Let me start off with a question: Who remembers 1978’s classic Dawn of the Dead??
If you don’t then allow me to bring you up to speed, basically it is a film in which a zombie apocalypse has taken place and a group of survivors take refuge in a shopping centre to await rescue. In the original film, a group of bikers break in allowing the zombies to overrun the place and in the remake the survivors just decide that they are waiting to die so decide to try and flee to an offshore island…now you may be thinking that I have started a film review in the TAC Reviews…Games section of this site so I must have gone crackers.
I assure you I have not, the reason I have started talking about Dawn of the Dead is because if you ever wanted to play a game in which you are effectively playing as a character from that film then in 2006 Capcom granted your wish and released Dead Rising, a game that has since spawned comics, and sequel games.
The first game was an Xbox 360 exclusive coming out in 2006 but the second was released for multiple consoles before the 3rd game went back to being for the Xbox, as that was for the Xbox One and I don’t have one of those then obviously I have not played it.
Not surprisingly in this section I am going to be looking at the first two games in the franchise, unlike the Dead Space franchise I have not delved into the world of Dead Rising and so all I am taking into account is the games themselves and have little to no idea what happens in the comics.
This game was an Xbox 360 exclusive, I can’t honestly remember exactly why I decided to pick it up, but it probably had something to do with the fact that I was a fan of Dawn of the Dead and the idea of being in a Shopping Mall slaughtering hundreds of mindless humans…sorry…zombies seemed like it could be fun and therapeutic so I played it…the question is then: did it live up to my expectations??
To answer that very simple question let’s take a look…
In the first game you play as a photojournalist named Frank West who has come to a city that is currently under quarantine to find out what is happening. In the opening sequence you fly over the city witnessing shambling corpses chasing down and killing people. The city is in ruins and your pilot drops you at the centre of town, the Shopping Mall. He promises to return in 72 hours before departing and leaving you to head into the Mall in order to find out what is happening. Initially the Mall is securely barricaded but then a mad old woman notices that her dog is outside with the zombies and opens up the doors to try and retrieve her pet. This allows the zombies to force their way in, (and fill the entire Mall even though sections of it are sealed off so only bits should have been overrun but anyway) you can fight them off and escape or get overwhelmed and will be rescued by another character - either way you wind up in the security room with several other survivors
After this it is kind of up to you to decide how you want to spend the next 72 hours, you can do the scoop quests in which you will learn what has happened to city and how it has become overrun with zombies, you can rescue survivors or you can run around dressing up in women’s clothes and drinking beer. Of course the game wants you to do the scoops but as the game has multiple endings you are encouraged to play it over and over again in order to see all the endings.
Frank West carries his camera with him at all times and you can take various photos which will earn you xp that increase your rank. Frank can go up to a level 50 and as he levels up then he gets stronger, carries more stuff in his inventory, unlocks more stamina and can deal with the zombies using different fighting techniques.
Within the Mall you encounter people that need to be rescued as well as Psychopaths that are taking advantage of the situation to further their own ends. The majority of these are mini bosses, however, most of them you don’t have to even deal with if you don’t really want to, leaving survivors to their fate at the hands of these lunatics.
One of the good things about this game is that when it came out the media wasn’t saturated with zombies, the game was the first that could have hundreds of zombies onscreen at one time. These are the Romero zombies which basically means they are slow, stupid and are really only a threat en mass. Generally they are pretty easy to deal with and you can run round them without too much trouble, plus you can pick up various items you find in the Mall to use as weapons. These range from traffic cones that you can put on a zombie’s head so they cannot see, to dropping marbles so they fall over to more practical items like swords you obtain from a sword shop and guns that can be retrieved from a gun shop.
Taking pictures of zombies is pretty entertaining (if rather pointless) and you can photograph a woman posing provocatively so if checking out computer generated women is your thing then this is the game for you, by the way if that is your thing then you should probably seek help from a professional…just saying.
Frank West is a decent enough character, his voice acting is done relatively well, and the story of how people were transformed into zombies is a little different. There is an actual reason rather than the whole: there are zombies deal with it, thing. Having a set time also means that the game has a focussed structure so you aren’t just pissing about or trying to get to a safe zone or whatever. In 72 hours the helicopter will return so you just have to be on the roof when it does, and if there are survivors with you then they will get taken as well. How thirty-odd survivors end up in one helicopter is neither here nor there. There are multiple missions so you are not going to be bored during the in game time limit even if you don’t do the story quests.
