Dead Rising has continued to deliver new ideas and amplify its chaotic zombie-filled world with each entry into the series. With each sequel, it’s introduced new settings and characters, the addition of vehicles and weapon crafting, while removing limited save points and escort missions. Although there are always lots of tweaks and added extras with each new game, the core gameplay has mostly remained the same. In Dead Rising 4, every object from bar stools to laptops is a zombie slaying weapon, so it’s business as usual, but there is now a greater variety of horrific and riotous ways to dispose of the walking dead. The latest Dead Rising title continues its reputation for utter mayhem and loaded laughs, especially with the return of the wisecracking photojournalist Frank West.
The story opens with Frank driving to Willamette, Colorado, along with Vick Chu, a student at his university. Frank, now a photography professor, was encouraged by Vick to take a trip to a Reservationist Training Facility to investigate rumoured bizarre experiments. Once there, Frank tries to stick to his journalism expertise while Vick uses her own reporting methods. An unfortunate lapse in judgment sounds the alarm, and Frank just barely escapes. It’s now four months later, and the entire town has become infested by zombies yet again. An agency locates Frank and recruits him to come back to Willamette to expose the full story and help put the undead to rest. Frank is also on the lookout for Vick, who is already several steps ahead of him in the investigation of the zombie outbreak.
For a game mostly about killing mindless zombies, I enjoyed the storytelling and the chemistry between Frank and Vick. They have a teacher and student relationship, but also a competitive edge with the desire to expose the story on their own terms. The central mystery gradually provides you with clues and characters that add to the plot, creating an engaging and action-packed narrative. Frank to me is such a likeable protagonist who comes off as an entertaining anti-hero who plays by his rules. Throughout the journey, his personality shines through with his smart-arse remarks and pop culture references, adding a comedic layer to an already silly game.
You may be revisiting the same Willamette from the first game, but it’s an entirely new city rebuilt from the ground up. While the original game had you in the boundaries of the town’s shopping mall, the latest game gives you the liberty to explore the entire city, in what I believe is to be the most diverse zombie-ridden neighbourhood in the series. There are many areas to explore in Dead Rising 4, such as residential areas, farms, industrial complexes, city streets, and, of course, the Christmas decorated shopping mall. In regards to the new mall, the Willamette Memorial Megaplex is an incredibly large complex loaded with interesting shops, themed areas, and an indoor go-kart track if you feel like doing some laps. Capcom Vancouver has done a fantastic job inhabiting every environment with creative storefronts, secret areas, interesting collectables, and many clothing options so players can customise Frank’s appearance.
The gameplay is the least varied element of the game, with combat being mostly unchanged and not really adding anything new to the mix. While there is some variety with a combination of melee, ranged, and projectile items, you’ll likely spend most of your time just mashing the attack button as you fight through hordes of zombies. Even with combat lacking challenge and depth, I still found all the zombie slaying very satisfying. Although, in saying that, it’s important to note that Dead Rising 4 doesn’t offer much difficulty as all the zombies are quite simple to kill and there is always a lot of health and weapons at arm’s length. Other enemies that inhabit the game include enemy soldiers and the new Evo zombies; both which are a bit harder to take down, but, again, not all that challenging.
While the game doesn’t offer great challenge or depth in the combat system, it makes up for it with creativity and hilarity with its 50 combo weapons. Once you’ve found a blueprint and the necessary materials, you can craft crazy weapon whenever you like rather than transporting the materials to a workbench like in previous games. With every weapon you create comes sheer amusement, from a fire-breathing triceratops mask to ice swords, there is a great variety that’s both destructive and fun to use. There is also a new power-up called the Exo Suit; it’s kind of like an Iron Man suit, but without the flying. It immediately turns Frank into a mechanical powerhouse that can tear zombies to shreds and use heavy powered weaponry that can wipe out hordes of enemies. Exo Suits are only available in limited quantity, though, and the power-up only lasts a few minutes. I appreciate that they tried a new idea, but I didn’t think it was necessary as the combo weapons were equally effective and more fun to use.
A new feature in Dead Rising 4 is the introduction of Emergency Shelters, which are inherently just safe houses with vendors that offer weapons, clothing, food and vehicles for purchase. Frank’s camera also returns, which plays a role in investigating and uncovering clues to solve cases. His camera has three options: standard, night vision and a spectrum analyser, which is used in a way that feels very reminiscent of the Batman Arkham series detective vision.
I was impressed with the quality visuals but even more so at a frame rate that didn’t appear to have any drops or hiccups. It’s pretty impressive considering how many zombies can occupy the screen at once. The open world town of Willamette is magnificently diverse and littered with detail at every corner; I spent a lot of time exploring different shops being fascinated at what I might find next. Last but not least, the Christmas-themed soundtrack is utterly brilliant; I love how the festive jiggles inappropriately add an amusing backdrop to a bloodbath of a game.
Dead Rising 4 is probably the most fun game I’ve played all year. It’s like a blockbuster horror film full of action, humour and thousands of hungry zombies. Capcom Vancouver has done a great in job delivering an intriguing and comedic storyline, filled with entertaining characters, inventive combo weapons, and a vastly detailed open-world that all ties in nicely with a festive Christmas theme. Even if the fourth instalment doesn’t provide much by way of a challenge, it’s still an over-the-top adventure horror game that highlights many the best elements from the series, and I think fans will approve.