Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Dead Rising

Players: 1

Platform: Xbox 360

Rating: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Use of Alcohol)

Back when the Xbox 360 launched, Dead Rising was one of the titles first available.  Zombies and shopping malls and a lawsuit from George Romero? Sign me up!

There was a bit of a legal scuffle when Dead Rising first came out.  George Romero, creator of Dawn of the Dead, thought Dead Rising looked too much like his film.  For that reason, Capcom had to slap a label on all future releases of this title.  It's kind of petty, really.  There's not a whole lot of similarities to go off of, other than the shopping mall.

Dead Rising tells the tale of Frank West, photojournalist and no-holds-barred freelance reporter.  After getting word on strange things going on in Willamette Valley, CO, he hires a private Helicopter to investigate.  After getting dropped off at the local shopping mall, he has 72 to investigate what's going on and get out to tell the story.  As west explores the mall, he encounters various strong enemies, known as "psychopaths."  Defeating them will yield a lot of experience points, a survivor or two, and occasionally a new shortcut to another area in the mall.  West has the option of sidetracking to rescue survivors, figure out what really happened in Willamette Valley, eliminate psychopaths, or slaughter endless waves of zombies.  For as confined as the play space is, it's actually a really open game.

If this doesn't give you nightmares about clowns, nothing will
When faced with a zombie horde, sophisticated weaponry comes at a premium.  There are no assault rifles, no giant axes, nothing of the sort.  Survivors have to improvise.  And improvisation is something Dead Rising has in spades.  West has a whole shopping mall full of items at his disposal.  Go to the hardware shop and grab a chainsaw or iron bar.  Swipe a nightstick from the police officers.  Grab hunting knives and rifles from the sporting goods store,  You can even grab a "Flying V" guitar and smash it over a zombie's head!  Anything and everything is a weapon.  This depth of customization certainly helps Dead Rising stick out from the glut of zombie games out there.

Even with his wits, sometimes the zombies get to West.  When players get a game over, they have the option of loading from their last save point, or saving the game and starting fresh.  Players can keep their experience and level and start over during the game.  This is a good thing, too.  Dead Rising can be punishingly tough.  There are times when players encounter a psycho who is simply way too strong, or they have absolutely no recovery items available.  When that happens, sometimes, it's simply easier to call it quits and start fresh.

Smashing! Literally...
Back when the Xbox 360 first came out, there was a lot of buzz about the detail in Dead Rising.  This game sported hundreds of zombies in an area at any given time, something that pushes the limits of most consoles.  From a software engineering standpoint, this is a technological marvel.  Dead Rising maintains an absurd amount of detail in the environment, even when slicing zombies to bits.  It's really impressive to see on screen, especially in HD.

For as unique as this game is, it certainly has its flaws.  Aiming guns is clunky at best.  I found myself sticking to melee weapons when dealing with the zombie hordes, saving the pistols for psychopaths, where they actually could do some damage.  Even then, getting a bead on the guy when West using a pistol and the psycho's got a sniper rifle that can kill in two hits can be an exercise in futility.  Players will likely restart their game at least a handful of times before they reach the 72 hour mark for the first time.

Not only does Dead Rising have a steep learning curve, but it's almost impossible to rescue everyone during the first play through.  In a sense, this gives the game some replay value.  However, getting to a point where West can actually complete the main arc is all but impossible, even at some of the higher levels.

Even with its flaws, Dead Rising is good for a romp.  It's hard to not recommend this game, though the clunky controls and punishing learning curve will drive away some gamers.  Either way, it's super cheap.  Give it a go if you're looking for a good preparatory course for the zombie apocalypse.

Also, remember to submit your questions for Treasure Bin's first Ask Me Anything, coming August 1.  Win a bunch of classic Half-Life games on steam!

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