Review by Drunky

"I'd bet those guys in Dawn of the Dead didn't have this much fun."

I'm sure most people will be familiar with Xbox 360s title from Capcom, Dead Rising (which is not based on Dawn of the Dead). Capcom is not new to the zombie genre of games as they've shown with their long line of Resident Evil titles. What sets Dead Rising apart is that its not a typical zombie game. There are no puzzles to solve or keys to find to access hidden laboratories (well at least not many), but rather a single man fighting his way through hordes of zombies in a shopping mall of all places.

The game will revolve around a photographer, Frank West, who has received a tip that something was going down in a little town. So he sets off only to find a strong military presence has quarantined the area, luckily he is in a helicopter and able to get to the mall before getting shot down. Now once you get to the mall you'll run into a few survivors who will introduce you to their current dilemma. Apparently zombies are completely over running the town and they all want to eat you. Once you learn that, your primary objective will be to figure out just why its happening and who is responsible. To aid in your quest you'll be given the assistance of two Homeland Security agents and an irritating old security guard. Not much help against an army of the undead, but you take what you can get.

You'll be forced to spend 72 hours in the mall, and in that time you can do whatever you please, from just running around attacking zombies with anything from rocks to sniper rifles to cash registers. You can attempt to save the survivors who will be trapped or hiding in stores or have been captured by a few survivors who have gone completely wacko, and who can blame them? That irritating old security guard mentioned earlier will annoy you on the radio about the victims situation and their location, so its up to you to bring them back safely. I do mean annoy, the transmissions from the radio you're carrying will always come as you're being savagely attacked, then he'll phone back yelling at you if you hang up on him to pry the zombie off your face. His annoyance can lead to several of your deaths.

In addition to the survivor escort missions, you can go through the Case Files. These are basically your storyline oriented missions, you'll have a time limit in which you have to receive the case file by walking to an area that will trigger a cutscene and complete it. The story is actually engrossing, you'll encounter random psychopaths, bizarre events and unexpected twists. Maybe not exactly up there with the Romero movies, but still entertaining.

The gameplay is rather straight forward, grab whatever you can and clear a path wherever you want to go. You'll have a limited amount of attacks to start with, but as you save victims or do certain tasks or progress through the story mode, you'll be given something known as PP, Player Points. The PP are basically experience points that will help you level up. As you level up you'll be given new attack skills like Judo throws or even disembowelment, you'll also get more life, inventory room, attack power, speed, etc. However saving victims or killing psychopaths are not the only options you have, being a photographer means you have to take pictures. In addition to fighting off hordes of zombies and leading around frightened people, you'll have to choose the right moments to break out your camera. Its basically an ongoing mini-game that's a fun little break from all the zombie bashing.

All things considered, game is easy enough to learn, however the save system is a small problem. The missions all run on deadlines, if you don't reach a survivor at a certain point they'll die, don't get back to the security room (your “base”) in time, you'll fail the storyline mission. Five minutes real time is roughly one hour in the game, so trying to do these things and run to the sparse save locations before your timer runs out is a huge hassle. Getting stuck in a loop where you've saved but didn't leave yourself enough time to get to your objective is very likely and can force you to restart the entire game. If that were to happen in most other games, it can easily be solved by just going back to an earlier save, better to be set back an hour than four or five. Except Dead Rising only allows you one save. One! If I didn't know better I'd say even the manual suggests Capcom screwed up. They basically suggest to get another memory card or create another profile, neither of which should be necessary to achieve something most other games are designed for.

Another flaw in Dead Rising is the disappointing Infinity Mode. When you just want to run around doing whatever you want without worrying about missions or victims whining about being eaten, your health drains for no reason. If that wasn't bad enough, you cant even save. To actually survive you'll be running around for food all the time, and if you die… you die. Not even a save system in this mode.

On another note, the environment is excellent. Up close there is little detail in your surroundings, but you wont be standing around long enough to notice the little things. On a larger scale the environment is great, from the outdoor park in the center of the mall to the amusement park, it actually looks like a real mall from the trashcans to the advertising signs. The zombies are the real attraction, blood covered faces, missing limbs and a perfect limping walk. Even with hundreds of zombies on screen you wont even notice a frame rate issue. My only disappointment is the death animations of the NPC's are not on par with the rest of the horrific violence present. It's basically the NPC squirming on the ground, followed by a zombies face passing through the ground, followed by a fountain of blood squirting out.

The sound effects are excellent, you'll be able to hear the zombies moaning and shuffling about before you even see them, a long with their annoyed grunts as you smack them around with a lead pipe. Aside from the zombies causing a fuss about being dead and all, there is not much else to say. Being in a mall you can expect the different types of elevator music being played, along with a few rock songs as you pass by the “young peoples” stores. It's not a bad thing however, it sets the mood perfectly for an eerie mall setting that's been taken over by a zombie horde.

The replay ability of the game is rather good, as mentioned previously, one game hour is five minutes real time, so a single full play through will be six hours. However thanks to the under whelming save system, you'll probably start the game over a few times to gain PP and build up your character before attempting a full run through. Luckily that's a good thing thanks to the ability to take photographs, fight random zombies and even a few psychopaths, do the missions, save the survivors, or just go have fun walking the mall. It keeps its entertainment value up without feeling like a chore. There is also the rather difficult achievements that you might want to dedicate an entire game to. If only infinity mode were that much fun, it could have added a lot to the replay value, but I think the story mode is more than enough to stand on its own.

Gameplay: 9/10
Incredibly entertaining, but losing health in infinity mode sucks and saving is a small problem.
Graphics: 9/10
Excellent graphics, the bloody zombies and corpses are incredible, although NPC death animations are a bit shoddy.
Sound: 8/10
The zombie moans are about as creepy as you can get, nice sound effects when you smack a zombie across the head with just about anything.
Replay: 10/10
Does killing zombies in mass numbers ever get old? Escort missions, storyline missions, random violence, the replay value is excellent.
Overall: 9/10

This is an excellent game despite its few (minor or major, depending on how you look at it) flaws. Fun, original, in-depth, and filled to the brim with zombies, it has everything a gamer is looking for. I'd recommend it to anyone with an Xbox 360 (well, as long as they meet the ESRB rating).

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/25/06

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