Review by xenodolf
Dynasty Warriors 2 + Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas + Resident Evil Outbreak = Dead Rising
Capcom, creators of some of the best beat 'em up and survival-horror games ever made, brought about a new zombie franchise for the XBOX 360 that draws traits from both of these genres the company has shown to excel at. Despite the common ground between the two types of games, Dead Rising feels very unique and is something that zombie fans can sink their teeth into in the dry spell of the walking dead the console is having for at least another year. Since it plays (for the most part) like a modern brawler, I chose to review it alongside the rest of the scrolling fighters.
The reasoning behind the zombie outbreak is less cliche than Resident Evil, but the origins of the epidemic are vague - even after the antagonist explains the circumstance of the initial undead infections. Regardless of this, the main characters don't come off as two dimensional and most of them end up feeling fleshed out. There is a decent amount of dialogue between the mainstay cast, and the majority of the survivors and crazies add a little bit to the happenings of the mayhem. There are a number of endings, all of them worth the effort of seeing in my opinion. People who don't own HD televisions will find it annoying that the text is so small and blurry, and I had to sit right in front of my TV and squint to read any of the messages that weren't accompanied by spoken dialogue.
There is a variety of zombie models, and the survivors and psychopaths all look different. The mall looks nice, although I found the construction site in the northern section to be a little drab and confusing. The gore was impressive, and aside from grinding up the Zeds with a huge lawn mower, most of it came off as gritty and intense. While the visuals are pretty good on their own, the sheer scope of how they are presented is a breath-taking affair. You can take down dozens of the undead, and heave around numerous objects like furniture - and all of it will remain in place for some time before fading away like an ordinary game. It is a great feeling to be up to your knees in bodies and debris, and the physics of the bodies or junk being knocked around look very convincing. You will often be in environments filled with several hundred zombies at once - and I fully believe that Dead Rising has unseated Dynasty Warriors from the "ton of enemies fully functioning at once" throne. Another touch they added to the visuals was having the main character gradually becoming soaked in the stale blood of the rotting masses - evoking imagery of Peter Jackson's Braindead / Dead Alive film. The mall you spend the majority of the game in is pretty large, full of stores you can explore and raid. The days shift into nights, and it is depicted pretty well - with the glowing eyes of the zombies and the unsettling glow of artificial light. There are a bunch of costumes and clothing you can get into, allowing you to change the look of the protagonist from a serious reporter to a Rambo wannabe or even Capcom's Megaman. The facial expressions are also well done, and most of the lip-syncing seemed to be spot on.
The majority of the voice acting was done very well, with emotion corresponding to the situation and the vocals matching the body type and personality of the characters. The sound effects were pretty good as well, with dozens of different thwacks, crunches, bangs, and thuds for the numerous weapons you will be wielding. The zombies sound pretty authentic (I mean, compared to their movie counterparts). The music was the only section that didn't pack as much punch, even though there were a couple of catchy songs (like "Gone Guru" by Lifeseeker). I've been spoiled by the magnificent scores of Silent Hill and Resident for the past decade, which Dead Rising simply cannot compete against. The area of sound was still strong, regardless of that one flaw - it is nice to play a survival-horror that doesn't have morons hired to voice the dialogue.
The weapons handled spot on, and your character can move about smoothly enough. The problem lies in directing the A.I. survivors - who often get caught on objects or misinterpret destination routes. While the computer-controlled characters still function pretty amazingly with everything going on, they could have been improved on further. No lag or slowdown detected that I can remember having experienced.
Dead Rising consist of surviving a set amount of days in a mall overrun with the walking dead, crazy humans, and a third party I won't mention due it being critical to the plot. You must go around helping the friendly main-stay characters solve the origins of the outbreak. Between these events, you're free to attempt to save the dozens of computer-controlled survivors they need you to guide them back to the safe zone - or simply kill zombies and gain experience points (called PP here). Although there are a decent number of firearms (pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, machine-guns, full-auto hand-guns, assault rifles, and even a water gun) the majority of your combat will be melee. There are dozens of close-range weapons to obtain - ranging from chainsaws and katanas to pipes, tv sets, and benches. Due to this, most of the fighting will resemble that of a Dynasty Warriors style beat 'em up instead of the usual Resident Evil gun-play. There are a couple of vehicles you can drive around in, although mostly just to rack up easy kills or for simply amusement. The inventory is real-time, and you can eventually hold quite a few weapons or food items (health) to arm/heal yourself or survivors. A major complaint by most reviewers is the single-slot save system and limited number of areas in which to save. While this could have been a death sentence to a normal game - Dead Rising functions like Dragon Quarter (an earlier Capcom RPG) in which you keep all your experience points upon death. This can be useful - if you screw up the mission, for instance, you can simply run around and rack up kills before dying and starting over with much better stats. Saving all of the survivors can be a pain sometimes, as the time-consuming travel often will have you racing the clock to reach every possible encounter. Some survivors are better than others (I HATE crybabies and the type who insist upon holding your hand), and you will come upon a couple that are almost as good at defending themselves as you. While it may not fully satisfy hardcore survival-horror or beat 'em up purists - it encompasses enough from each aforementioned genre to build its own area of game-play that functions almost perfectly.
Replay value 9/10
Clearing all the various modes of the game will probably take you a week, especially if you max your character's stats out and go for the better endings. There are a ton of XBOX 360 achievements to unlock, some of which require some serious time investment to accomplish. If you attempt to 100% every aspect of the game, you're probably looking at 2 solid weeks of time even with FAQs and looking at video guides on Youtube. The game is also a pretty fun time waster, so popping it in every now and then to bash apart zombies will further pad onto the replay value.
Even with a couple of flaws, Dead Rising stands out at one of the best of the earlier XBOX 360 games and possibly still the best survival-horror and beat 'em up game on the console as of writing this review. You owe it to yourself to at least rent the game, and purchasing it now (with a below $30 price tag these days) wouldn't be a bad spending decision. When I finally bought a 360 myself, this was the first game I played and it really rewarded me for owning the Microsoft system. Ignore the negative reviews - you need to play this in some manner!
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Dead Rising (US, 08/08/06)
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