Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dead Rising (X360) Review

In celebration of the million-seller, Dead Rising coming to the Wii, I thought I'd take this opportunity to review the game that started it all-- the original!


He's covered wars, y'know.

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Capcom has had it well on Microsoft's second home console. Both Lost Planet: Extreme Condition and Dead Rising have sold upwards of over a million copies worldwide. One of those games has sold well for good reason, and it's the little 'ol title called Dead Rising-- where one man is voluntarily placed into a zombie-infested mall to get the story... no matter what.

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You can take the camera, but not the stylish clothes!

You are put into the shoes of freelance journalist Frank West as he's on-board a helicopter headed straight for the tiny little Colorado community of Williamette. As the helicopter pilot states, what is the major discerning factor of this town from any other? "Jack %#&@". The military has stationed multiple roadblocks in Williamette, blocking anyone from going in and out of the quaint township. What Frank West witnesses, years of war coverage couldn't prepare himself for. The townspeople-- or what looks like townspeople-- are rioting in the street, overturning vehicles, destroying buildings, and terrorizing other citizens. After a military copter threatens to shoot Frank's ride down, Frank's air chaffer drops him off on top the roof of the Williamette Mall. It's here where we meet the mysterious Carlito who gives the photojournalist a foreboding speech.

Feeling it's his duty to cover the story, West presses on inside the mall to the Entrance Plaza. Here a group of surviving civilians are holed up. Furniture is pressed against the glass doors to keep the menacing zombies out. However, an old lady's poodle is on the opposite side of the glass, and the woman feverishly pushes the furniture and men out of the way to retrieve it. Smart move, old hag. Suddenly, the zombies flood the inside of the mall. Frank West takes the advice of a police officer, Brad, and hightails it to the security room. After welding the door shut, the main game now begins. But where did these zombies come from, or how did they come to be? Buyer's remorse perhaps?

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Well-acted cutscenes help "flesh" out the story.

Dead Rising is played in a third-person perspective. Starting in the security room players are to exit through the vent to reach the roof where Frank will meet his first survivor of which there are fifty. Some survivors will follow you simply by speaking with them. Others will need you to do something before they will follow you such as giving them food or drink to fill their empty stomachs, reuniting them with a lost love, or simply talking to them a number of times. Early survivors will be easy to retrieve. They follow you, and you can even give them weapons to garnish and food to regain their health. Frank can issue a command to have them stay in a safe spot (or if you're an ass, place them in the middle of a swarm of zombies) or simply follow him. When you're escorting more than two survivors it can get hectic. You'll be backtracking to save them from their zombie captors. For the most part, survivors can take care of themselves. However, some have broken legs or other health problems which means you'll most likely have to carry them or hold their hands the entire time. A survivor is saved once they make it to the security room.

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Serving up a dish of pain.

Speaking of saving survivors, it's a good time to bring up the day system. Dead Rising plays out during the span of three days (one day is equal to two real life hours). At 12:00 p.m. on the third day, Frank's escort will arrive to pick him back up. There's so much that can be done during the three days and so little time o do it in that some players may feel overwhelmed. However, this is why there's multiple play-throughs to be had. One play-through can be following the game's story while others can be rescuing survivors or defeating psychopaths (more on those later). Each section of the story is divided up into cases. You'll need to be in the area designated by the case in time or you'll miss your chance to follow the excellent story. The story explains who Carlito really is, where the zombies came from, and how Frank West escapes his hellish nightmare unscathed. Additionally, time is of the essence with everything in this game. Certain survivors will only appear at certain times on certain days as will psychopaths. Thankfully, Otis, the head of security at the mall, will be on your side (literally) in the form of a walkie-talkie. He'll give you updates on any strange happenings within the walls of the mall from inside his location at the security room. This becomes one of the problems with the title. 1) The text for Otis' messages are WAY too small, and 2) Sometimes you'll just have to kill a lot of time in waiting for the start of your next case.

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Hm. This may pose to be a problem.

Apart from the hoard of the undead that blocks Frank West from easily traversing merrily around the mall, at certain times of certain days there are also psychopaths. This part of the game is the most disturbing. These psychopaths are ordinary citizens who just couldn't handle the emotional torment of having everyone around them turn into zombies and simply snapped. There's Cletus, the gun shop owner that when he tells you not to move any closer, you better not move any closer. Meanwhile there's Adam the Clown-- a psychotic creature who wields two miniature chain-saws and if defeated, dies an incredibly gruesome death. Each psychopath has their own back-story, cutscenes, banter, and gimmick. The battles with them aren't too difficult either and with the right weapon can be taken down in one or two well-placed hits.

Frank West is a resourceful man, and you would be too if you had a zombie plague around you. There are zombies everywhere, and it really shows that this game could not at all be done on any previous console. Hundreds and thousands of zombies crawl and creep throughout the five main areas of Willaimette Mall. What does Frank West use to combat these bastards? The answer is simple-- anything and everything. From hurling a bowling ball into a makeshift bowling alley where the zombies serve as your pins to a chainsaw to carve a path to safety. There's a lot of satisfying ways to kill the undead, but unfortunately it isn't as easy as, say, a Phoenix Down. Funny that I should mention an RPG reference as that makes a perfect segue. Frank has limited space in his inventory, but as he gains PP (by shooting photos, saving survivors, beating the game, and defeating psychopaths) his level will increase. Increased levels means more inventory space, more health, and new moves to unleash. My favorite moves being one where Frank grabs a downed zombie by the legs and whirls him around in a circle, knocking out any surrounding ghouls, and a visceral attack where Frank punches a hole through a zombie's gut and rips out its organs. How gruesome yet exhilarating!

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Frank West can act as a bookworm, too. By picking up certain books helpful abilities are added as long as that book is in Frank's inventory. Such benefits include the usefulness of health items increases and certain weapons (such as those of the gardening variety won't break on Frank as quickly

Graphically, Dead Rising is beautiful. From the great character models, excellently crafted cutscenes, and detailed stores to the textures of everything. When a zombie is slain it doesn't just fall down a disappear from the screen like most games. It actually stays there, so don't be alarmed to see over 100 bodies lying motionless on the floor while another 200 are still shuffling around you! The game is damned impressive even without HD available. The voice acting is top-notch and never feels hokey like in some other Capcom titles (Resident Evil [cough]). A nice touch includes having muzak played throughout the mall accompanied by an announcer thanking you for shopping at Williamette Mall. The rest of the music ranges from ominous techno to hard ass rock. Not just hard rock, mind you, hard ASS rock!

One of the best parts of Dead Rising is the variety and rewards for achievements. Most 360 games just have achievements with goals, and once unlocked all they give the player are meaningless Gamerscore points. However, some of Dead Rising's achievements will actually give you in-game items and costumes such as the awesome Megabuster, the Mega Man body suit, and a kickass laser sword to slash one hell of a mark into any zombie that stumbles your way.

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M-M-Mega Man?!

Overall, Dead Rising is an incredible game with rewards that go further than worthless Gamerscore points. There's a wide variety of things to accomplish, and with the right weapons the game can be a breeze to play. Waiting around for missions to start or notices from Otis can be boring during later play-throughs, but for the most part it isn't a very large problem. From trying on new clothes for Mr. West to splatter blood all over the ground by plowing over zombies, Dead Rising has a lot going for it and it mostly succeeds. Is it a killer app for the Xbox 360? A better question would be, "Has Frank West covered wars?". The answer is an enthusiastic "yes"!

Overall: 9.25/10

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