First off, I want to make note: I apologize for the time it took me to get this article from brain to internet. This was meant to be a Christmas piece in line with the game’s theme. A lot of things happen in life and the release of this game ened up being a strange and heartfelt couple of months for me. That being said, Dead Rising 4 just released on Steam so this review coincides with that (Even though I reviewed the Xbox One version.) Here’s what I thought of the game!

Here’s the thing with Dead Rising 4… It’s probably the WORST Dead Rising game ever made.

However, It’s also the BEST zombie game I’ve ever played. Certainly the best Christmas game by a long shot.

Confused? You should be. Dead rising 4 isn’t your father’s Dead Rising, that much is certain. The series that was once awash with Japanese developmental influence has been westernized almost to the point of being unrecognizable. This isn’t a new phenomena. When Dead Rising 3 launched on Xbox One in 2013, it took similar strides. Certainly a combination of the series development being moved to Capcom Vancouver, an obviously more western studio, as well as the very obvious shift in Identity Capcom has undergone in recent years, Dead Rising has certainly become a different beast. Foundational mechanics had been changed, supporting a more open and convenient experience.

So… What is it?
Dead Rising 4 is a bloody, gory, violent case of deja vu. Mostly the same, but somehow different. Headlining the cast, we have Frank West returning to investigate ANOTHER zombie outbreak in Willamette Colorado. Returning to the same locale, we are treated, not only to a redesigned version of the Willamette Mall from the first Dead Rising, but this time, we get to venture out into the sprawling suburbia that is Willamette. Oh, it’s also Christmas time, which is a fantastic way to experience the setting.

This overload of nostalgic inclusions sounds great on paper, but it’s kind of a mixed bag. The new Willamette mall certainly feels like an improvement over the first. Still brimming with character and life. The surrounding town also has its little bright lights of character. By the end of the game, though, I was left feeling as though the entire game could have taken place inside the mall again and I would have been okay with it.

Then we have Frank. This time around, Frank is… different. He’s no longer the over confident smart aleck you remember from the first game. At one time, Frank West was brimming with charm. He had a sense of humor that was equal parts deadpan and grotesque. He also really wanted you to know he’s covered wars. He had an Ego so big, I’m surprised he could shuffle down most hallways in the game. Japan really gave us a well rounded and likeable character.

Once Capcom Vancouver got their hands on the series, Frank is a changed man. He’s been rewritten as something of an older shrew. He doesn’t want to be involved, he glorifies the violence of the matters in which he takes part, he has no compassion for other (living) humans in the world. He’s weathered and heartless in Dead Rising 4. In fact, this time around, he kind of just comes off as an asshole.

Hunger Games

We have a setting and protagonist that are the same as you remember, but still different. For better or worse, those things don’t affect the gameplay all the much. So how does it play?

First, I want to get the bad out of the way. It’s odd to play a dead rising game that is absent of the Japanese charm we remember. Gone are the customizable smoothies that give your character strange abilities. Instead, they’ve been replaced with generic HP filling items. No more are the hand to hand combos to make for engaging close quarters combat. Also gone are the colorful side cast of villains. We used to have cutscenes that gave your opponent’s style and character. Now they’ve been replaced by hordes of generic baddies that you’ll forget about before the next autosave.

The biggest struggle I’ve encountered with this game is the replacement of survivors. They’re still here, but they’re also different.

In Dead Rising of days past, we had a set number of survivors. They were scripted and could be lost if not rescued in the right time. It was impossible to rescue every survivor in a single play through, and this made for difficult decisions. These decisions made for a memorable experience.

Guess what, though! They’re gone!

Instead, we get random events, that pop up all over the map. They’re repetitive and boring.
That’s all there is to say about that.

Okay. I’ve spent 600 words talking about how weird and different this game is. Obviously that means it’s lame right?

Instead, we get random events, that pop up all over the map. They’re repetitive and boring.
That’s all there is to say about that.

No way!

As it turns out, Westernizing the Dead Rising franchise brought some strange new life into it that I didn’t realize the series needed until after I started playing. The world that opens up offers so much more depth than the closed-off setting we remember. Sure the Time based challenges are gone, but with that departure, we are able to focus more on what has always mattered most to Dead Rising:

Unflinching, humorous, gore.

One thing that hasn’t changed in Dead Rising is the violence and multitude of ways to cause chaos. That’s back and bigger than ever in DR4. The world is scattered countless items for you to grab, smash, shoot, beat and combine into combo weapons. Frank can be equipped into a Mech suit that can also be outfitted with worldly items to boost the power and unleash massive destruction. Shifting the focus to this unrelenting violence fest makes for some satisfying, and downright entertaining gameplay. Guns to shoot, explosives to throw, melees aplenty; you will never get bored of the variety in zombie disposal at your fingertips. It boasts a streamlined aiming system. And combat is a genuine blast because of it.

The world is also littered with story and skill pickups to grab. The disappearance of the linear forced gameplay has been remedied with text and audio logs that fill out the story. It’s not as in depth or memorable as the old way, but it works; and again, allows you to get through the game in your own way.

I also appreciate the levelling mechanics.
Linear progression bonuses in Dead Rising 1 have been replaced by a more traditional Action-RPG style skill tree. This allows you to customize Frank’s progress and create a much more personal gameplay experience.

Then we have the atmosphere. Oh boy, do we ever.
This game takes place at Christmas. An obvious slap in the face of consumerism to make your zombie game take place over the Christmas holiday. Fortunately for Dead Rising 4, it pays off. What we get is a holly jolly gore trip that is only paralleled by the likes of Twisted Metal. The streets are littered with festive trees and lights. Some of the characters are stuck in the christmas spirit, and your menu music is one of a variety of classic Christmas tunes. It adds a much needed dose of originality and flavor to the game.

So what do I think about the game?

Like I said at the beginning, I think it’s the worst Dead Rising game in any sense of that franchise. But somehow, despite all of its differences, it quickly became my favorite. If you can brush aside the numerous absences that are staples to the series, or even the cold shrew of an asshole that is now Frank West, Dead Rising 4 is very special. It’s an open world massacre that will keep you busy for hours, and put a bloodied smile on your face. It also provides a strange sense of Christmas Joy, and everyone loves Christmas.

I’m unabashedly in love with Nintendo; ESPECIALLY Zelda! Spelunky is my jam. Burritos are life.
8.0

Good

  • Fun Customizable Combat
  • An Expansive Open World With Lots To See
  • The Christmas Setting And Atmosphere Is Fantastic

Bad

  • A Lot Of What Makes The First Dead Rising Special Is No Longer Here
  • Forgettable Bosses
  • Frank West Is An Old Dick
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RT @Scotch_man: Streaming some #RepublicCommando now on @Twitch! twitch.tv/pixelrater no commentary today, small cold. ;)
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Tony Plays Farpoint: youtu.be/VgPyb7h8BzE?a via @YouTube