Dead Rising Reader Review
Maths Exam, Question 1: Capcom + Zombies + Melee weapon = ?
It's good to see that Capcom have still got zombies on the brain, especially when everyone is waiting for the imminent Resident Evil 5, as it clearly shows that they are thinking about different ways to entertain with the old-age favourite of the walking dead. As per requirements, Dead Rising sees you as a one-man army against the mutated population of a loccal town, digging through the rotting to find 'just what happened here'. Frank 'Photojournalist - I've covered wars, you know' West is our unlikely hero in the Dawn of the Dead inspired (surely) locale of a shopping mall, and yep, it's just as fun as you think it'll be.
Don't let the XBL demo put you off in any way - I knew that it was only a 15-minute demo, but never quite knew how the game days would related to real-time play (it's actually three game-days of which each are four real-time hours - so that's a minimum of 12-hours gameplay time, for those of you who want value for money). Over the course of the 72-(game-)hours, you're tasked to uncover the truth behind the zombie infestation through the completion of multiple case files. Each case has a number of sub-points which are basically story-milestones, and the beginning of each case must start at a specific time. Now here's the crunch that some people had with Dead Rising; if you don't arrive at the right location in time, the truth (i.e. the story) is lost and that's that. You'll never find out why people have been zombified (and no, it's not a T-virus thing), and you'll have essentially failed to 'finish' the game.
But the consequence of this isn't actually all that bad as you'll get a couple of options: continue with you zombie killing for the time you have left (although you wouldn't know until you finish the 72-hours, there are five different endings, so Capcom have made it worthwhile to cave in a few more skulls), or save your stats and start a new 72-hour game. Stats?, I hear you say. That's right - Dead Rising is a quasi-RPG, action-adventure because you can level up, advance your fighting, running and life stats (among others), and learn new fighting moves. That sentence alone provides too many questions to fully appreciate what Dead Rising is trying to give to you. Capcom don't just want you power through and complete the game; they want you to explore their shopping-mall world, find the little things that you'd have otherwise missed, try a little variety, and ultimately come back and kill a load more zombies. And they've managed all of this fantastically.
There's a innovative interactive introduction to Frank West's main 'side-arm' - his digital camera - where your helicopter's flight path takes you along streets to meet your first zombie. Take a few photo of the events that occur and you'll be earning your first PP points (essentially experience points) and be on your way to levelling up. The more exciting or descriptive your photograph, the more points you earn. Hand-to-hand combat, killing of certain enemies, finding and saving survivors (more later) also give you massive PP point bonuses, so there's an incentive to go out looking for trouble.
And once you're in the shopping mall, Capcom exactly let you have an easy start. The once-secure entrance is sudden broken down and zombies come flooding in. There's a bench, baseball bat, piece of 2-by-4, dustbin or pot-plant within reach - which would you choose to defend yourself. And that's the great thing about it - you get to decide what you beat the zombies to death with, be it those or a stuffed teddy bear, plates, CDs, guns and bullets, blades, baking flour, signs, fencing, dumbells, chainsaws, spades, brooms - seriously, the list goes on and on. Obviously, some items are more effective than others, it's up to you if you want effective or comical weapons in your hand, but the whole point is to make and have fun, and to not take things so seriously. I dare you not to laugh the instant you accidentally smash a dumbell in a survivor's face, all because at that moment the zombie bent down low to attack you. Every time you play, you'll laugh at least once.
Earn points, level-up and learn new moves such as 'lift-and-throw', zombie ride (walking on the shoulders of zombies), one-hit-kill bicycle kick, and current favourite, the 'disemboweler' (quite literally). For all you Shaun of the Dead fans, there's even Zombie Walk - that's right, walk and talk like a zombie to mingle in. And why bother to have this quasi-RPG element? Because it makes the game far more enjoyable the second (or third, or fourth, or...) time round - you'll be concentrating less on the nearest food source and more on knocking the crap out of everything.
Furthermore, there are survivors out there in the shops of the malls waiting for our hero to rescue them (you'll be notified of their location via caretaker Otis and his bloody annoying, near-constant walkie-talkie calls at the most inappropriate times - like when there's a load of zombies around), and not only will they give you thousands of points, some will lend a hand at slaying the walking dead. Some will be too scared to do anything, some will be injured and need assistance, some just don't want to do much but be led. But unfortunately, some will not help themselves because they'll get trapped, or not follow you fully, or stand next to survivors in trouble, or get in your way, or not follow you to the next zone. But when you see the useful ones actually doing something, like shoot an uzi, it's great and when you get a whole bundle of useful survivors then lo-and-behold, you'll have yourself an army. An army that is crap at navigation, but an army nonetheless.
There's a huge array of shops to look into and each is nicely modelled although the range of interior furnishing is a bit repetitive at times. It doesn't detract but after the initial round-around, you'll find each shop less unique than you originally thought - that is, the style of each category of shop is similar. I can see logic in that, but then a small twist per shop is something that is sorely missing. However, the graphics and audio provide meaty feedback, with the thwacking of head against bat, the clean slice of a katana, or the steering of a shopping trolley - all of the interactive weapons are a joy to use. The face modelling is probably one of the best, if not the best, I've seen in gaming - and this is in-game engine. The B-movie style acting is pretty good, and West definately provides something to the cast and story.
I won't go through everything that you can do nor what awaits you, I can only say that you'll have the most fun playing this game and just having a laugh. That's what Capcom wanted and that's what they've delivered. You can't fully criticise about a single thing (even the single save slot per profile makes sense - so what if you save when you don't have enough time to reach the case deadline, just carry on playing for fun and view the alternate endings, level-up, be better and know the layout of the shopping mall - the whole save-and-level-up system has been designed to make you enjoy the game, to improve your character and make things a little easier the second time round, not to make you reach an impenetrable barrier of difficulty and give up playing). There's more than enough to get you playing again and again, and there aren't many games that can do that. This is not a zombie stop-gap until Resident Evil 5 is out, this is an actually game that you do not want to miss.
Answer: F-ing great fun.