Review by Eric43

"Jinkies! This mall is full of zombies!"

Wow, someone call Scooby Doo and the gang down at the malt shop cause we've got a mystery on our hands. No, not really. Horror games have never really been my thing. When I heard about a sandbox game in which you kill a bunch of zombies with all sorts of things, I thought “Well, that's stupid.” Then I heard it took place in a gigantic shopping mall, and my opinion reversed. I don't know why; it's weird, but that's the way it is.

Dead Rising is another zombie-killing game from the folks at Capcom, who are well known for their Resident Evil series. However, the formula is completely different. Instead of a suspense horror game, this one is more adventured-based overall. There's plenty of zombies everywhere in plain sight. They're slow, stupid, but they're aggressive and they want to kill you. However, you'll also find other people who are as overwhelmed by the incident as you are. The “adventure” aspect of this game involves traveling around the mall, solving cases while rescuing people, and it's pretty enjoyable to say the least.

From the get-go, you are introduced to freelance photojournalist as well as your character, Frank West. Frank is a clean-shaved, normal human being who received word of a big scoop occurring in the minuscule town of Willamette, Colorado, most noted for its large shopping mall. Frank lands on the mall roof and his pilot promises to return to in exactly three days to pick him up. However, the survivors inside try to barricade the doors but to no avail. As zombies begin to flood the doors, Frank retreats to the security room and meets his new allies, Brad and Jessie, the typical black bald guy and blonde glasses-wearing chick, who help Frank unravel the case. Also, Frank interacts with the perceived villains—Carlito, a guy who looks like he belongs on the cover of a Tekken game, and Isabela, a Hispanic lady. Not to mention that there's at least 75 other identified people in the mall. Some are pitiful and need your help, while others have gone insane.

Throughout the game, the whimsical environment of the mall as opposed to the nastiness of the zombies gives the game a unique flavor. The Willamette mall really gives this game something positive to focus on. Needless to say, it's truly elegant; boasting some great architecture, lighting effects, cheesy mall music, and about 100 stores selling tons of items from clothes to sporting goods. The mall is split up into multiple plazas, each with a distinct look. There is also a giant park in the middle, as well as a grocery store, a hardware store, a movie theater, and an underground tunnel. A few obvious flaws exist, such as “Why is there only one entrance?” but you tend to forget about that too quickly.

The majority of the gameplay consists of the obvious—Frank killing zombies. All around the mall, there's plenty of items for Frank to collect in his inventory, usually some blunt objects or blades such as baseball bats, lead pipes, pieces of wood, knives, katanas, and chainsaws. Attacking is easy; by tapping or by holding the X button, Frank will lunge his object at the target in various manners. He can also chuck the item and hit a zombie on the noggin if he pleases. Weapons will break when used too much, so Frank will have to keep looking for more weapons to use frequently. There's also a few pistols and submachine guns here and there for good measure, though they tend to be hard to aim in first-person mode. Not to mention there's more unconventional items to use, such as mall benches, cash registers, potted plants, mannequins, bowling balls, giant teddy bears, compact disks, and fire extinguishers, which are all pretty enjoyable to use in some way or another. Heck, there's even skateboards, bicycles, cars, and motorcycles to help get you around, although their uses are very limited.

Okay, so contrary to the game box, not EVERYTHING is a weapon; there's only 100 weapons total, but that's enough just to keep the game fun. If you're out of weapons, Frank can resort to hand-to-hand combat to rip apart hordes of zombies. Frank earns more moves throughout the game, but most of them are just for show. You'll usually resort to punching and jump kicking if you must. Be careful, because when you are unarmed, you are more viable to being attacked by zombies. They can claw and bite you if you let them, dropping your health bar in the process. By eating and drinking food items around the mall, you can regain health quickly on the spot. Sure, it can seem overwhelming when lumps of zombies take up space, but they tend to gang up in predictable locations, so by running around them, you can get through the game pretty easily.

One thing that is enjoyable about Dead Rising is how much more campy it is than its brother series, Resident Evil. From the mall, the way Frank downs a gallon of orange juice in five second, to clever references such as “Jill's Sandwiches,” Megaman movie posters, and giant Servbot toys, to the way Frank can run around the mall in a bear mask or a dress (in a zombie invasion, that should be the least of your problems), something doesn't make me feel that horrified about the experience.

Since Frank is a photographer, he can whip out a camera and take a picture of anything. This means hordes of zombies, survivors crying, or even sexy photos of women (I can assure you I didn't do the latter). In most situations, the camera is mostly a gimmick, but it's a very clever one and the game will reward you for taking pictures at opportune times.

