Monday, December 29, 2014

Dead Rising - Review

Before the whole zombie craze really kicked off, Capcom went to work on a unique title exclusively for the Xbox 360. The game was titled "Dead Rising," and instead of being a horror survival game like their Resident Evil series, it put a lot more focus on messing around and just having fun. It was a game that threw players into an open world mall, and basically allowed them to run wild causing as much chaos as possible while they killed zombies with everything they could get their hands on. Quickly the game gained a reputation for itself, and before too long the sequels followed it up. But now, after all these years, how is the game? Is it still worth picking up if you missed it the first time around? Is it a game that can stand out above the sea of other zombie games now on the market? Well, you know what I'm going to say... You're going to have to read the review to find out! (Yes I said it anyway.)

The Story:

Dead Rising is the story of ace reporter Frank West (who has covered wars). After strange reports come in from one town, Frank decides to head into the action himself, and find out what is going on--of course nothing could have ever prepared him for what he was about to face. Not too long after arriving in town, Frank has his helicopter pilot set him down on the roof a mall, and asks him to come back for him in a few days. Strange looking people walk the streets around the mall, and Frank decides to head inside to find out just what is going on, this is when he learns that a zombie outbreak has occurred (which is pure fantasy for this world as it has never happened before), and that survivors have barricaded themselves inside the building. Well, that barricade doesn't hold for long.

After some crazy lady opens the front door to save her little dog (never mind the fact it is barking with evil looking eyes), the zombies get in, and just about everyone around Frank dies. Of course the game allows you, the player, to try to save them, but it is no use. Zombies bite and rip apart everything in their path, and Frank (along with a few other survivors whom just so happen to be homeland security and a janitor) head for the security room and weld the door shut. This is when everyone's nightmare begins. As a reporter Frank decides to venture out into the mall to see if he can get to the bottom of things, but knowing that he only has a few days before his ride returns he has to work fast. Along the way Frank meets other survivors, whom he must save, crazy psychopaths (once normal people who's stresser was the zombie outbreak), and millions of zombies that are ready to eat his flesh and turn him into one of them. While the overall plot is to get to the bottom of the outbreak and escape, each psychopath adds their own story elements to the game, and a lot of the survivors have mini stories as well. While the game doesn't take itself too seriously in general, there are some pretty dark moments from time to time, along with some crazy over the top scenes you won't soon forget.

The Gameplay:

Although the story of Dead Rising is nice, it is not the focus of the game--the gameplay is. Unlike Capcom's Resident Evil series, this is not a survival horror, and is more focused on exploring a mall, and killing zombies in crazy ways. On the other hand, it isn't purely button mashing chaos, as there is actually a time limit, and a lot of missables. The game runs on a real time clock where roughly five minutes is equal to an in game hour, and you're only given three days to get everything done. Frank never sleeps so there's no time skips that you have to worry about, and time doesn't tick on during cutscenes, but the game is packed full of content so it does kind of rush you. There are different story events which happen at different times, and you're given a countdown to each one to let you know when you're about to miss it. Of course before these story events you can run around doing whatever you want, but again there's so much to do in the game that you won't want to waste time.

While story events are the most important part of progression, between them survivors and psychopaths will show up in the mall. These events too have their own time limit, and if you don't get to them on time you will completely miss them. Sure not doing these events won't cause you to fail the story and get a bad ending like missing a story event would, but missing them would mean you'll be much weaker later on, and you'll also be missing some of the most interesting cutscenes in the game. Survivors though, don't always show up on the event list (there are a handful you must find for yourself), and in general they can be quite tricky to save.

To save a survivor often it's a simple matter of finding them, killing the zombies before they kill them, and then talking to them; however, that is only half of the process. Once a survivor is saved, they may either ask you to bring them something (such as a weapon), they may start following you right away without asking for something, or they may be hurt or have some other reason they can't carry on without you either actually picking them up, or pulling them along by the hand. Whatever the case is, to actually save a survivor you need to bring them back to the security room if you want to get your reward. Although, that is also easier said than done. When it comes down to it, the survivors are just flat out stupid. They'll cry and complain, they'll sometimes leave your side to go punch a random zombie in the face (only to possibly get killed by them), and they won't always want to listen to your call. To make matters worse you'll often have to save more than one survivor at a time if you want to save them all and still have enough time to get to the next story event, and that can become tough to manage. It's hard enough when you have one survivor following you, but when you have a conga line following you through a mall filled with zombies, it does get challenging. (Still the reward is very much worth it.)

Besides the survivors, psychos will pop up once in awhile, and they will offer you a challenge. These guys are crazy, disturbing, and very hard to kill. Each one begins with a cutscene where they will attack you, and it is up to you to decide if you want to stick around to fight, or come back later. Once you do kill them it'll unlock a special weapon for you to pick up and use, and you'll also be treated to some of the most disturbing cutscenes you'll ever see in a video game. Some of them are pure nightmare fuel, and they are the only true "horror" element this game has to offer.

Now you may be saying to yourself "that's fine and all, but how does the game play?" Well, as I said before this one is a lot different. The mall is an open sandbox for you to explore, and within this sandbox there are MANY stores for you to visit. In these stores, or simply laying around the mall in general, you'll be able to find a wide verity of objects that you can pick up and use as a weapon. Want to beat a zombie with a teddy bear, and then throw a bench through a window? Go for it, nothing is stopping you! Want to go into the hardware store to get a trusty chain saw? Yep, that's an option too. Are you low on health? Just go to the food bar and get you something to eat. The entire world around you is filled with objects that can be used as weapons, and using them is as simple as hitting X and Y for normal and heavy hits. Of course guns require aiming or else you'll just pistol whip the zombies with it, but for the most part it's a button masher that never gets old due to the wide verity of things for you to use. Early on you can only carry so many items with you at once, but as time goes on you'll be able to hold more and more--although since items do break after so many uses, it's not like you're going to be holding onto your stuff for long periods of time. On top of all of that, some stores have different types of clothing for you to put on, so you can customize how Frank looks in some crazy ways as well.

