Dead Rising Review / Preview for Xbox 360 (X360)

Dead Rising Review / Preview for Xbox 360 (X360)

Guys, this is reason #1 why you should avoid the mall at all costs.

Though they say that you shouldn’t judge a book buy its cover, players only need look at the cover of Dead Rising to know what is in store for them. Standing amidst a sea of zombies is a man preparing to use a television as a blunt instrument of destruction. The best part about the cover is the little disclaimer that is on the bottom-left corner next to the ESRB rating that reads, “This game was not developed, approved, or licensed by the owners or creators of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.” Though it does share the same mall setting similar to the recent Dawn of the Dead, Dead Rising easily distinguishes itself from any other zombie film or game with an entertaining, if slightly flawed combat system and a surprising emphasis on narrative.

Dead Rising screenshot

Photojournalists don’t come as rough or as tough as Dead Rising protagonist Frank West. After getting a tip from a source that something is going down in Willamette, Colorado, Frank heads into town via helicopter for what he thinks will be the story of his career. When he lands, he soon finds that he will be fighting for his life while uncovering the real story of what went down in this sleepy podunk town. The narrative is surprisingly deep and well told here. After having played previews here in the office and at E3, I was not expecting to be as drawn to the narrative as I was. Cut-scenes that move the narrative along retain the B-film feeling that most zombie films go for and will please any fan of classic zombie flicks like Evil Dead or the aforementioned Dawn of the Dead. The story here has plenty of laughs as well, whether from actual comedic lines or actions on screen or from insane survivors rambling about the craziest stuff you could think of.

Capcom promised us a world of weapons for which to carry out the zombie slaughter, and boy did they live up to that promise. The number of available weapons is a staggering 250+, with everything from power tools to children’s toys serving as tools for devastation. If you are heading across the mall and happen to run into a woman’s clothing store, be sure to grab that handbag that the misses has had her eye on. Even women’s accessories can be used as a weapon, and while certain items such as sledgehammers, chainsaws, scythes, and baseball bats will be most effective at putting zombies down, you can’t say enough about the prospect of beating a zombie to death with a gigantic novelty lipstick display that rubs off on the walking corpse with every strike.

While Dead Rising does allow for exploration and wandering about the mall aimlessly, it often forces players into a structured gameplay experience with scheduled story missions and the 72-hour timeframe. Missions must be started and completed within a specific window if Frank is to uncover facts of this event and put together the plot. If you complete a line of missions with a couple hours to spare you have time to wander about looking for survivors and killing zombies. As the hours pass by, locations for survivors will be radioed to you and labeled on your map. Most times, these people are quite a ways away from each other, making it impossible to rescue everyone that you hear about. Time management is critical as wandering out for survivors too close to mission time and failing to return in time can force you to reload from the last save.

Dead Rising screenshot

Saving people is fine and all, but some of the game’s greatest moments come from the various survivors that have snapped and lost their minds, forcing you to kill them in self-defense. Each one of these cooks has their own psychosis and are far more dangerous than the stumbling undead that swarm the mall. Fighting against your fellow man can be just as fun and exciting as pummeling zombies, but of particular note is the fight against the killer clown early on. There’s just something about fighting a psychotic clown with hand-held chainsaws and throwing knives surrounded by zombies and clothing stores that brings a smile to my face.

Rescuing people and fighting nut-jobs may sound like a lot of trouble, but it often worth the effort. Most of these human enemies that you combat will leave their weapon for you to collect that regenerates whenever you enter that section of the mall. On top of that, there will sometimes be people to rescue or secrets unlocked by defeating these deranged foes.

Everything that you do throughout the game is rewarded through the Prestige Points system. Defeating hordes of zombies, rescuing people from certain death, or relieving psycho’s of their mental burdens all net you prestige points that add up to better your character in a number of ways. Every time the PP bar fills and you gain a level, Frank gains speed, strength, life, or a special ability that will extend his longevity. Prestige points carry over from previous plays as well, helping hardcore players to accomplish more with every play.

Dead Rising screenshot

The Prestige system is directly tied to the seemingly unpopular save system that has been implemented in Dead Rising. Instead of offering players the ability to save multiple save files from wherever they choose, Rising forces players to live with their mistakes by providing only one save slot that can be written from designated save points littered throughout the mall in the various bathrooms. Many people complain that the system is archaic and outdated, but I applaud the decision. The designers are forcing multiple plays to unlock everything that this title has to offer, and for anyone that enjoys the game, going back and using that cool summersault kick from the very beginning will be a treat. Besides, if you could save before every boss, there would be less of a thrill in staying alive to see the end of the fight. As it stands now, Rising’s save system provides the most tense and exciting experience imaginable.