The clock (five real-life minutes per one game hour) becomes a focal point of the game, not because at night, the zombies become more numerous and aggressive, but because the game's “missions,” the scoops, revolve around a fixed schedule during the three days. They're optional, but you are inclined to do them. If you don't show up, you don't do the scoop—plain and simple. Some involve rescuing survivors. Others, particularly the main story, will have you meet and escort unsuspected allies who will offer information concerning the plot, and you must do them to keep the story going like normal. The missions are fairly interesting, especially since none of them really require killing zombies; thus it's up to you whether or not you just want to get by or you want to carve your own path through the bodies. The missions are basic, yet interesting, though you have to deal with Otis's (the mall's old black janitor) who gives you long, boring messages. Not to mention the “One Save File Per Profile” rule, which means if you save yourself into a bad location, you must start a new game altogether.

Other scoops that aren't directly related to the plot involve rescuing survivors around the mall by bringing them to the Security room with you. The fifty survivors will appear during set time intervals all over the mall, plus they will come with their own extenuating circumstances. Most survivors will readily follow you on occasion. Some will carry weapons and will assist you in killing zombies. Other are pathetic and will cry and moan around the zombie hordes. Even worse, some are injured and need you to give them a lift to get them back to the security room. However, the hostage AI is fairly limited and they tend to get hung up on ledges, plants, and even zombies. Thankfully, they won't get torn apart by zombies right away, plus you can arm them with weapons and even give them food to heal them, going on some Rainbow 6-esque mission killing a bunch of zombies. You can have up to eight survivors at once. At the end of the game, the game tallies up how many survivors you saved, and you can try for better next time (or just save everyone, like I did).

Not all people are friendly. Some have gone absolutely nuts and are set on killing you. A few scoops will lead you to fight the psychopaths in the mall. They are the game's equivalent of bosses—they take a lot of hits to kill, yet they can hit you for massive damage. Beating them will unlock some nice rewards, such as powerful new weapons or some additional survivors. Some of the psychopaths include crazed supermarket employees, rednecks with shotguns, Vietnam veterans, punk kids with homemade bombs, prison convicts, and mall clowns. Most of the Psychopaths are, without a doubt, crazy. However, when fighting them, they feel watered down, overall. Most of them are defeated easily if you charge them with a melee weapon. Guns just aren't that useful against them, for some reason.

As Frank completes these scoops, he'll gain points and level up. As he levels up, he gains more health, more inventory spaces, and more attack power. It feels somewhat like a farce to get players to keep playing since once you've leveled up to Level 50, it's over. Leveling up carries between games, so it may take a few plays to get Frank to a powerful level. Unfortunately, at low levels, Frank is really weak and has much difficulty surviving on his own, but at a high level, the game becomes considerably easy. I'm not sure why such inconsistency exists since, to be quite honest, there is a considerable difference between a Frank with four health bars compared to one with twelve. I mean, sheesh, that's a big difference. Also, Frank walks REALLY, REALLY SLOW at low levels, which dampens the fun a bit.

To summarize the violence in the game, the mall clashes with the utter insanity and violence all around you. Zombies are literally packets of ketchup; they will bleed everywhere even when hit with CDs. Frank temporarily gets some blood on him when using a strong weapon, plus there are some freakishly gory weapons such as the excavator, which will stab a zombie and spin him around continuously. Big groups of zombies usually results in many dead bodies. Also, the cutscenes aren't light either. The ones without violence are okay, particularly the boring talking scenes, but some, especially the death of certain psychopaths and survivors will incite something that could be featured in a snuff film. If you're a hardcore gamer, you'll be able to sit through them, but still, it's disturbing. At least the game looks pretty clean outside of the gore, as opposed to overall “dirty” look of games such as Doom or Carmagaddeon.

The audio in the game is adequate. The mall tunes, accompanied with the zombie groans, are the standard for the most of the game. Weapons sound just like they should when being used. For instance, the chainsaw gives off a buzz while the lead pipe gives off a nice wham. Psychopath battles are accompanied with different, edgier tunes which are nice touch overall. However, the game is devoid of any sound clips when exchanging dialogue boxes, so you'll go a bit deaf from the same-old same-old filler sound effects during downtime from the zombies.

Overall, Dead Rising is a game that while rough around the edges, is pretty fun to play. Personally, I'm not a fan of violence of gore, yet I enjoyed it for the adventure. However, my main problem with it is the replay value. The Achievements are very creative and will keep you going at it for a while, but to buy this game just to kill zombies over and over again will eventually get old. Otherwise, if you can swallow the violence, it's wholeheartedly worth at least a rental; perhaps a buy if you love the concept of the game.

Presentation: 8/10 -- Zombies and stuff. Eerie music during the intro. Nice work.
Gameplay: 8/10 -- Saving people and killing zombies is pretty cool.
Graphics: 8/10 -- Sharp-looking character models and mall.
Sound: 7/10 -- Some pretty good weapon sounds as well as unique music, but overall, it's pretty bare most of the time.
Replay Value: 7/10 -- Rescue people and kill zombies; it gets repetitive after a while, but it's fairly enjoyable for the time of being.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/16/07, Updated 07/09/09

Game Release: Dead Rising (US, 08/08/06)

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