As you run around smashing zombie's heads open, saving people, and killing psychos, experience points called PP are unlocked. At the very start of the game Frank is limited on how much health he has, how much inventory space he has, and he only has a few basic melee moves, but as he gains more PP and levels up his stats increase and new attacks are learned. This is what is key to surviving in Dead Rising, and it's also something that actually carries over into all of your playthroughs of the game. If Dead Rising happens to be too much for you and you fail the story, or if you decide that you only want to focus on the story and ignore the side content because you feel like you don't have enough time, that's completely okay. The game is actually meant to be played more than once (I personally played through it three times just to see everything), and all of your levels carry over into each run making it easier than the last. When you may have had trouble fighting the psychos the first time around, on the second run they will be much easier for you, and that in return helps you complete more side content faster. Dead Rising really is one of them games that you'll spend time playing over and over again, and with each run you'll learn something new, and that in return will help you progress through it much easier, completing nearly everything along the way. While it is possible to do everything on the first run, the game is so short that you really shouldn't worry about it. It's a game where you take your time, progress through the main story, and then return once you've finished it to do everything you missed.

The final aspect of Dead Rising is the camera. While it really isn't that important, some side content requires the use of it to take pictures, and it can also be used to gain extra PP to level up. Better quality the picture, the more points it is worth, but also the more zombies that are in it the more you will gain as well. Score is decided by the type of picture it is, and can be a fast and easy way to gain some quick points if you don't want to mass kill everything, or save people and fight psychos. (Although the camera was removed from the Wii release, but that's just about a different game entirely.)

Since the game runs on a real time clock, the time of day does change throughout the course of the story, and that also has a huge impact on what is going on around you. At night the mall is very dark and hard to see, zombies become more violent, and the game just flat out becomes more challenging. Different types of enemies also soon join the mix (including a crazy cult), and the game's difficulty just spikes in general. The night really is something to be feared in the game, but it's something you must put up with time and time again. Because of this the night seems to last forever, but once day comes along things do go back to normal.

Extra Modes:

While Dead Rising is mainly a game you play for the story, there is one other mode to play once you complete the story (not counting the extended mode which unlocks when you reach the true ending of story mode). This mode is the Infinity Mode, and is the game's hardest challenge as it is a survival mode. In this mode Frank's health becomes a hunger bar which drops every 100 seconds, and all of enemy types are already out in the mall to kill you. The goal here is to search for food, avoid fighting as much as possible, avoid danger areas, and simply try to hold up somewhere. This mode never ends, but by lasting enough days you can actually unlock special rewards such as the Z-Saber from Mega Man X (Zero's sword). While this mode is very challenging, it can actually be broken by simply hiding in a store with glass doors (zombies can't open them), and throwing a heck of a lot of food inside to keep your health full. Some places spawn endless orange juice, so it's pretty easy to do. Still for those who want to play it the normal way without exploiting it just to unlock the best weapons in the game, it can be a very fun mode.

(Unlimited Orange Juice!)
The Good and the Bad:

Dead Rising is a very fun game. While the world isn't the largest, it is packed full of content. There are a lot of survivors to save, challenging and crazy boss fights, a lot of weapons to use, and it is packed full of dark humor. Again, what other game would let you beat a zombie with a stuffed animal, and then put a servbot mask (from Mega Man Legend's) on it's head? Or what zombie game allows you to run around as a man in a dress as you proceed to bash enemy's heads in with a trash can? The game can be quite funny, and it is simply just fun to see what you can and cannot do. Using the wide verity of weapons is the highlight of this one, but going through the story and watching it unfold is fun as well. It's a really good game, and has nothing wrong with it--at least, that's what I would like to say.

As good as Dead Rising is, it does have some flaws. For one, there is only one save spot. Yes that's right, you cannot make multiple saves just in case you mess up on your first run. Sure it's not that big of a deal since you will most likely replay the game anyway, but it would have been nice to have the option. Second of all, the survivors are idiots, they don't always want to follow you, and it is never fun to leave an area, wait through a loading screen, and then realize some old guy got trapped behind a wall in the previous screen and is now being killed. These annoyances make saving survivors a pain sometimes, and if you're a completionist you may feel a bit stressed from the time limit. The third issue, which may or may not be seen as an issue, is the fact that there's really no mode to allow you to just have fun. If you want to mess around and not have to deal with a crazy hard mode like infinity mode, you'll have to do it in the main story. Sure you can make a save at a point in the story where every section of the mall is open, but due to there only being one save slot you'll never be able to play through the story again unless you want to delete that progress. Sure it isn't a huge deal, but for some it may be a bit disappointing.

All and all though, Dead Rising is great. It is fun, and well worth the time if you've never played it before. Some people may be turned off by the time limit at first, but I'm telling you now--don't sweet it. The game is made to be played over and over again, and you do have plenty of time to complete it. It just comes down to you knowing the layout of the mall, and what's the best side event to do and at what times. So, with that being said, I'm giving Dead Rising a 9/10. Great classic, but it has some flaws that hold it back from being perfect.