Fresh Paint On Rust
HIGH Wading into a horde of zombies with a chainsaw and watching the limbs fly in all directions.
LOW Watching an injured survivor spend five minutes trying to climb up a ledge.
WTF No, Dead Rising, I don’t find zombies wearing lingerie ‘EROTIC’.
One of the advantages offered by PC gaming is the ability to upgrade hardware. Is a game running a little slow? Are the graphics a little blocky? Slap a new GPU in there and let the blast proccessing take over.
Upgrading wasn’t an option for the Xbox 360, so when it proved unable to comfortably run Dead Rising back in 2006, players were forced to accept the game as it was. The main shortcoming was a massive drop in framerate and heavy stuttering when too many zombies appeared onscreen at once, and since the point of the game was to put hordes of zombies onscreen, this issue turned up frequently. Now, a decade later, the PS4 is able to present the game in the form the developers originally intended.
So… how is it? Wildly uneven!
Dead Rising opens with a virtuoso sequence of zombie horror, as hero Frank West is airlifted into the city and given a chance to take photographs of the carnage tearing apart the middle-America town of Willamette. It’s a great three minutes which sets the stakes, teaches players how to use the camera, and builds a mood of hopeless desperation, all in one go. It is also, unfortunately, wholly unrepresentative of the rest of the game’s content, which offers few opportunities to take pictures and paltry rewards for those stubborn enough to do so.
The core gameplay is instead focused on rescuing survivors spread throughout the mall where Dead Rising is set, and fighting the still-living psychopaths driven to extreme actions by the apocalypse they’re trapped within.
The zombies are more of an environmental hazard than anything else — an obstacle to be avoided or pushed through on the way to the next objective point. Players receive notifications that survivors have been spotted over a portable radio, and they have to balance helping the needy against following the overarching plot while a 72 hour (in-game time, not real time) clock counts down. While there’s technically time to do both, only players who learn the layout of the mall inside and out have a chance of accomplishing this overwhelming task, although the multiple save slots that are now available do help in that regard.
This rescuing wouldn’t be as difficult as it is if the intelligence guiding the NPCs wasn’t horribly broken. Once Frank has found a survivor and they’re following him to safety, things usually go horribly awry due to their universally terrible pathfinding.
Characters constantly get hung up on architecture, on each other, or get stun-locked by zombies they could have easily walked around. In an incredibly idiotic move, the developer placed the final destination for survivors atop a waist-high platform that they have to climb. So long as Frank is followed by just one survivor, this isn’t a problem, but that’s almost never the case. The most common result is watching a crowd of people shoving against one another, trying to be the first to climb up to the platform with none of them succeeding.
The combat is equally questionable. Perhaps the developers thought they were doing something interesting by portraying Frank as an out-of-shape lunk, but whatever the intent, his movements are achingly slow and ineffective, and seemingly no thought has been given to how any of the combat moves work when faced with hordes of zombies or the incredibly speedy psychos who must be fought hand-to-hand.
I’m not kidding about being required to go mano a mano, by the way — aiming with weapons is nearly impossible, and guns flat-out don’t work on bosses. Luckily there’s a workaround because the most powerful weapon in the game is also the most moddable. While the game would prefer that players experiment with different loadouts and techniques, the small chainsaws are so convenient and effective that there’s never a good reason to use anything else when dealing with bosses.
The most unfortunate thing about this remastered version of Dead Rising is that all of these problems have been known by the developers for years. Dead Rising 2 fixed some of them (removing photography and replacing it with creative weapon construction) and Dead Rising 3 fixed the rest by simplifying the rescuing process and improving the mechanics of combat. If the developers understood how flawed DR was, why did they re-release it without fixing anything but the performance issues?
Dead Rising was never a great game — it’s perverse and didactic in equal measure, and an exciting concept delivered with almost no artistry or craft. Why not put in a little extra effort to fix it, rather that just running it on superior hardware? The sequels offer a clear roadmap for the experience that Dead Rising could have been, but apparently Capcom had no interest in following it. It’s too bad, because even as a budget title, this reissue is just too rough to recommend.
Now, Dead Rising 2 on the other hand…
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Capcom. This version is currently available on PS4, PC and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M. It contains Blood and Bore, Intense Violence, Language, and Use of Alcohol. Somehow they missed the overt sexual themes. Not only the is player rewarded with ‘EROTIC’ camera points for taking upskirt photos of zombie and human women alike, there are threatened and implied rapes in the game. Seriously, how did they miss that? Under no circumstances should kids be anywhere near this game.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game doesn’t have any audio cues of note. All dialogue is subtitled — the only thing you’ll be missing out on are the calls of stranded survivors, but they almost always have very visible onscreen nametags which can reveal their locations.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: Yes, there are colorblind modes available in the options.