Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on Sep 27th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Capcom, xbox 360, xbox, ps4, playstation 4, xbox one, steam, pc, survival horror, sandbox

In 2005, Capcom released Dead Rising for the Xbox 360. Capcom made their entry into the world of High Definition gaming a memorable one, as Dead Rising was like no other game before it. There were a few years around and following the release of Dead Rising where zombies would rule the roost, as games from both large developers like Capcom themselves, Valve, and Activision, had games or popular game modes that had a heavy emphasis on zombies. This popularity also coincided with the rise of indie games on the PC market, and zombie games thrived there for a few years until fatigue inevitably set in. Most of the biggest zombie games and modes were first person shooters, whether it was Nazi Zombies from Treyarch's Call of Duty games, Left 4 Dead, or Killing Floor, running around and shooting zombies made quite a bit of sense.

Capcom is not known for first person shooters, and instead designed Dead Rising in a completely different manner based around what it did know and had recently experimented with. Dead Rising has a third person perspective where combat is more focused around melee weapons. Guns do exist, but they are clumsy to aim and not particularly powerful until the player has completed one of the most difficult challenges in the game, which unlocks the most powerful gun, and overall weapon, in Dead Rising.

Dead Rising starts with players flying on a helicopter towards the mall in the fictitious town of Willamette, Colorado. Here, they meet the main character they'll be controlling, a photojournalist named Frank West. He's caught wind of a strange story going on in Willamette, and is determined to figure out the full picture of what's happening. Frank shortly sees the mall descend into chaos as the survivors' attempt at barricading the mall's entrance fails, and Frank barely escapes himself. Frank and three others are the only ones lucky enough to make it to the security room where they can plan safety. Brad Garrison and Jessie McCarney are two Department of Homeland Security agents, also trying to solve the mystery of the zombie outbreak. One of the mall's janitors, Otis Washington, welds the door to the security room shut before giving Frank a two way radio to keep in contact. Frank starts the game with nothing but his trusty camera, but the player has an insane selection of items around the mall to use as weapons, and can throw most of them to boot.

While Dead Rising is a story focused game, it plays as an open world action game. Over the course of the game, Otis gets in touch with Frank and tells him of interesting events that are showing up on the camera feeds in the security room. Frank only has 72 hours before his chopper ride comes to pick him up, this gives the player an overall deadline. The main story events are spread throughout the three days that Frank has, giving the player direction to follow the story, and a hard time limit to prevent running off for hours like most other open sandbox games devolve into. There are also plenty of side events that Frank is told about. These generally involve rescuing and escorting survivors that are spread through the mall at various times. Some of these survivors are hidden survivors, as Otis does not inform Frank about them. While these survivors will follow Frank through the mall, they are not efficient at it. The player must babysit them every step of the way as they will get stuck on almost anything, and will certainly be grabbed and eaten by zombies without player intervention. These flaws can be alleviated by finding the right weapons and books around the mall. The right books can make certain weapons feel like unending murder machines, so clearing a wide path for a long train of survivors becomes much easier.

On top of the survivors, the mall also has a few people inhabiting it who have lost their minds as a result of the zombie infestation. These Psychopaths serve as the game's bosses. Each one is quite unique with its own mechanics and strategy required to beat them, unless you've found the overpowered weapons and books to match them. In a first playthrough, Frank's level will keep overall damage output down, so the bosses still have some challenge to them even with this knowledge. The game allows players to keep their level progress, looping through the game to unlock different endings and see if they can save more survivors. A normal player stumbling in blind will likely have quite a bit of growing pains, as they have to explore the mall to learn where weapons and healing items are. The time limit and lack of knowledge about what weapons are useful, and also where they even are, could force new players to start over with a few extra levels or a few survivors. Dead Rising is not the easiest of games to a blind newcomer, but the depth of its design becomes clear to any who explore long enough to master the Willamette Mall's environs and inhabitants.

Overall, Capcom built a game that is satisfying to progress through. Frank starts off extremely weak at low levels, but his worst statistic is his low speed. Frank's stats are shown to the player in the main menu as blocks or pips that get filled in when a level in that stat is gained. Part of the reason why the game is much harder in the early levels is due to Frank's low speed and low damage output. The player will almost constantly be grabbed by zombies because they just can't escape the zombie lunge quickly enough. At high levels, or the max level of 50, the opposite is true, Frank can use almost borderline useless weapons and do good damage with them. A level 50 Frank is so strong and fast that it's not hard to two or three shot the Psychopaths, assuming the player has picked up one of the more powerful weapons in the game. This progression, and the ability to keep that progression for later playthroughs, encourages the player to learn more and more about the mall, as the actual difficulty of exploring the place and escorting survivors is almost completely removed. At this point, the game becomes relaxing, and much less tense for the player. The horde of zombies starts off being a legitimate threat, but ends up being a slight annoyance at the end.

The game's multiple endings allow different unlockables to show up in the security room for Frank to use on later playthroughs, showing how high of a priority the replayability of the game was to Capcom. Unlocking the "true ending" also unlocks an entirely different mode of gameplay, Infinity Mode. While the main game takes place over 72+ hours, Infinity Mode is meant to be played for seven in game days. There is a laundry list of changes between the main 72 Hour Mode and Infinity Mode, the biggest of which is the ability to save. Players can save at any bathroom and some beds in the mall in 72 Hour Mode, while all saving is disabled for Infinity Mode. Since the in game time of Dead Rising is tied to real time, doing all seven days in one sitting will take 14 real hours.

The other major changes are the fact that Frank's health and experience is constantly ticking downward. Food does not respawn either, so the food around the mall is all that Frank will have to eat. The best source of food in the main game, Seon's Food & Stuff, is completely shuttered in Infinity Mode. Frank has to supplement the food around the mall with food dropped by Psychopaths and survivors. Everybody attacks Frank in Infinity Mode, so there's no guilt around killing the survivors. Sometimes raw food will be dropped that needs to be cooked to be made into better food. Since some of the raw food can spoil before it is cooked, cooking must be prioritized. The only problem with Infinity Mode is how long it takes to survive for seven days, its such a long amount of time that most downtime is best spent somewhere safe with food on hand to replenish health lost from the passage of time.

Dead Rising is a game that is worth playing at any time of year. It's not as focused on horror as other survival horror games, which you will quickly pick up on. The zombies are mostly harmless even in numbers as Frank can easily escape from their grip before cutting down a few dozen in a matter of seconds. The main villains in the game are also not mysterious beings of rotten terror, but live humans. The only truly frightening creatures in the game are the completely human Psychopaths. Most everything else in the game is based around tongue-in-cheek humor and over-the-top scenarios. These factors make Dead Rising one of the most casual horror games ever created. The music and environment is calming and relaxing, and the interesting characters keep players engaged even after multiple plays of the game. Though Dead Rising is easy to enjoy at all times of the year, a quick run in October is always a good idea. Recent ports have spread early Dead Rising games to Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC, complete with upgraded graphics.

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One of my faves. It truly encapsules the sort of goofy stuff played straight that Capcom was making and publishing around the time.
I only have Dead Rising 2, and haven't played it yet. This original game sounds really fun, though, so I'll have to watch for a used copy. Great review!

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