Dead Rising Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

It lurches towards you. Grey skin, the stench of decay, pieces of carrion stuck in the broken remnants of its teeth. No, it’s not your ex from a couple of years back. It’s the bloated, walking corpse of a security guard. By coincidence, he also wants to nibble on your earlobe. But it’s not nearly as erotic.

Yep, Dead Rising shoves you into the shoes of cheesy photojournalist Frank West and his attempts to uncover the conspiracy that’s currently moaning and groaning its way through the fictional backwater town of Willamette, Colorado. Dropped on the roof of the local mega mall, Frank makes a rendezvous with his chartered copter to pick him up in 72 hours. After that, it’s up to him (and you) to survive the zombie threat, uncover the truth and hopefully snap enough pictures to land him a nice big pay rise. In addition to combating the undead hoards, Frank will also have to attempt to save other survivors (or merely photograph their gruesome demise) and slay those psychopaths who have taken over and begun killing dead and living alike. Frankly, if that’s the lengths to which journalists have to go these days, it’s surprising there’s any reporters left.

Anyway, Dead Rising provides the opportunity every zombie gore fest fan has been waiting for – the chance to run amok in a full stocked mall with nothing but your bare hands and wits to survive. Weapons must be improvised from what you can scavenge from the shops and turned on the zombie hoards. It’s a case of smashing skulls with bowling balls, sledgehammers, women’s purses and kitchen knives. My favourite weapon to use is the frying pan. Why? Because by using it in conjunction with a handy hob, Frank will heat the bottom until it glows red and scorch the faces of any zombie foolish enough to come in reach. The pan goes into the zombie’s face, the steam comes up and when Frank withdraws, the corpse’s face is black and toasty. The weaponry is a joy. Half the fun is trying out which item is efficient at slaying the undead and which are horribly inefficient but just plain good fun. Firearms are of course available, but who wants to pick off zombies one-by-one when you can plough through them with a lawnmower?

It’s important to note, however, that weapons don’t last forever. Smack a cadaver around the head with a baseball bat enough times and it’ll break. The same goes with any other weapon in the game. While it prevents the player from taking advantage of all the best weapons, such as the chainsaw or the katana, which would make the game far too easy, it is occasionally irksome when your sledgehammer breaks at a critical moment. It’s frustrating not to be allowed to keep some weapons for longer, given that the best, most fun weapons are the shortest lived. The aforementioned katana will literally slice zombies in half, but only lasts for about ten zombies. Similar restrictions are placed on firearms, with each weapon coming with one clip and one clip only. No reloads are allowed, though empty guns can be used as makeshift hand-to-hand weapons, though they are inefficient and break easily. As a general gameplay mechanic, it’s certainly frustrating. However, it can make the game ludicrous at some stages. At one point, when I was attempting to slay a psychopathic clown, I ran out of all weapons. The only shop nearby was a woman’s clothing shop. I actually ended up beating this duel-chainsaw juggling clown to death by chucking ladies high-heel shoes at him. Now that I think back, it was hilarious turn of events, and a fitting demise for such a ridiculous character. On the other hand, why would the game force me to chip away at a boss’s health with only a shoe and good aim?

Another frustrating game mechanic is the time system. The clock is literally ticking. Frank only has 72 hours in which to achieve his goals before his ride out of the mall arrives to pick him up. All the in-game missions have time constraints, meaning that you must make it to a certain area before the time limit elapses or you miss your opportunity. To make things worse, there simply isn’t enough time to do everything, between the actual storyline missions, the side missions and the critical events, such as trying to save other survivors or take down psychopaths. Obviously, the developers intend the gamer to play through multiple times to ensure that they experience everything the game has to offer. However, constantly being offered distractions and side missions means that any attempt to follow the storyline missions means that the average gamer often feels pressurised and harassed by the game’s unrelenting demands upon their time.

If that weren’t bad enough, in Dead Rising, you have but one save file per gamer profile. Furthermore, saving is only possible at designated save-points throughout the mall. These points are often far apart, with hoards of zombies and psychopaths between you and respite. Not only will you have to face the chore of regularly battling your way back to a save point, but doing so wastes in-game time. In addition, if you happen to die along the way, the game only offers you a reload from your last save, meaning that you have to repeat whatever feat you just achieved and were hoping to save, or restart the game from the very beginning.

Restarting from the beginning isn’t as bad as it may seem at first. You don’t start completely from scratch, as Frank will carry any skills you gained from your last game into the new one. By taking photographs of gory or funny scenes, or touching moments of human kindness, you gain Prestige Points. Prestige Points or PP, are essentially experience points, which allow you to level Frank up, gaining more abilities and special moves as you go. Unlocks include better hand-to-hand combat moves or upgraded health bars, and can make slaughtering the undead all the more fun. Even better, you soon pick up the skill that allows you to run across large collections of zombies, using their heads as stepping stones. After a while, snapping photographs at opportune moments will become second nature, and begins to draw the player into the role of rogue photojournalist.

The graphics of Dead Rising are nothing special. While they have the usual next-gen niceness, neither Frank, the other survivors or the zombies are particularly detailed. The animations are nicely done but repeat often and the occasional collision detection problem is obvious. More worryingly though, is that if you do not own a HD television, the text in-game will be neigh on impossible to read. Dead Rising was not made for people with older sets, and so the small fonts are impossible to read without crystal clear screens. Unfortunately, the majority of the dialogue and mission messages come in the form of text on a mobile phone, and so are more or less useless. This is rather unhelpful and excludes people without the cash to spring on a fancy new TV set.

Aside from that, though, Dead Rising will entertain you for a good many hours. The storyline may be cheesy, the voice-acting ropey, and the controls simplistic and shallow, but the joys of using a parasol as a make-shift snowplough to charge through large crowds of the undead to reach a hardware store where you just might find a nail gun will more than make it worth your while.

8/10

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