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Dead Rising Review

Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: August 9, 2006 Also On: None

I’ve never understood the zombie B-movie craze. George Romero’s stuff never caught my interest and even the British-flavored “Shaun of the Dead” failed to entertain me. But Capcom’s got this zombie thing down, and they’ve proven it for years with their Resident Evil series. With Dead Rising, a game that went from the bottom of the critical barrel to the top of Xbox 360 owners’ anticipation, they’ve struck the flesh once again. Despite missing a few steps, Dead Rising is a great game that everyone with Microsoft’s ten-month-old baby should check out.

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Dead Rising tells the tale of Frank West, a photojournalist checking out a scoop on a small Colorado town called Willamette. Pretty quickly, Frank finds himself knee-deep in zombies, a terrorist operation, and all sorts of problems with the military. The story gets larger than life (or is it larger than death?), especially near the end. By the time you finish the 10- to 12-hour single-player campaign, you’ll have a few laughs and most definitely be surprised by what you see.

But the story isn’t what this game will be remembered for; it’s the gameplay that will have you glued to the controller. Dead Rising takes place in Willamette’s Parkview Mall, a mall filled to the brim with all sorts of stores…and of course, endless hordes of zombies to kill with things you find scattered around the place. Since there are so many different types of items scattered around, no encounter with a pack of zombies is the same. Sometimes you’ll hack through an entire pile with a deadly katana and other times you will be running for dear life, armed with nothing but a stuffed teddy bear. Of course, killing zombies is easy and fun when you start leveling up and unlocking Frank’s melee attacks. By the end of the game, you will be jump-kicking, knee-dropping and disemboweling the undead with ease.

Zombies are not your only threat in Willamette Parkview Mall, and I will not ruin some of the special surprises, but you will meet some colorful characters. Every once in a while you will come across a “psychopath”, a survivor that has simply lost his or her mind. These psychopaths act as boss characters and can be brutal. Their appearances are always entertaining and I feel safe saying that some of them you will never forget.

Frank’s photojournalist profession comes in handy throughout the game. As I briefly mentioned earlier, you have the ability to level up Mr. West by earning Prestige Points (PP). By using Frank’s trusty camera to capture some of the game’s more ridiculous moments, you’ll earn these PPs and begin kicking zombie butt in no time. Taking pictures is a pretty addictive and vital part of the game, and fortunately, it is extremely quick and easy to do. The most you will have to worry about with this distraction is replenishing batteries by visiting one of the many camera stores scattered around the mall.

Visually, Dead Rising isn’t one of the top-tier Xbox 360 games, but it is impressive in its scope and its fluidity. Very, very rarely did I come across any slowdown, even when I was surrounded by more than 50 zombies, hacking and slashing for dear life. The character and zombie models are exceptionally detailed and the animations for almost everything in the game look fantastic and smooth. Rest assured, the first time that you jump-kick a zombie down a flight of stairs and watch the limp body bowl over other undead attackers, you will feel like a badass. Even more exciting is when you slice through a pack of zombies with a chainsaw and look at the bloody, chunky carnage left behind. All of this stuff happens without very much if any slowdown.

As for the music, Willamette Parkview Mall has the same elevator-style music that your local mall does. It’s a funny touch, but I found myself turning on that Xbox 360 Custom Soundtrack almost every time I turned the game on. This usually overlapped the decent voice acting, which ranged from acceptable to hilarious, depending on the situation at hand. But nothing–and I mean nothing–in this game is more impressive than the sound effects. I admit, I have never been so amazed by sound effects. This game ranges from explosive when using machine guns and shotguns to disgusting when chopping limbs and heads off of zombies and hearing their guts splash out onto the ground. It’s juicy, it’s raw, and it’s awesome.

Unfortunately, as I hinted earlier, Dead Rising has its faults. The mission structure is something I have not talked about yet, simply because it frustrated me to unbelievable ends. Dead Rising runs on an in-game 72-hour clock that is constantly ticking, and all of the game’s missions go along with this timer. You’re usually given about 6 hours to do any quest, but sometimes you’re given less than that. Some of the later missions are especially brutal, giving you less than two hours–that’s about 10 or 15 minutes–to do them. If you fail or run out of time before finishing story missions, it is game over, reload from the last save and try again. The problem here is that you’re only given one save slot, so if you accidentally save and then make it impossible for yourself to complete a mission, you’re forced to restart the entire game. The only convenience you are given for this is the ability to carry over Frank’s level, stats and skills, but starting over when you are only an hour or two away from the end of the game is unbelievably annoying, and it happened to me.

Equally annoying is the A.I. I understand and accept that the zombies are brain-dead, literally, but the survivors scattered around the mall are inexcusably dumb. Throughout the game, you are urged to escort as many of these idiots back to your safe spot as you can. More often than not, during my escorts, my survivors would get lost or stuck in a pile of zombies, only to be helplessly chewed into the world of the undead. Even with the ability to give your survivors point-to-point directions, you’ll find the idiots stuck and getting killed far too often.

These few flaws are easily gotten over, though, in the big picture. Even after I had to restart my game, I was enjoying the game. I was enjoying the game when I was being eaten alive by zombies. I was enjoying the game when I was running for dear life, trying to avoid being shot by a psychopath. I think it’s safe to say that I enjoyed almost every second of this game from start to finish.

With that said, it’s obvious that I would recommend Dead Rising for the purchase. Xbox 360 gamers have needed a good action game for months and Dead Rising does the trick. A few things about this game really bite (sorry, had to say it at least once) but the laughs, shocks, and excitement that you’ll receive from this game are more than worth the trouble.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 7.5
Final: 8.5
Written by Cliff Review Guide