Product Type: Capcom Xbox 360 games
Newest Review: ... back and forth to continue with primary missions. Again the time factor plays a part in the secondary missions which which often colli... more
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Dead Rising (Xbox 360)
Member Name: RayWhitney
Dead Rising (Xbox 360)
Advantages: Manic, satisfying gameplay
Disadvantages: Difficult and unbalanced
Zombies walk the streets. Thousands of them. The mall's been barricaded, but that won't last long. You've no doubt that you'll be able to put up a fight when the going gets tough, but how long will you be able to survive against the endless hordes? And, even if you can, can you make it out of Willamette alive?
Suddenly, the doors break down, and the zombies are in the mall! Shocked, you can do nothing but watch as they tear through your fellow survivors. You grab a rubbish bin and hurl it at a pair of animated corpses who were getting too close. Backing against the wall, you grab a baseball bat from the cold hands of an unfortunate and swing madly for the heads of the dead. You're trying to clear a path, but how many of these things are there? Someone is gesturing at you from the stairs. If you can just get up there, he says he can ensure your safety. Do you trust him? Do you have a choice? You hit a zombie a little too hard and your bat splinters in half. You're defenceless. Desperate, you wrench the poor soul's arm from its socket and use it to beat your way to freedom.
So begins Dead Rising, Capcom's unforgiving Xbox 360 sandbox-style zombie fest. Frank finds his way to safety, but he can't sit around in a sealed-off room for the rest of his life. He needs to get back out there again. Why? Because he needs to find out what caused this mess? Because there are innocents out there who need a hero? Or because this is a hot story that he needs to cover before anyone else? What he does when he's out there is your choice, you've only got to ensure the man is alive and on the rooftops when the helicopter picks him up in 72 hours.
Frank's quest takes place in the mall, a fully interactive environment packed with the usual shops, features and trappings of the everyday shopping centre. Pretty much everything you see around you can be picked up and used as a weapon - including your standards such as guns and katanas, to the slightly more bizarre offensive tools like electric guitars, bowling balls, shopping trolleys, water pistols and limbs. You'll need all of these weapons as the hordes of the dead just don't stop coming for you - the advanced technology of the Xbox 360 allows a near endless number of zombies to be onscreen at once, and they only get stronger as the night grows darker.
If you're tough enough to fight them off, there are plenty of things for you to do. Proper progress through the game is measured in 'Cases', which follow Frank as he forges unholy alliances with the survivors in order to learn more about the outbreak. Although it is purely optional, following this story is the only way to learn about the actual plot and to see most of the game's highlights. Decent acting and impressive graphics make the cut-scenes entertaining and dramatic.
Along the way, you will encounter survivors, the location of which is usually radio'ed through to you. Some of these will require salvation from the zombies, while others have slightly more human enemies causing them problems. By joining with a survivor, you are tasked with the duty of escorting them to a safe place (think Leon navigating Ashley in Resident Evil 4). There's nothing wrong with this, aside from the occassional AI glitch. During my time with Frank, I got lumbered with a fat man who got caught in a jumping loop and wouldn't stop leaping in the air like a lunatic until I shot my handgun at him. Not typical behaviour.
Maybe you're scared, though. Maybe you couldn't care less about government conspiracies, rescuing survivors and unravelling evil plans. You just know you've bitten off more than you can chew and now your only goal in life is to make it out alive. Do it, then - ignore the storylines and just hack your way from shop to shop, earning your Achievements by racking up masssive fatality scores. If you really want, you can just sit in an empty room and gather dust until the helicopter arrives. Don't expect to get one of the better of the six available endings though.
This is one of the toughest, most physically challenging games of recent times. Most of this grisly difficulty is the result of some bad development choices, mostly the sparseness of the Save Points (these are general places where you can rest, such as a sofa or public lavatory) and the difficulty in keeping your energy levels up (health is restored by eating and drinking, but try finding a bottle of wine when you've got zombies coming at you from all directions!). These are major crimps on the speed and enjoyability of the gameplay, as a lot of time is spent heading back to Save Points to ensure you don't lose any vital progress made.
Even if there were Save Points every three yards and you carried a packed lunch around with you, this game would still give you a hard ride. The best way to survive in this shopping centre from Hell is by raising Prestige Points (Experience Points, to you and me). The simplest way of achieving this is by wielding your camera. Good shots (particularly those containing excessive gore, drama or sex appeal) earn you PP, so be prepared and remember to whip out your digital camera in the midst of the action. You can also earn these points by finishing in-game tasks or doing something constructive like killing 100 zombies. Get enough PP together and you will advance a level - this improves Frank's health and teaches him some nifty survival or combat techniques.
When you die - and, trust me hardcore gamers, you will die - any progress made since the last Save Point will be lost. You will be given the option to return to that point, or start the game all over again while carrying over the abilities and level you had upon death. This means that it is easy (if annoyingly repetitive - thank God the cut-scenes can be skipped!) to build up a powerful version of Frank, and for mere mortals like myself, this is probably the only way to get through the game.
When the 72 hours are up (thankfully, this isn't in real time), your ending will depend on where you are, and what you've done. Get a good enough ending and you will unlock Overtime Mode - an extra chapter to the story which has Frank living on borrowed time. Finish this, and you will activate the third and final mode - Infinity Mode - which turns everyone against Frank and challenges him to survive as long as he can.
With its frustratingly bad save system, inhumane difficulty level and deliberate repetitive nature, Dead Rising does deserve some criticism. There are a few other gripes - too many to ignore - so Dead Rising will never be classed as a classic title. You will have problems playing the game if you do not have a HD television, as the text will appear ludicrously small and you'll give yourself a headache trying to read it. The photography aspects of the game add nothing, and there is a lot of running about from Save Point to mission and back again.
Still, despite all this, I had trouble tearing myself away from Frank's adventures. When the plot gets too tricky or the barrage of information reaches saturation point, you can always take some time out to beat up zombies. That's really what this game is about. Forget your amateur paparazzi career. Forget trying to accomplish every single thing this game has to offer. Focus instead on the massacres that lay before you. Do what I did, and just spend a few sets of 72 hours rampaging, Michael Douglas in Falling Down style, and bulk Frank up before you even think about tackling the game proper. Hide out in the music store and fling guitars at invading monsters. Leap behind the tills in the café and aim for as many headshots as you can. Sneak into the cinema and laugh as the clunky zombies tumble down the stairs. There's so much to do, so much fun to have with the weapons and locations, it's worth the asking price for the sandbox nature alone.
Ultimately, Dead Rising is a lesson in strict, hardcore gaming, the like of which hasn't been seen since the age of Jet Set Willy. You will be punished for playing. But if you have the patience and tolerance for repeating sequences and storylines over, or just want an excuse to run riot in a living horror movie, Dead Rising may be worthy of your time.
(An earlier version of this review was posted by me on www.digitallard.com)
Summary: Prepare for a tough ride