Where the game massively falls down is in the AI of the survivors who are hugely retarded, they barely follow you, and they scream for help if a zombie so much as coughs in their direction. Some flatly refuse to come with you and others move so slowly that you are going to be constantly running back to them in order to make sure that they haven’t gotten cornered by zombies. Some will take weapons but if they do then they obviously have no idea how to use them and may even use them to commit suicide if you don’t answer their calls for help quickly enough. Some survivors you just stumble across but others you are told about by a guy called Otis who sits in the security office monitoring the security cameras...which brings me to another flaw in the game...Otis
When Frank answers a call from Otis with his walkie talkie he is unable to do anything else, he cannot fight the zombies, cannot run or even jump. If you cancel the call because you are being attacked then Otis will immediately ring you back, tell you that cutting him off was rude then proceed to start his message all over again. The subtitles for the game are so small that for my first play through I had absolutely no idea what most of them even said, could we have gotten a voice over?? Apparently not because that would have solved the subtitle issues. Eventually after pressing my face to the screen I was able to read what they say, but having white text on a mostly white background makes trying to read them unnecessarily difficult.
In the first play through, the Psychopaths are generally ridiculously strong compared to you, and more often than not they will paint the walls with Frank unless you run away like a wuss. However, if you do run then the health of the survivors the Psychopaths are holding will steadily tick down so if you have triggered the cut scene and you are forced to leave to get health or weapons the chances are they will all be dead by the time you return.
The game is designed so you can restart the main game at any point and you will keep your stuff so you don’t need to get to the end before restarting. The only reason I can think that Capcom did this was because the game is not balanced properly and bosses will take you apart with relative ease unless you are playing as a higher level Frank West or take advantage of the best weapon in the game…
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, Dead Rising has a game breaking weapon that you can get really early
When you get prompted about a clown, go to the gun shop (kill the owner who is also a psychopath), then steal as many sniper rifles as you can fit in your inventory, before heading to his location. Adam the Clown has two small chainsaws so stay the hell away from him and snipe him silly until he dies. Then run over and pick up his dropped chainsaw. There are various books in the game which you can pick up that grant bonuses - I have no idea why but holding books upgrades certain objects but in the world of Dead Rising books improves weapons and other objects - if you pick up three specific books then Adam’s chainsaw will be made much more powerful. Basically you can kill something like a thousand zombies with it before it will break, so have two in your inventory and the game is pretty much done. Most Psychopaths will die in three or four hits from the chainsaw and will be locked into a stumble animation when you slash at them so cannot fight back and therefore there is absolutely no reason to use anything else.
The story elements are interesting but once you know about the small chainsaw and how to make it stupidly powerful then nothing presents a challenge with the acceptation of the god awful survivor AI. You will get annoyed and may just think: Fuck it, and leave other survivors to die at the hands of the zombies they are too stupid to run away from.
Rescuing other people trapped or hiding after the outbreak is a key part of the game and it does get really, really, really repetitive really, really, really fast. Basically you get a group of survivors to the safe house then have to turn right around and go after the next bunch of hapless idiots with the survival instincts of a suicidal lemming. There are also occasions when survivors will try to leave the safe house for whatever reason and you must flog all the way back there in order to talk them out of it or bring them something that they have requested...if you can be bothered or don't make it back fast enough they will disappear into the Mall never to be seen again
The game has its flaws but ultimately it was good enough for me to play it multiple times, although, I did start doing it mainly just to see the different endings and get Frank up to Level 50, once I had done that I put the game back on the shelf and it has been there ever since.
Dead Rising is a decent game and from a time before every game seemed to have zombies in them, it is worth a play and whilst the AI of the survivors is really stupid there is fun to be had in leaving these people to get eaten alive by the zombies. My Thumb is Up because the game is fun and even if you do fuck up you can start again with all of your current progress without having to grind through to the end of the game
6/10 - My rating is only above average for the overall experience because this game has a lot of teething troubles but shows a lot of potential. It falls down over the AI and whilst having a weapon that can slice zombies into mush is very helpful it removes pretty much all challenge from the proceedings.
After the first game was released only for the Xbox 360, the sequel was released for other consoles in 2010, so as a fan of the PS3 I naturally kicked my Xbox 360 console under the cabinet in favour of the copy for the PS3. It was only after this that I discovered Capcom released some DLC that was back as Xbox 360 exclusive so some of the extra stuff I haven’t been able to play because Capcom decided to release the main game on multiple consoles and then limit the DLC, which strikes me as being a bit of a dick thing to do but hey-ho.
In the first game we were playing as a photojournalist, Frank West, who had 72 hours to find out how the city had become infested and uncover the truth. He (and the game) was confined to a Shopping Mall, for Dead Rising 2 the player has a Vegas type city to run around in, they can explore various casinos and have 72 hours to wait before the military will come to rescue any remaining survivors before they firebomb the city.
