Back in 2006 when zombie games were a dime a dozen, Capcom released the first Dead Rising. The game was unique and brutally hard with no auto save, a horde of zombies and psychopaths that all wanted to see you restart from the beginning. 10 years later now with four main title games, two remakes, a mobile game, and even three movies the series returns with the 4th installment of the main titles. The big question is, does DR4 bring enough to the table to refresh the series?
Dead Rising 4 sees the return of Frank West as the main protagonist which is a first for a main series title. It’s been 16 years since the first outbreak at Willamette Colorado and Frank has become a professor of photography. One of Frank’s students convinces him to help her investigate a military compound for a story she is writing. After uncovering evidence that something strange is going on at the base, the two escape but are separated. Months later Frank is in hiding after the government accuses him of terrorism. A government agent tracks Frank down and informs him that there has been another outbreak in Willamette and that his student is there tracking down a story that could clear his name.
The first game, while kinda silly, took itself fairly seriously and portrayed Frank as someone who went to Willamette for personal fame and glory, but turns into this reluctant hero who sees people that need help, and does so as he's the only person capable and sane enough to do something. But as the series progressed the games got more silly and less serious. In this game as the story progresses Frank is portrayed as an alcoholic, egomaniac, washed up celebrity looking for a story to push himself back into the limelight. Frank is sarcastic and only really helps people out if it furthers his own agenda, which gave me a weird vibe since his character, while never really was what I would call heroic, he was still a good person that tried to do the right thing and now feels like a completely different character from the first Dead Rising.
The gameplay in Dead Rising 4 is very similar to Dead Rising 3 in style and feel. There's a lot of driving to locations in Willamette, but a big thing for me is that you don’t really spend much time in the iconic mall from the first game unless you are doing side quests or exploring. I’m happy they don’t stick you in the mall and keep you there, but apart from the beginning and the end, there is no reason to go back. A big change gameplay wise is that the inventory system has completely changed. In previous games you had one inventory where you held all your items and it made you really think about what you NEEDED and not what you just wanted to have around. In Dead Rising 4 however you have four separate inventories, one for ranged, melee, throwing, and health restoring items and you have about 4-5 slots for each. This gave me the ability to have 2 super strong weapons in each area that I just used on bosses and psychos and then just use the others slots for zombie killing purposes.
Dead Rising 4 also introduces exo suits which are just robot suits that give Frank and enemies super strength and allows them to use larger weapons like miniguns and giant combat axes. There are also ways to upgrade the suits with things like wind and ice powers as well as equipping them with shoulder mounted guns and explosive punches. The suits are fun to use but provide not much more than just a way to bring super soldiers enemies into the game.
The single player story can be beaten in around 6-7 hours if you ignore all the side stuff and from what I can tell unlike other Dead Rising games, Dead Rising 4 only has one ending packaged with the game. Evidently there will be DLC that will bring back the time limit as well as include the “true” ending to the game. It bothers me a little because I feel like the ending to Dead Rising 4 is actually really interesting and provided me with an ending that kinda made me excited to see where they take the franchise if they do continue the story.
As far as graphics go the game looks really good, especially considering how many zombies are on screen at once. Yes there are a lot of visual bugs where sometimes zombies just fall out of the sky, or cars change color bizarrely, but overall everything looks fantastic. The characters look great and have believable facial expressions and movements. Since the game takes place during Christmas time the snow all over the city and farm areas looks great as well. If reusing models are something that get on your nerves then you will have a lot of issues with Dead Rising 4 since you can easily see at least 5-6 of the same zombie in a crowd, it didn’t really bother me mainly because picking one zombie out in the large hordes is never really something I payed attention to.
As I have already mentioned DR4 has a lot of bugs in it, the majority of which are not game breaking, however I was frustrated with a couple of really annoying instances. The first one where the bug actually made me load up a save from the start of the chapter was when a zombie that I had to kill to advance got stuck in a wall and I couldn’t kill it. The worst bug however was at the last 20 minutes of the game where all the character voices disappeared and the subtitles didn’t show up either, so I played the ending of the game not knowing what anyone was saying or doing. I played the chapter again after beating it to see if it would fix itself and it didn’t. I was able to watch the ending online so I could see what was going on, but it was still kinda frustrating.
Dead Rising 4 does feature a multiplayer mode where you and 3 others take control of 4 side characters in the game's main story. It feels like they tried to make it class based by starting each character off with a different weapon type (ranged, melee, throwing, and healing) but it doesn’t really matter once you get out of the safehouse and start picking random things up. There is a little bit of a story involved, but it’s not much. Overall it’s a fun side mode that you can play with friends.
There will be some people that love the changes and how the game isn’t as difficult as the rest of the series, but there will also be the people that remembered and loved the games for how they didn’t hold your hand and made you beat it by using your head more than brute strength, and that is lost here. Overall Dead Rising 4 is fun with charming characters and a vast world to explore, but still falls short in key areas.
Review by Guest Writer: Nate Wagner
THREE OUT OF FIVE
(A balanced game that has a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, meaning that it alternates between being good and bad in mostly equal measure.)