Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
Starting out life a an Xbox exclusive, Capcom’s seminal comedy horror zombie-fest, Dead Rising, has always been an impressive showing of on-screen action. Never afraid to pile on the sheer number of rotting undead, the series has been a polarising one, particularly in its early days, when core game mechanics and a reliance on escorting often terrible AI put many people off. Those who stuck with it, however, found a rewarding and totally unique open world title.
With Dead Rising 4, however, the game has changed greatly, doing away with previous time limits and escorts, and focusing more on simple, violent combat and over the top craziness.
I have to admit, I missed the third iteration of the series, so I come to this fourth outing on PS4 relativity fresh from the second game and its various spin-offs. As such, upon firing up the title, I found a very different Dead Rising than I expected, one that seems to have lost much of the identity of the previous games, becoming little more than a brawler.
Now, I actually liked the timer-based play of the originals, as I found it to offer a good sense of challenge and uniqueness to proceedings. The sense of immediacy forced you to consider your actions, and it made for a very different breed of survival horror. Now this has gone, I struggled to find what made the game stand out any more.
Sure, Capcom has realised that fans wanted to see more of the series’ original protagonist, Frank West, and Dead Rising 4 attempts to relive its glory by featuring the bullish investigative reporter, but this incarnation of Frank is not the same as the one fan’s hankered for, with a different voice actor and appearance. Instead we have a much more generic rendition of Frank, which is actually fitting, as the game itself has, sadly, become little more than a generic brawler, as Capcom has removed most of the features and personality that made the games great.
Instead, Dead Rising 4 is all about the ridiculous. It’s about the crazy weapons you can wield, the silly costumes you can wear, and what kind of random photos and selfies you can grab. Sure, there’s a story underneath all of this, but it’s not handled particularly well, and any character focus, of which there’s hardly any, is lost amidst the tirade of endless zombie-slaying.
The new open world is great, though, taking place in a festive-themed Willamette. The setting of the first game, Willamette Mall, has been rebuilt following the original incident, and the game features this, as well as a large portion of the town surrounding it. It makes for a decent, and varied playground for you to creatively kill zombies, and the game does look the part. Highlights, as always, come from the various psychopath bosses you’ll encounter, whilst the rank and file zombies barely register before you split them asunder with your latest sharp implement.
Combat is largely mindless, with any best intentions of special moves or tactics simply devolving into button mashing, and there’s usually a decent assortment of ranged weapons on offer too. This keeps action flowing, and the mixture of melee and ranged combat is handled well, but there’s just no real feel to it any more, especially in terms of player damage.
With little to no feedback, Frank takes damage and his health drops down. Even stood in the middle of a group of zombies who aren’t even attacking, I noticed my heath dropping, and a lot of the time I wasn’t even sure why I was being damaged. There’s just no indication, and this is also true when you encounter enemies with ranged weapons. You’ll die, and have no idea who shot you, or from where.
This makes playing on the games new, more difficult modes, including the hardest, Blackest Friday, nigh on impossible, as you take so much damage so quickly, the game just becomes borderline unplayable, at least until you’ve spent a good amount of time levelling Frank up.
As before, the game has an RPG-lite system with skill trees that can be used to empower Frank. You can increase health, critical chance with weapons, storage capacity, and so on. As well as this, the weapon-crafting features returns, but is a far more streamlined and simplistic system than seen previously. Now you simply find blueprints, and if you have the right items when you find the corresponding weapons to be combined, you make them on the spot. It’s simple, and works, but given the plethora of other ready-made decent weapons around, it’s not all that necessary.
Frank’s camera has been given a boost, with different visions modes, one of which is bizarrely linked to hacking, and is little more than a button press, rendering the feature entirely pointless as a game mechanic, but you can still take shots of anything in the game and be rated on it for experience points.
The version of the game we get for PS4 comes with various additions and DLC that Xbox users got over time, including a range of Street Fighter-themed costumes, The Capcom Heroes mode that allows you to don costumes of Capcom game characters and use special move sets to slay the undead, and there’s the Frank Rising mode that sees Frank rise as a zombie. This reintroduces a timer, as the mode must be completed in a strict time limit, but it changes the action up greatly, as Frank’s undead form is limited to his new-found zombie skills. It’s fun to play through, though, and is touted by Capcom as the game’s ‘true ending.’ Xbox players had to pay the the extra DLC, but here it is as part of the package, which is nice.
Although Dead Rising 4 omitted a lot of features from the previous games that I missed, and is certainly an inferior game in my opinion, I still enjoyed it. It’s a true, mindless bit of fun, and if you don’t mind turning off your brain for a while and let the blood flow, you’ll get a kick or two out of it.