Monday, December 5, 2016

Dead Rising 4 Review (XONE)

Dead Rising 4 has been fairly controversial among hardcore Dead Rising fans because of its selfish insistence on changing core design tenets of the franchise to make a new experience instead of just the same thing we’ve played 3.5 times before.  How dare Capcom Vancouver get rid of the time limit and streamline the gameplay and make it less clunky.  How DARE they!  And slightly changing how protagonist Frank West looks?  Blasphemy!  Or are these actually the cries of spoiled babies who claim to want innovation and change in the gaming industry while fighting tooth and nail against even the slightest hint of change?  

All I know for sure is that I am also a hardcore Dead Rising fan myself and I’ve found Dead Rising 4 to be the best one yet.  Embrace the change.  Change is good.  Dead Rising 4 is a ton of fun that no zombie or action game fan should miss.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom Vancouver
  • ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
  • Genre: Action
  • Pros:  Crazy weapons; no timer; still goofy and funny; best gameplay in a DR game yet
  • Cons:  Glitches
  • MSRP: $60
Dead Rising 4 takes place several years after the previous games in the series.  The zombie outbreak has been almost completely stopped and, thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, everyone is now immune to the zombie virus.  While investigating a shady military base outside of Willamette, Colorado, however, photojournalist Frank West learns about a new strain of the zombie virus that is resistant to treatment.  A few months later, just in time for the grand opening of a brand new mega mall, a zombie outbreak again starts in Willamette and Frank returns to the site of his greatest triumph to tell the story once more.

This time around the game takes place not just in a shopping mall, but also in a large chunk of the city of Willamette itself and even out in the countryside (complete with drivable tractors for zombie Farming Simulator fun) as well.  This is easily the biggest map in a Dead Rising game yet and the sheer size and variety of locales means that there is a staggeringly large amount of weapons and items to use.  In addition to the wealth of normal household objects, traditional weapons, firearms, and other things we’ve come to expect in Dead Rising, there is also a wide range of vehicles to help you drive around town as well.  You’ll even find powerful military exo suits that let protect you from zombies and let you use the really big and really impressive weaponry.

Also, of course, are combo weapons and vehicles first introduced in Dead Rising 2 and 3 respectively.  With the proper items in your inventory you can create devastatingly powerful combo weapons to kill zombies in even crazier ways.  Even better, you don’t need to find a special workbench to make combo weapons anymore.  Frank can build anything you need anywhere you need to.  In a nice touch, you don’t even need specific items a lot of the time (some things you do still need, though) to build combo weapons, just the right item types.  For example, any type of electronics or any type of bladed weapon or any type of liquid chemicals will work rather than having to find specific things.  Vehicle customization works similarly to DR3 where you just drive two vehicles close together and Frank will turn them into a crazy new weaponized version.

Some might say the streamlining of the combo system is making the game too dumbed down, but I’m fine with the changes.  The fun of Dead Rising has always been in slicing and dicing and exploding your way through thousands of zombies, so making it faster and easier to get your hands on all of the fun toys sounds like a good idea to me.  Want another controversial new feature?  You don’t have to save in bathrooms or safe houses anymore and the game automatically saves checkpoints constantly.  Insanity!

Another major new change in Dead Rising 4 is that there is no time limit anymore.  There also isn’t a separate sandbox mode, either.  Instead there is just one singular story mode where you’re free to follow the story or just wander around and goof off with no worries about running out of time.  Some might argue that the lack of a timer strips the game of any sense of danger or urgency that the previous games had, and while that’s technically true, it doesn’t hurt the experience.  As I said above, all of the fun in the Dead Rising series comes from goofing off and exploring and using the crazy weapons anyway, so being able to do it all at your leisure is a good thing.  

Dead Rising has always had a weird bipolar feel to it in that the story was intensely dark and serious while everything else you were doing was goofy and silly and funny.  Dead Rising 4 does a much better job of balancing the tone of the story against what you’re actually doing than in previous games.  It is still serious when it needs to be, but Frank is constantly making quips and one-liners and being a goof whether you’d doing silly things like playing dress up and riding tricycles through the zombie apocalypse or spying on important secret government meetings.  

The core gameplay has seen some changes as well.  Accessing the various weapons is done through tapping different directions on the d-pad.  You can carry multiple guns, melee weapons, and thrown weapons at once as they each have their own set of slots rather than all sharing a limited number.  The three weapon types are assigned to different buttons – LB for thrown items, RT for guns, X for melee – so you have access to anything you need without fumbling through weapon slots.  Also, healing is now done simply by pressing down on the d-pad when you need to.  Again, it is simplified and streamlined, but I like it.  

Put it all together and you have an immensely enjoyable overall experience that strips out the clunkiness of past games in favor of just letting you have fun.  The town map you get to play in is massive and filled with combo blueprints to find, keys to find and use, survival shelters to clear out, civilians to save (once you kill all the zombies they return to shelters automatically, yay!), secrets to find, and more.  Psycho boss fights also make a return and they’re just as wild as ever.  Dead Rising 4 is all of the fun of past games minus most of the jank and clunkiness and annoying nonsense.  It is fresh and new and different, and that’s a good thing.

My only real complaint about Dead Rising 4 is that it has been somewhat glitchy.  At one point I couldn’t move normally because Frank kept running into an invisible wall or something (even out in the middle of a street), but entering and leaving a vehicle fixed that.  A bigger issue is the fact that enemy soldiers can not only apparently see through solid building walls and obstacles, but their bullets can pass through them as well, meaning you take damage from enemies that have no business hitting you or even seeing you in the first place.  I still soldiered on and had a ton of fun with the game, but this really needs to be fixed.

The presentation in Dead Rising 4 is very nice all around.  It uses far more realistic lighting than past Dead Rising games (the first two games are just absurdly bright), which gives the game a darker and grittier look.  For example, the mall area is mostly dark as the lights aren’t on in most areas, which I love since it makes the game feel different from past entries.  I also like that the game takes place in winter during Christmas time, so the town is all decorated and there’s snow everywhere which, again, makes the game unique.  The game can render hundreds upon hundreds of zombies onscreen at once and it never stops being impressive.  The character models aren’t spectacularly good, but considering everything else going on they’re fine.  It runs at a fairly smooth framerate, too.  The sound is also solid with decent enough voice acting – and I could care less that Frank has a different voice actor, by the way – and some surprising uses of licensed holiday music.

All in all, Dead Rising 4 is the closest title yet to letting zombie fans live out their survival fantasies from the comfort of their own home.  The original Dead Rising was full on “Dawn of the Dead’ homage.  Dead Rising 3 brought the outbreak to Mainstreet, USA in a realistic city.  And Dead Rising 4 puts both of those concepts together in the biggest and best playing Dead Rising yet.  Yes, it has changed some things that have been Dead Rising standards since the beginning, but that’s OK.  The result is that Dead Rising 4 is a bigger, better playing, faster, more enjoyable game overall that zombie fans or players just looking to goof off and have fun will love.  Buy it.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by Microsoft.