Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 08/08/06 | Genre: Action
Zombies. That word alone is enough to set many a heart racing. As an enemy they are one of the few classics that withstand the test of time. The reverence for the mindless horde as a force to be reckoned with has only grown over the years. Capcom turns this great shambling mass of flesh eating neo-lepers and gives them a game in which to shine very brightly.
Enough with the zombie love.
Players take on the role of a freelance photojournalist named Frank who got a tip that something was happening in a small Colorado town. Arriving by helicopter it appears the National Guard have sealed off the town – nobody is getting in or out. Frank then has the opportunity to take a few pictures of what is happening around town, which acts as a tutorial for a couple of major pieces of the gameplay puzzle in Dead Rising. And you’ll need the practice.
Experience is gained by getting Prestige Points – something like experience points, only… not. Gain enough points and you rise in level. New levels come with better statistics, as well as new skills. Early on in the game, one of the cooler skills is the ability to walk across a crowd of the undead, literally. This is not only very cool, but damn useful when weapons are in short supply. Gaining the Prestige Points is another matter.
By taking pictures at “the right time” and having them framed properly, points are awarded. The camera is brought up with the left trigger, but time does not stand still. Players will need to be aware of their surroundings at al times, since the zombies are still lurching forward even as pictures are being snapped. Pictures come in a few varieties (drama, horror, humorous, etc.) and these are what players need to focus on. Put a hat on a zombie and take a picture, since that’s more interesting that just that single zombie standing around like all the others.
This almost makes Dead Rising sound like an RPG. Were it not for the completely action based combat and gameplay, one could mistake Dead Rising for a role-playing game. Actually, in many respects, it is. Many of the new skills make survival much easier.
The story takes place over 72 virtual hours – Frank is dropped off and the helicopter will be back to pick him up, and if you’re flying around a town with a zombie army shuffling about, you most likely wouldn’t want to wait around to see if somebody is going to show up or not. Getting the story before time is up is the goal, but surviving until then – as well as getting through all of the various missions – is where the game really steps up to provide some real fun.
Dead Rising takes the focus away from killing the zombies, though don’t worry, there’s plenty of that, and in hundreds of ways with a massively wide variety of items that are found throughout the mall. The emphasis is instead on the story – and players are given a character that would actually be doing many of the interactions that Frank does. Instead of “just some person” who stumbles into a wild scenario, we have a protagonist that has at his very core an investigative nature.
It is in the process of going from mission to mission to complete the game’s story that one will have to wade through the residents of what is supposed to be a sleepy town nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s nice to not have the surprise element or “scare factor” that many of these types of games attempt to portray. Like any great zombie film, you’re not going to be scared because you know they are there. Instead, Capcom has made this enemy more of an environmental obstacle.
An obstacle that can be taken out with a baseball bat.
Some of my personal favorite methods of taking out the zombies include picking up a bench and cutting a large swath through a group, the lawn mower for sheer power, and the shopping cart, because it is just damn funny. There are a lot of ways – some of them even more effective – that crop up as the opportunity arises (or a better store in the mall is close by).
Oftentimes weapons can be found just laying about or in crates. Even the crates themselves are weapons. Also in crates will be various food items. These are the health power-ups that Frank will need in order to survive. Of course, you could also have him throw that gallon of milk at a zombie if things get really bad.
Things won’t be just in crates however. There’s plenty of stuff just laying about, both food and weaponry. Actually, the food is fairly interesting in that if you can find the right ingredients, they can be used together (with a blender) to create a “juice” that will have special affects for a little while, such as extra speed, or be zombie bait (particularly helpful for certain escort missions) or even invulnerable – just be aware that it does wear off.
Players aren’t able, however, to hold a whole lot of items. The inventory system is actually a little broken in that only a certain number of items can be carried, regardless of their size. I don’t mind that the game limits what is able to be carried, then again, since this is a mall, one would expect a backpack to be available.
While we are talking about things that aren’t working right, let’s mention the save system. I understand that Capcom wants to give players the feeling o urgency by allowing only one save file for the game. What bothers me is that there are specific save points in some ridiculous areas. After a tough boss battle, I like to save my game. I’m not allowed to do that here – I have to go deal with the game, both missions and zombies, in order to make it to a save point.
There will be times when you have to start over simply because the save system works against you. This is by far the most frustrating aspect of Dead Rising. Also frustrating is just how many escort missions there are, and how many of those people are unable to defend themselves. You can of course elect not to do these, since they aren’t part of the main story.
Dead Rising is a very fun game once the steep learning curve is adjusted for. Just like the undead, the game is unforgiving and just won’t go away until defeated. There are multiple endings, and it doesn’t take terribly long to complete so the incentive to go through again is rather high, especially after unlocking the 4th day in the game. There’s plenty to explore in the mall, such as going clothes shopping. Not a perfect game, it does a very good job of bringing the zombie movie experience to a game.