Version tested: Wii
Dead Rising was a game about zombies, but it was also a game about shopping, the game's fierce appeal lying not with the moaning undead loping towards you so much as the shiny new golf club you had carefully selected in order to lamp them. One of those handful of special experiences that emerge early in a new console's lifetime, where the exotic new capabilities of the system are briefly, by themselves, enough to guide development, Capcom's mall-brawling ode to the joy of head injuries gleefully built itself around a simple technological challenge: how many enemies could the developer get on-screen at any single moment, and how many different items could it then offer you to do them all in with?
From that premise emerged a strange blast of brain-splattered whimsy, a panicky comedy with the stylings of a Romero movie and a mission structure that wouldn't be entirely out of place in Crazy Taxi. The conspiracy theory storyline may have been dead on arrival, but the kitsch expanses of the game's open world were more than capable of reanimating the corpse, giving you a playful chunk of action built from a chain of amusing choices: rescue or loot? Strip completely, or dress as Mega Man? Wade in with the frying pan or try your luck with the Telecaster instead? Now, thanks to the Wii, Dead Rising's back again, fuzzier, clunkier, and with fewer features and more parrots than ever before.
Actually, that's not an entirely fair assessment. Built from the same engine as the Wii version of Resident Evil 4, and co-opting that game's over-the-shoulder firing system, Chop Till You Drop sees Dead Rising's beating heart surviving the platform transition relatively intact, if not entirely without trauma. You'll still play as Frank West - an endearingly oafish photojournalist whose name suggests a suave air of Hitchcockian mystery that his lumbering body and hamster-on-steroids face brilliantly contradicts - and you'll still uncover the disappointingly rubbish truth about the zombie outbreak that grips Willamette Mall, while facing off against an undeniably magical range of weirdoes including a paranoid gun-store survivalist and the world's least suitable children's entertainer.
Whatever the game's shortcomings - and it has several - on a very basic level, the Wii still manages to deliver on Capcom's promise of large-scale zombie slaughter. The ranks of undead ambling through Paradise Plaza may be significantly thinner, and they may have contracted the annoying habit of fading into view as you approach seemingly empty areas, but there are still more than enough of them to keep you busy. The game's mission structure remains more or less intact, too, albeit beaten into a far more rigid system of challenges, blending the rescue sub-quests much more tightly with the main narrative, and making a game which occasionally gave you too much freedom to set your own agenda into one which now gives you comparatively little.
While the Wii controls don't add very much, they don't damage Dead Rising either, the A button triggering a melee attack, and a bizarre combination of Z and A allowing you to interact with objects, while pointing the remote aims guns and a shake provides a stronger melee or knocks back attackers. Movement's still awkward, but there's a solid quick-turn option available for when the crowd gets too close, and the camera is as reliable as it ever was.
Chop Till You Drop has even found time within the transition for a few little improvements: the tiny text of the original is now fixed (obviously), and the unexpectedly hardcore single-slot save system, which some people liked, but many more hated, has been replaced with multiple slots and regular post-mission saving, meaning you no longer have to factor in lengthy trips to the toilet as you head out on brain-smashing business. The new enemy types are a mixed blessing, however: while there's a lasting pleasure in offing a poodle or a parrot, they're purposefully awkward to melee, breaking up Dead Rising's charmingly democratic pummelling by asking you to fight in two conflicting styles at once.
For every new addition, in fact, Chop Till You Drop has a habit of taking something away. For starters, you're now a photojournalist who can no longer take photos - a cut presumably imposed by system limitations, but which nevertheless removes one of the most creative risk/reward time-wasters of the 360 offering. More importantly, Dead Rising's central selling point - the bizarre range of weapons available - has been quietly scaled down, too, forcing a new emphasis on gunplay: a strange decision, as it was never shooting at zombies that made the original game so much fun. Add to that a skittish directional arrow which, like a bad case of glue ear, you'll eventually find you can live with even if you know you'll never actually enjoy it, and an increased incidence of loading screens, and the damage done in squeezing the game into its new home starts to become obvious.
And while nobody expected a Wii game to graphically compete with its 360 sibling, there's a lingering sense of the rush-job to Chop Till You Drop's visuals: the plot may tell you it's September 2006, but the graphics are waving to you from the dreamy realms of 2001, with blurry textures, nasty FMV cut-scenes, and enemies who clip through scenery a little too regularly.
And yet, despite such irritations, much like Domino's Pizza and the repossession industry, the passage of time has made Dead Rising an unlikely beneficiary of the looming worldwide depression, as Capcom's Big Gulp-sized satire on capitalism-turned-rancid is given an unnervingly sharp aftertaste. Even if unwitting social commentary seems like a stretch too far for a game which features a deranged clown who juggles twin chainsaws, you're still left with an experience that's primarily concerned with finding the right kind of shiny lawnmower with which to chop up a generous parade of slack-jawed morons, and that can hardly be a bad thing.
That lingering strength of the premise is why, as with so many Wii ports, Dead Rising almost deserves two verdicts. As a standalone experience, it's shambling but lovable: two parts quirkiness to one part tedium. Compare it to the original, however, and it's hard to escape the fact that a once-brilliant game has been put through a mangler. Somewhere along the way, Capcom's zombie apocalypse has been bludgeoned into a zombie compromise, and, unless you really like poodles, the Wii offering can't really be said to add anything that the 360 version was lacking. For a game about shopping then, it's a strange, thematically-appropriate kind of punch-line to discover that Chop Till You Drop simply doesn't have that many persuasive reasons for most people to go out and buy it.
6 / 10