This time around Frank West is nowhere to be seen so we are playing as new-hero Chuck Green, and the world has kind of gotten used to the idea that people can be transformed into zombies. In this instalment there is a game show called Terror is Reality in which competitors ride motorcycles equipped with chainsaws and have to slice as many zombies apart as possible within a time limit, the one with the most kills wins. Playing as Chuck you compete in this game show and can either win or lose without it really affecting the opening of the game. It turns out that Chuck has a daughter named Katy that was bitten by a zombie, fortunately there is a “cure” of sorts called Zombrex that needs to be taken every 24 hours in order to prevent the person from transforming into a zombie. It is down to Chuck to provide Zombrex for Katy or she will succumb to the infection transforming into a zombie. Zombrex is expensive and Chuck doesn't have much money which is why he was competing in Terror is Reality in the first place.
After the opening level Chuck is framed for releasing the stadium’s zombies into the city, the majority of the population are transformed, and Chuck with Katy take shelter in the city’s emergency bunker that apparently every city has in the wake of the infestation that destroyed the city in the original game. As before you can leave the safe room and venture into the city to find survivors or in Chuck’s case, discover who it was who framed you for releasing the zombies.
In some ways Dead Rising 2 is exactly what a sequel should be, it is bigger and better than the original, unfortunately there is not much that I could say about Dead Rising 2 that won’t result in me just repeating what I said about Dead Rising.
Basically as before you are in a sandbox area, a city in this case, you have certain missions to do in which you delve deeper into the truth about what is happening and how the latest outbreak started, plus if the Vegas outbreak in which Chuck’s wife was killed is connected to what is happening here. Apparently this outbreak was the subject of a comic book series but as I said I have not read any of those so I am not sure. You have to rescue survivors, and bring them back to the safe house to await rescue when the military arrive to check the emergency shelter.
The stuff I like about Dead Rising 2 is the same as the reasons I liked Dead Rising, so let’s have a look at what is different…
Mercifully the survivor AI has been greatly improved and the majority of survivors can shove zombies out of the way and if you decide to give them weapons they can use them effectively. I would quite often wander around with half a dozen or more well armed survivors with me who could tear through the zombie hordes easily. Sadly there was no point in taking them with you when going after Psychopaths because like the original, the game expects you to be a pretty high level before you even think about attempting to take them on. Any survivors will get massacred if you take them with you when going after these mini bosses. Plus, there are a surprising number of survivors this time that will refuse to come with you unless you give them money…I wonder if they are aware that they are in a zombie infested city…if they want to take their chances and grab a few bucks then I’m happy to leave them to it but the game notes them as lost or dead in your case book if you don’t get them to come with you. There are also a couple of opportunities to turn Psychopaths into allies so you don’t necessarily need to kill them the moment you set eyes on them.
There is no Adam’s chainsaw-type weapon this time around, which is a good and a bad thing, that weapon did basically remove all challenge but this game seems to have gone a bit too far in the other direction as the majority of your weapons are pretty poor. The game has compensated for this to a degree by giving you the ability to tape weapons together to create something more powerful. Yet the game doesn’t really have much logic behind it regarding what can be taped together - you want to tape a knife to the end of a broom?? Then feel free, you mad bastard and more power to you. You want to tape a meat cleaver to a broom?? Fuck no, what the hell is wrong with you, a meat cleaver on the end of a broom, are you insane?? See what I mean?? A knife can be attached to a broom but for some reason nothing else can be attached to a broom handle to make another weapon.
There are various utility rooms about the map and generally you will find two craft-able objects in or very close to the room so you will probably make them once, use them once to see what they do then not use them again. Still very little in the game is as useful as a baseball bat with nails in it for dealing with regular zombies and my personal favourite boxing gloves with knives attached to them so they look like Freddy Krueger’s gloves for taking down bosses.
If you’re stuck for Zombrex there is a pawn shop so you can always buy it, you can gamble to get money or alternatively smash cash machines to get money from them. By the way if you spot looters kill them instantly because they are looting whereas you are simply taking advantage of an opportunity…so when you do it, it is not looting. There are a few opportunities to find Zombrex around the map as well so if you can't afford it then check out the Dead Rising 2 wiki for those locations around the city.
If you liked the first game then you will probably like this because it is more of the same and some of the more frustrating features like the survivors poor AI has been addressed, thankfully the subtitles are much bigger so it is a lot easier to find out what is happening and what you are supposed to do.
The game also has multiple endings so again it does encourage you to play through it over and over, however, like the first one I have ultimately lost interest in this game and cannot see myself playing it anytime soon. That doesn’t mean that it is not worth playing, unfortunately now that there are so many zombie games out there, there is not much that makes Dead Rising 2 stand out.
It is effectively more of the same and whilst Dead Rising was original as this one is a sequel it does not have the originality of its predecessor so yes it is still fun but my Thumb is Horizontal because it does not do anything fresh or original and is just as repetitive as the first game.
6.5/10 – It is better than the original and improves on the Shopping Mall setting of the first game unfortunately it is still pretty repetitive, the weapons you can combine together are quite limited and whilst the survivors AI is much better, the game doesn’t expect you to go after the Psychopaths until at least your second play through.