While I have been praising Dead Rising for about a thousand words so far, there are plenty of faults that make themselves painfully obvious. The control schemes for both firearms and hand-to-hand combat, for instance, could have used a little more refinement. Gunplay in Dead Rising can feel clunky and clumsy as aiming is sluggish and takes a considerable amount of time. When using a firearm to down an enemy, players must make sure that they have plenty of time to line up shots. This is semi-excusable since the focus for this title is with the melee weaponry, but the inability to pull off the cooler hand-to-hand maneuvers with accuracy hurts, especially when you line up to spear a zombie football-style and instead run into his grasping hands. Luckily, fighting with furniture, tools, and other melee instruments is intuitive and easy.

Dead Rising isn’t the best looking game on the 360, but it certainly comes close. Character models are superbly rendered, displaying details such as clavicle bones and subtle clothing shifts with movement that is rarely seen until now. Most of the characters have superbly-modeled faces as well that portray emotions convincingly. Frank is especially impressive looking as his face is flawed in that rugged way with an oddly-shaped nose and other imperfections. By detailing such imperfections and realistic textures, Capcom has crafted quite a compelling cast. Even better than the character models are the zombies and their animations. You could play this game for hours on hours and never feel as if you had slaughtered the same zombie twice. That is, except for maybe the mall-cop zombies, which are always sixty pounds overweight and carry either a night-stick or handgun. And the sheer number that can be seen on screen is daunting. There have been a number of times that I have run down hundreds of zombies in a car in mere seconds without a hint of slowdown. The weapons and environmental textures may not be earth-shaking, but everything else here is excellent.

Dead Rising screenshot

After having played through Dead Rising I have come to look at it as a companion piece to Capcom’s already established zombie franchise Resident Evil. Many would say that the two don’t have much in common, and they would be right. But the first time you enter an entire room of zombies and weave between them like they were standing still, as in many cases they actually will be, you will be instantly reminded of the survival-horror franchise that defined its genre. In many ways, however, Dead Rising surpasses Resident Evil in terms of providing pure excitement without cheap “dog smashing through a window” tricks. Though flawed in many areas, Dead Rising is a thoroughly entertaining zombie-smashing experience that will keep hungry players coming back for more time and time again

Rating out of 5 Dead Rising (Xbox 360)
4.6 Graphics
Gore never looked this attractive before. Subtle graphical effects mask what few visual weaknesses are present.
3.7 Control
Slicing and dicing through hordes of zombies is easy enough, but pulling of the cooler melee moves can prove difficult.
4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
As good as the graphic violence looks, it actually sounds even better. Atmospheric audio recreates a zombified mall, or what it would actually sound like, perfectly.
4.3 Play Value
Each 72 hour period should take players less than ten real-world hours to play through, but unlocking all the endings and extras could take some weeks or months.
4.4 Overall Rating Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Dead Rising Preview

What do you get when you take the immense and immersive free-roaming world of Grand Theft Auto, and fill it to the brim with the living dead? First of all you get a really happy Devin, but most importantly you get Dead Rising, the newest survival horror title from the genre’s greatest developer, Capcom.

The most enticing feature of this game is the fact that anything can be used as a weapon. Yes, anything. After all, you are stuck in a mall. At your disposal will be items ranging from plants, to lawn mowers, to guns to cutting boards. Items used for melee attacks can be used to whack a zombie or be thrown. Each item will also decay, so the more you use it the more fragile it becomes. There is also a power melee attack, which will destroy anything in your path, as well as your weapon.

So, did I mention that anything can be used as a weapon? Good, because your enemies are tools at your mercy. As the quite ugly photojournalist, you’ll also have a grab button. Grabbing enemies in different ways will trigger different actions. Grab an enemy face to face, and you’ll pick up the zombie gorilla press style, just like the Ultimate Warrior, and then toss away. Grab an enemy from behind and you’ll get a hold of the zombie’s head, bashing it into the ground. Finally if you go up to a fallen zombie’s feet and grab it, then you’ll be able to spin the zombie around in a circular fashion. I think your imagination can figure out what to do with the zombie then.

The most impressive aspect of Dead Rising is the amount of zombies on screen at one time. The Xbox 360’s Next-Gen power is put to the test, placing thousands of zombies on screen, all clamoring for human flesh. Your; human flesh.

Dead Rising is looking to be one of the most exciting titles coming out for the Xbox 360. Free roaming world, thousands of zombies and the fact that almost every item in game can be used as a weapon are all positive, key features. I’m dying to play this game, and you should be too.

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