Review by BloodGod65
"Despite all the potential fun of this game, one massive flaw brings everything down"
In the video game industry, zombies are synonymous with Capcom. The Resident Evil series has sold millions of copies across the globe, and its recent reinvention changed the face of gaming. So, when Capcom announced their newest ode to the undead, most assumed (myself included) it was going to be the best thing on the 360. Unfortunately, it contains a single flaw so crippling it ruins the entire game. This flaw is a time limit.
Dead Rising begins with a freelance journalist named Frank West. Always on the lookout for the next big story, Frank hears about a town being quarantined by the government and sets off to get the scoop. After a daring infiltration, Frank finds that the town has been overrun by zombies (gasp!) and takes refuge in the local mall, along with other survivors. But it doesn't take long for the zombies to get inside and begin wreaking havoc. Even though he's now fighting for his life, Frank doesn't give up on finding the source of the infection and soon begins to uncover a deep-running conspiracy.
As anyone with a love for horror movies can attest, this setup is remarkably similar to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Capcom must have realized this too, because the front of the case has a label stating that the game is not connected to Romero in any way. Despite the similarities, it's hard to fault Capcom for using a mall as the central setting, because it's such a cool location for a zombie outbreak.
Unlike Capcom's other zombie series, Dead Rising gives the player a lot of freedom. From the get-go, Frank can move around the mall and go almost anywhere. But from start to finish, the game is crippled by a very basic problem. Everything that happens and everything you do is determined by the time limit. I tell you this right from the start because if I had known just how much of an effect this would have on the game, I never would have bought it.
Frank's main objective is to find out what caused the infection, and he'll do this by completing a series of cases. These cases occur at specific times and each individual case must be completed before the next begins or else the trail will grow cold. Should this occur (and it happened to me on numerous occasions) you'll have to reload your game or start an entirely new one. In effect, time never stops in the game. Everything you do eats away at that time, so if you play around too long, you run the risk of not being able to complete the game without starting over. The time limit is also cumulative, meaning that the time you take to complete one case directly impacts how much time you have to finish the others. In the end, this creates a hectic game that makes the player race through at a breakneck speed in order to finish all the main objectives. Because of this, the stress of meeting deadlines begins to make the game feel more like work than entertainment.
If you finish a case early, you can explore the mall and attempt some of the many side missions. These usually involve rescuing other survivors and escorting them back to the mall security room. Every now and then, Frank may encounter a Psycho, who can be defeated for lots of experience. In addition, you'll not only receive experience for rescuing survivors, but also for getting them to join your party, which means you'll typically level up often.
This RPG aspect of obtaining experience is a little out of place, but it manages to work well. After leveling up, Frank will usually learn a new move that will allows him to fight the zombie horde more effectively. He'll also gain more health, more inventory space, as well as more speed and a longer throwing distance. Although it may sound like Frank becomes a weapon of destruction, leveling up comes with a price. The higher Frank's level, the more zombies he'll have to face. This creates a good equilibrium, where Frank grows more powerful but so does his opposition.
Unfortunately, this equilibrium is completely unbalanced when escorting survivors. The survivors all have different personalities; some will fight if you give them weapons, some are scared and just scream, while others are injured and require Frank to carry them, thus causing yourself to become vulnerable. What they all have in common is magnificent stupidity. You can give a man a gun but what does he do? He waits until he's surrounded until he starts firing! Give the same guy a chainsaw and what does he do? He cuts his best friend's head off! All in all, most of them cause so much trouble you'll wonder how they survived at all. If they die, you'll probably watch their death video with maniacal glee.
For a game that involves little more than killing zombies, Dead Rising rarely becomes boring. This is due to the variety of weapons that you have at your disposal. Cleavers, chainsaws, lead pipes, and garden shears are just a few of the killing implements that can be found in the mall. While these may seem rather boring, the true genius of the game becomes apparent when you pick up some mundane item to find it has a fantastic use. Take a parasol for instance. When used, Frank charges forward holding it in front of him, while the zombies harmlessly bounce off. When a mannequin is used, Frank will bludgeon zombies until it falls apart. Then you can pick up an arm or a leg and continue the assault. Things become even funnier when you find something with very little use at all. I once found a guitar and every time I hit something, it played a note. Obviously, the logical next step was to attack everything and try to play a song. Unfortunately, it didn't actually hurt my enemies but it was fun as hell. Buckets can also be used by putting them over the heads of zombies and thus rendering them harmless. What keeps everything fresh is the fact that most weapons don't last very long so you'll continually be looking for something else to use.
For those who are wondering, guns are in the game, but they aren't any fun to use. While it would be logical to pick up a shotgun and go to town in a real zombie outbreak, the poor aiming controls make guns useless in this game. If you want to get a bead on your target, you'll have to stop and enter an over-the-shoulder mode. While it worked for Resident Evil 4, there are so many enemies onscreen at a time, stopping makes it easy for them to sneak up and attack Frank from behind. On top of that, none of the guns feel like they've got any stopping power. Overall, it's more fun to use a chainsaw than a gun. Plus, the trouble you have to go through to even gain access to the gun shop is barely worth it.
Another big problem with the game is the save system. You can only save your game in bathrooms, and these are few and far between. But that's not nearly as infuriating as the fact that you only get a single save slot. Coupled with the time limit which can cause the game to become unbeatable you've got a recipe for disaster. With only a single save slot, you can't make backup saves to fall back on if you miss the window for a case. You'll just have to start all over again.
There is one saving grace with this. If you have to restart the game, Frank's experience carries over. That means he starts the new game with the same level, health and move set. While it doesn't make the time limit or save system any easier to forgive, if Capcom had not done this Dead Rising would be even worse than it is.
The graphics are unusual for a Capcom game. They're not super realistic, instead going for a more stylized, cartoonish look. That's not to say Dead Rising looks like a cartoon, rather the colors are bright and everything is well defined. At first, it can be easy to think Capcom skimped on the graphics, but as once the zombies start piling up it becomes obvious where the 360's power was applied. Capcom claims one thousand zombies can be displayed. I don't think anyone will try to verify that claim, but I don't see much reason to doubt it. There were points in the game where all I could see was a sea of zombies, with barely any room to move through them.
One major concern - at least for those who don't own a HDTV - is the tiny size of the text in the game. While this doesn't pose any sort of problem when there's speech, it becomes a major hindrance when there is no voice accompaniment. Many times, I was left completely in the dark as to what was happening because of this.
Given the setting and concept, the audio shouldn't surprise anybody. As is typical for any zombie game, there is plenty of moaning and groaning. You'll probably even be doing a little moaning yourself as you deal with the time limit and listen to the elevator music played in the mall. At times, the jazz-lite is thrown out the window in favor of a few more upbeat songs, typically when you're being attacked by a Psycho. These songs tend to be pretty good (the escaped convict theme is particularly catchy) and help to get your adrenaline pumping when dealing with these dangerous lunatics.
The sound of body parts being sliced off and bodies being mangled is also one you'll quickly become accustomed to. When beheading or decapitating in any other gruesome manner, you'll hear a variety of grisly sounds befitting the gore on-screen.
This should have been one of the most fun games on the 360 and at times, it is. Unfortunately, the overbearing time limit screws everything up and makes the game nearly unplayable. Since I am the type of person who likes to take his time and mess around, this game had me infuriated within the first few minutes. If you're the kind of person who likes to be told when to do everything, I'd say go for it. Otherwise, stay away. Stay far away.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 11/12/07, Updated 07/06/10
Game Release: Dead Rising (US, 08/08/06)
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