Reviewed on: Xbox One. Copy supplied by publisher.
It’s been 10 years since Dead Rising graced the Xbox 360, introducing the world to zombie mashing action. Dead Rising 4 revisits the original in a lot of ways, the story unfolds in Willamette Colorado, it has a shopping mall and Frank West once again is the protagonist, but not as you know him.
Original voice actor Terence J. Rotolo has been replaced by Victor Nosslo, and there is a major difference there. Capcom have defended the recasting by saying that the new voice of Frank provides a grizzled and older approach to the now 50 year old Frank, and fine whatever, he sounds nothing like the original. But it’s sad that it took me ages to find the name of the new West, as the cast is buried waaaay down in the credits, so it’s the last thing you see. The voice talent are below Accountants and the Special Thanks section in the credits, so, voice acting doesn’t seem to be a priority with this one at all. New West does a good job considering, so it’d be nice to acknowledge his work.
Anyway, let’s leave that sour note behind and talk about Dead Rising 4, which I surprisingly really enjoyed. It’s not going to be topping any game of the year lists, but hey, it does what it says on the box, you can mulch zombies in creative and gory ways.
Dead Rising has changed quite a bit over the series run, starting as a bizarre but not overtly comedic series, it has now degenerated into an all out goofy affair. The custom weapons are so abstract it’s hard to imagine a world where a photographer can build an ice sword or energy weapon from a computer, but it’s endearing how silly a series can go whilst staying enjoyable. Instead of mingling in a little bit of humour with the bleakness of a zombie apocalypse, Dead Rising 4 has just completely embraced it and created an over the top Christmas affair that happens to feature lots and lots of zombies.
Hardcore fans of the series might be turned off by this, but to be completely honest, I’m glad Capcom went in this direction as I’ve not been a massive lover of the series to date. I’ve played them all, and this is the only one I completed. Sure, the Christmas themed weapons are shockingly camp, but it’s kind of fun sticking Christmas cracker bombs on a zombie and watching bells explode out of it.
The story takes place in Willamette once again, with Frank being called out of retirement by the ZDC, who are tracking a fresh outbreak in Colorado. The outbreak is unusual to say the least because humans have developed a cure for zombieism in the 2021 setting. The ZDC want Frank to find out what’s really happening, which pits him against the mysterious mercenary group Obscuris, and deep into a conspiracy hole.
A large chunk of the game has Frank investigating a monster that Obscuris have been desperately tracking with little success. It’s kind of spooky and the pay off is very B-movie, but worth the ride, it also links back to the first game in a lot of ways which is cool to see.
Dead Rising 4 starts you off in Willamette mall before pushing you out into the greater town, which is where a ball crushing amount of zombies generally hang out. Aside from undead hordes there are unhinged maniacs to contend with and survivors to rescue. However the map seems to have been designed by a dropped piece of toast, with roads smeared about and no real way to navigate to an objective. This is made worse by blockades cutting off streets and no mission tracking mechanic, meaning getting around can be way too fiddly for an open world game.
Side missions are scattered around Williamette, either in the form of maniac encounters or investigations that Frank can do for a local podcast. To be completely honest I didn’t really bother doing many as I just wasn’t compelled enough to navigate the awful streets, but the few I did do were entertaining. The investigations themselves show up a lot in the main story, making use of Frank’s camera to survey an area to progress the story, it’s pretty much Batman’s detective mode, but camera. The camera is nice to have back in the series, and provides an easy way to get XP from snapping brutal scenes. You can also totally take selfies with zombies, which is pretty fantastic.
The combat in Dead Rising 4 is mostly fun, with the sheer gore and variation in weaponry keeping you entertained. Attaching fireworks to a crossbow to make a blambow is way way too fun, and some Christmas themed combos keep the game light hearted. Who doesn’t want to attach a Christmas wreath to a zombie that shoots electricity into the horde? However the focus in gameplay seems to have come from Frank vs Zombie action and not Frank vs humans, as fighting Obscuris or nutters in gunfights is painful at best. The cumbersome controls suit a slow moving horde, where you can lay into them with an axe or take time to line up shots and not worry about cover, but when the enemy is returning fire the combat feels archaic.
A new addition to the series takes the form of Exo Suits, which have been littered about the map by Obscuris goons. They provide Frank with speed and strength, as well as the option to pimp it with thematic add ons, for example by adding a slushy machine to the suit you can punch out hurricanes of freezing wind. It’s silly, but fun, which is a recurring theme in Dead Rising 4.
As with most open world games there’s a lot of levelling up that can be done. From Frank’s abilities, to shelters that you clear out, there’s a lot to customise. Shelters are a nice addition as the more you upgrade, the more you’ll be able to purchase from the traders within. Throughout the single player I was rarely yearning for more stuff to do, between levelling up, the missions and locating collectables, I was engrossed.
The game’s multiplayer mode is surprisingly enjoyable as well. As I played prior to release I was paired with strangers online, but we did pretty good as a little team. The MP mode is relatively simple, with players starting in the mall having to survive each day travelling between safe houses. On the way to each safe house there are little missions you can complete for bonus points and better gear. The goal is to survive as many days as you can. It was pretty fun with strangers, so I can imagine it being great with a group of friends.
Overall Dead Rising 4 is a success in my eyes, although one that does have flaws that will almost certainly be picked at by hardcore fans. But at the end of the day, I enjoyed this stupid, stupid game, and that’s all that matters.