Review by Tenshi No Shi
Capcom finally decides to do something a little different with zombies...
When Capcom first started showing off screens of their first two Xbox 360 titles, I was giddy with anticipation. Though it had a great deal to do with the fact that this was my favorite developer, both Dead Rising and Lost Planet showed a lot of promise for wholly different reasons. Now with Dead Rising finally in my eager hands (the title saw a number of minor delays), I can now gauge what Capcom is capable of on a next-gen console.
The first thing you'll probably notice is the warning label, almost proudly displayed, which reads "This game was not developed, approved or licensed by the owners or creators of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead". That's because the plot closely mirrors that of the cult film. You are Frank West, freelance journalist out to get the story of his life. When first entering Willamette, Frank observes the military roadblocks, wrecked cars and citizens of the quiet town aimlessly wandering the street, thinking this to be nothing more than civil disobedience but wanting a closer look nonetheless. However things take a turn towards the bizarre as he witnesses a woman mauled by several of the town people and the few remaining survivors barricaded inside the mall talking of zombies...
Graphically, Dead Rising is a bit of a mixed bag- On one hand you've got beautifully modeled and textured characters that are well-animated, populating a believable mall with hundreds of thousands of object you can interact with in a wide variety of ways. On the other hand, there are some occasional hiccups loading the stores as they tend to "pop-up" when you move close too them, much like details of buildings would suddenly appear over the generic flat textures in Grand Theft Auto games. I realize that is how these types of games handle the memory limitations of the console (and believe me, when you see a couple hundred zombies on the screen at once, you'll know exactly why the Xbox 360's memory is being taxed), but it does tend to be a tad distracting when it happens, especially in a game this detailed.
I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed by Dead Rising sound-wise. I certainly didn't go in with any set expectations, but even so it felt like something was lacking. The audio effects were good enough, with everything more or less sounding as it should, however you can only hear a zombie groan so many different ways before you just have to tune it out for fear of turning in to one from sheer repetition. The voice acting ranges from mediocre to way overdone, so despite the unevenness from the actors, you don't get a solid performance from anyone (not to mention the lip-sync was way off). And the music? Well, since there isn't a whole lot in the game I'd actually consider a song, or at least anything worth the effort of even mentioning, I can't fairly rate the soundtrack, so I'll just call the whole thing a wash and move on.
Gameplay-wise, the controls remind me of a hybrid between Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Resident Evil 4. Certainly much of the actual controlling of the character is similar the Grand Theft Auto series with the ability to control your character and the camera independently, while using a specific button to attack while another is set for jumping. Much of the other actions you need to perform reminds me of Resident Evil 4, like using the directional pad for key actions such as viewing your watch and discarding items while the shoulder triggers handle pulling up your camera for pictures and precise aim with your currently selected weapon (which also allows you to throw your weapon as well). There are also button timer events that require you to push certain buttons when they appear on the screen to get out of tight situations. In short, I love everything about the controls since it blends the elements of two of my favorite games in to one, workable scheme.
I have to admit Dead Rising is a lot deeper than I expected it to be (deep being a term relative to my expectations, of course, since I was expecting nothing more than a Resident Evil version of Final Fight). The idea that you have only 72 hours to try and uncover as much of the story as possible, then make it to the extraction point in a timely fashion, adds a certain amount of suspense and strategy to the game. Who do you save? Which lead to follow? Is it worth taking that one last picture before the zombie horde overwhelms you? The sheer depth to your choices, hampered by the very steep time limit, creates a gameplay design that forces you to replay the game multiple times to get the full story behind the incident at Willamette. It was a stroke of brilliance on Capcom's part to incorporate a leveling system which includes various skill-ups to encourage you to keep starting a new game, carrying over your old data so your character is that much stronger and wiser starting out.
Here we get to the real meat of the game- the unlockables. Through the course of discovering the entire story (which involves a whole lot of leveling up, saving everyone and starting the game over with your previous progress), you'll unlock a couple of cool gameplay modes: Overtime Mode and Infinity Mode. Overtime Mode allows you to start a new game beginning on day four while Infinity Mode gives you an unlimited amount of time to do with what you wish. Getting certain achievements will reward you with special clothing and items that fans of other Capcom franchises will instantly recognize.
For anyone that is looking for a game that you could file under the label of "cult classic" look no further that Dead Rising. Despite its flaws, it's one of those games that can be as shallow or deep as you want it to be, with dozens of reasons to replay it and a classic story that harkens back to B cinema at its finest. Because of the relative originality alone, I recommend this game for those who seek something a little off the beaten path. Here's hoping Capcom has the wisdom to turn this into a franchise (can you imagine a sequel that encompasses the entire town a la Grand Theft Auto?!)
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Dead Rising (US, 08/08/06)
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