, then hurled it into a group of five. Struggling to make my way through, I lifted a 2 x 4 and slammed it into the back of numerous zombies heads. After it broke from item fatigue, I made way by lunging past the crowd. Later in the game, I found myself using a battle axe to cut my way through. After the axe gave way, I was captured by a zombie. Struggling within his clutches, I managed to hurl him over my shoulder. I turned to the nearest zombie nearby and hoisted myself up over his head, landing on the ground behind him. I pulled out a bat and went to town on three more zombies, then jump-kicked my way past the ground, spun around, and pulled out a .38.

Strategy in this game is also a must. Never have I played a riot game which actually required strategy. I rescued one guy and handed him a gun to use to protect himself. I went ahead and cleared out the room I found him in, then managed to get to a safe location. I then signaled for the guy to move to another location where he was safe as I grabbed some chairs from the food court to do away with the approaching zombies before I signaled for him to follow me once again as we made a split for the door between a crowd of zombies.

Not only this, but the characters are engaging within this title. Most all characters have their own story to tell, their own goals and determining values. One lady lost her baby to the zombies, and while weak and powerless, I had to carry her on my back to safety. One other dude, along with his friend, tried to do me in when I broke past his barricade to rescue him. It took some time for me to slap sense into him, but he listened. In another case, three guys, a father and his two sons, had be psychologically effected by the chaos, and attempting to survive, they were taking potshots using sniper rifles at not only zombies, but at me! Each character has their own story to tell, and finding the survivors is actually "fun."

The only downside to this zombie smashing fest would be that the survivors are awkward to help. Instead of following me sometimes, they'd much rather constantly run into a wall as opposed to turning a corner. One time in the mall courtyard, a survivor decided to run back and forth between trees other than following me. The biggest gripe about this is that you're restricted by time. When you have two people being escorted to the security room (safe location) and they have to jump a step, you'll be screaming in frustration if you only have mere seconds to complete a certain goal. As opposed to climbing up the cement step of the room, they will prefer to run back and forth to each other constantly, not one of them climbing. I understand this may be little, but when you lose the entire game because you fail to reach a location in a certain time constraint, it can be rather frustrating, especially when it takes a minute just to get them to climb steps. Other than these cases, though, it's fine. They're not that good unarmed, but with a gun or bat, they can protect themselves. Also, you can give them a few recovery items to help them out should they get low in health (yes, zombies will catch you if you're constantly running back and forth between two trees).

But the real complaint in this game would have to be the bosses. The bosses are, to say the least, annoying. They're over powered, have too much health, and don't like to lose. It gets frustrating when, after every plot point, you have to fight a boss battle. It would be nice if they were all great, but the boss battles are, to simply state it, broken. Then again, the payoff of the boss battles is to discover a new location, to take out a certain enemy, and to continue the plot. There is one boss battle which is fantastic, but compared to the rest, it's too little, too late.

But I digress.

Getting to the sounds, the effects of sounds are done very well in this game. Constructed nicely, every whack from a bat makes you "feel" the impact. Nothing remarkable in terms of sounds, but very nice indeed. But for something "truly" remarkable in terms of sounds, look to the voice work. This is, hands down, some of the best voice work in any title. Frank, Brad, Jessica, there's pretty much no bad voices in this game. Each character plays their roll well. Numerous characters within the game have had nervous breakdowns due to the circumstances, and the voice actors do well to voice the psychological state of said victims of the circumstances ("This is my store!").

The music's nice, too. Nothing like running into leisure park to hear some great rock music why you have to take out a few psychopaths in a vehicle. The music is good in this game, but the remarkable selections are few and far apart. Basically, your free-roaming music isn't as good as the boss music.

The graphics are great. Fluid character animations, unique facial expressions. The zombies actually look creepy. There's nothing like seeing a swarm of zombies on screen attack you en mass without a pit of slowdown. The zombies also respawn in the same location, without a single hint of slowdown as long as I've played this title.

To the replayability.

Replayability is the games biggest point. To get all endings, you will have to replay the game. The game encourages you to, if the going gets tough, simply "restart" the game carrying over the stats of your character. For example, if you're level 24 when you need to restart, you'll restart at level 24. The replayability is fun. Each time I replayed the game to get a different ending and to unlock more achievements, I discovered something entirely new. A new boss, a new encounter, a new cut scene that I never saw before. There's so much in this game that it's nearly impossible to complete everything in one shot.

It's a good thing, though. I don't even try to complete everything in one shot. I keep a notepad and paper handy to write down tricks, helpful shop locations, and different elements of interest that I can nab on my next play through. It's simply fun, and if you're like I am, you don't care that you can't see everything in the first play through. We'll just nab it on the second time.

In closing.

I was a skeptic about this title. I thought there'd be no story, and instead I'm faced with one of the best stories in any video game I've ever played. I thought it'd be repetitive, and while, to a small extent it is (like every game), I found new things to try each time I played. I thought it'd be a limited title in a limited location, and I was wrong. The endings and stories keep me coming back, as well as some of the wild achievements that there is to score. Plenty to unlock, plenty to do, this is one of the best games I've played in a long time.

I definitely recommend this title. Not just for you, but for your friend. A purchase - it's that good. Plus, there is bonus content coming to be downloaded via Xbox Live. This is a title that will get your 360 alive and breathing one again. One of the greatest titles of all time which makes the 360's future look just a little brighter. I give this game a 9 out of 10.

___

The Good:
- Excellent Gameplay
- Excellent Story
- Excellent Voicework
- Excellent Replayability

The Bad:
- Annoying Boss Battles
- Semi-broken AI control

The Perplexing:
- Why is the in-game text so small?

"Words from a skeptic: Dead Alive", by NWalterstorf.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/28/06


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