During the introduction of his first Xbox 360 title, Keiji Inafune joked that it was obviously a huge surprise to see Capcom doing a game about zombies. Well, no, it isn't - but it is surprising to see Capcom doing a next-generation zombie game that seems to be trying to splice State of Emergency and Final Fight with the recent Dawn of the Dead remake and a Bruce Campbell-in-Evil Dead style lead character.
That kind of tells its own story though. Dead Rising is about a wartime photo journalist trapped in a shopping centre (okay, "mall") for ten days trying to juggle his desire to snap as much film as possible and get his hands on a Pulitzer with the need to survive and team up with those trapped inside with him in the face of a zombie onslaught - which Capcom reckons will put more enemies on one screen at one time than you've ever seen before.
But it's also clearly designed to be amusing too. Inafune spoke of a dramatic human element played out during a crisis, which, rather like the George A Romero's classic and the surprisingly enjoyable 2004 remake, has clearly been juxtaposed with a kind of surreal humour that sees the lead lobbing mannequins at zombie hordes and dicing them up with a lawnmower.
The Xbox 360 visuals aren't magnificent - certainly no more impressive than most high-end PC titles we've seen lately, with lots of texture detail but fairly standard character design - but the volume of enemies and the depth of interaction is quite unusual. Throughout the ordeal you'll be able to pick up just about anything you can lay your hands on and take the fight to the undead - be it chainsaws, sledgehammers, guns (obviously) or even fire extinguishers, which douse the dead with frothing clouds of flame retardant chemicals. Presumably they don't like that.
Shot from the third-person and rarely shot outside the mall at all, it's a very hectic looking game that certainly has a whiff of the much-derided State of Emergency about it, but only in a good way. When he's not trying to snap film through a first-person viewfinder, our hero is hacking away at crowds of zombies, and often enough finds himself improvising Final Fight-style with whatever comes to hand. It doesn't always have to be something on the shelves either; one of the bigger laughs that the trailer at Capcom's Producer Day received came when the lead - let's call him Ash just to save ourselves time - grabbed one of the fallen fallen by the arms and swung him round clobbering everything within leg range. Huh. Reminds me of the time I accidentally threw my little brother into a cow. (True story!)
The big question is how Capcom will sustain the game in one setting - if that is indeed the goal - for that length of time, and hopefully the answer involves a bit more narrative thoughtfulness along the human drama lines that Inafune was hinting at, and a certain amount of dark humour influenced by Raimi and co. Which is something that Capcom's developers probably won't have much trouble adapting to for the reasons their lead designer was joking about.
The trailer ended with Ash perched atop a rocking security van amidst a sea of zombies firing a machinegun into the crowds. Which was a nice final thought before we leapt on the bus to the Sony conference where big scary Men In Black types stood around waving guns (well, hands) at a sea of jetlagged zombie crowds trying to get in to see PS3. And it's quite telling that despite all the excitement that followed, Dead Rising remained in our thoughts from then to now, and it's one of the Xbox 360 titles we're most looking forward to. We're not expecting Dead Rising to be as satirically zeitgeist-y as Dawn of the Dead, but the dawn of the Dead Rising was nonetheless quite lively. Keep an eye on it. It'll be out "sooner than you'd expect".