Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop (Wii) Review

The hotly-anticipated Resident Evil 5 hits stores nationwide this Friday. Let's warm up our zombie-blasting with a look at a game based off one of my favorite 360 games period, Dead Rising. Here's a review of the not-so-hotly-anticipated Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop for the Nintendo Wii. (So much italicizing for this introduction. Now I remember why I don't do it for anything else!)


Attention Willamette Shoppers: There is a Clearance on Zombies.

From the creator of Mega Man came a game showing the wackier side of those lovable hunks of rotting meat that just want to eat our brains out-- zombies. The end result was the superb yet flawed Dead Rising for the Xbox 360. After its grand success, Capcom decided to bring this franchise boasting thousands of zombies on-screen at once to the Nintendo Wii, a console not known for its overly powerful visuals but for its powerful controller. The notion seemed preposterous. Screenshots and videos only further diminished the idea that such a port could be a wise idea from Capcom. The end result is Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, a title that I even railed against heavily. Is Chop Till You Drop worthy of the Dead Rising name, or is this game better left for dead?

"I told you people already-- ONE! PER! CUSTOMER!"

The fictional countryside town of Willamette, Colorado has been put under lock-down by the Colorado National Guard. With a tip of something big going down, hotshot freelance journalist, Frank West, infiltrates the apparent mecca of questionable activity, the Willamette Mall. What he finds there is that an infestation of zombies have crippled the city to ruin, and the remaining survivors are all holed up inside the mall. With camera in hand and a coverage of wars under his belt, Frank aims to discover the truth of the appearance of these flesh-feeding zombies and get his story no matter what. Even with some cut-scenes (minor characters) edited out of the Wii installment, it's still very much an enjoyable story of the game even in all of its disturbing glory.

Calling Chop Till You Drop a port is somewhat of a misnomer. Compared to the excellent 360 original, Chop Till You Drop is very much a differently structured game. In the original Dead Rising, Frank had three days (roughly 6 hours in real time) to explore the entirety of the Willamette Mall, track cases-- the main story of the game, rescue survivors he happened across, and take down various bosses in the process. The mall was Frank's to explore fully, but there were problems. It did get frustrating for many being either constantly crunched for time or waiting minutes for the next mission to come up. The save system was also rather archaic. The Wii version addresses these issues while creating a very unique experience-- albeit more linear-- compared to its more polished and powerful predecessor.

Aiming with such precision is a novelty that hasn't worn
off yet, and I don't think it ever will for most of us.

As in the original, the security room serves as the safe haven for Frank and any other survivors the wily reporter comes in contact with. Saving can happen in any restroom around the mall, or after every completed case. Each story mission-- divided up into eight cases and aftermath-- progresses in a straightforward manner with no way to miss anything of importance. Don't misunderstand though as there's still plenty of opportunities for traversing the mall for fun (who doesn't love getting way too into cross-dressing?) and time limit-free. When Frank gets a stretch of time before the next section of the story, the chief janitor Otis will let Frank know of any survivors in need of help. These missions are mandatory and must be cleared to progress further in the game. They're usually divided up to 1-3 missions available at a time. If Frank leads the survivor or group of survivors back to the safe room in fast enough fashion with little damage and enough zombies exposed of during the mission, he can earn an "S" rank. These ranks not only can give Frank rare items, but they can also unlock more missions giving Frank the chance to save even more survivors.

The survivor A.I. of the original Dead Rising seems to have been left untouched as the A.I. in Chop Till You Drop is still rather brainless. I thought the zombies were the dumb ones! No longer can Frank hand survivors weapons to fight back or carry, grab, or hold onto them to make the trek back to the security room that much safer. However, not all is bad. The task of retrieving survivors is much less frustrating as 1) there aren't as many zombies to deal with (more on that later), 2) there's not as much of a crunch for time as you don't have to juggle trying to lead your ragtag bunch of morons just so you can try to save another bunch of morons all at once, and 3) you can't leave behind any survivors in a section of the mall. Frank says something to the effect of not being able to leave them behind to their demise. The most people Frank can have with him at once is three. This means in one of the later missions he has to make two trips back as there are five survivors to contend with. This isn't as big of a deal as it seems as the location isn't too far away.

Brand new and exclusive to the Wii version are two new unlockable modes, Odd Jobs and the cleverly-titled Second Amendment. Odd Jobs features a series of missions putting Frank in all kinds of interesting predicaments from tackling the feat of besting giant zombies to going all WWE on some zombie asses. Second Amendment tests your aim with the sniper rifle from clearing a path for someone before they are clobbered by a zombie to playing hide and seek "tag, you're it, I mean, dead" style. Both modes give some very cool rewards and are well worth the time.

"Axe" and you shall receive.

Chop Till You Drop utilizes the very same engine used in Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, and honestly it's almost just as entertaining to use. Drawing out a gun or projectile, aiming it a zombie's head, and letting loose is just awesome. Whereas the Xbox 360 version was more about melee weapons rather than firearms (the rather poor aiming helped with that conclusion), the Wii version is based more on shooting at zombies. The variety of items isn't as immense as before, but Chop Till You Drop has plenty of melee weapons available to unleash Frank's frustrations with. Each weapon has two types of attacks. The A button attacks with a weaker jab as opposed to slashing once with the Wii remote which assaults the enemy with a more stalwart strike. When a zombie is dazed, you can perform a special move with the Wii remote either when Frank's bare-handed or with weapon in tow. Unlike something recent like Tenchu 4, Dead Rising recognizes the thrust-like movement needed without fail which was surprising. There's no manual jump in the game. There's only various marked sections where Frank can leap over, so that secret katana on the awning in Paradise Plaza is still yours for the taking. The camera functionality which was for superfluous things in the original like photos of polygonal crotches. The camera is only used once, and it's another "press the button combo here to activate" thing. The only complaint really-- regardless of one's love for zombie-surfing gone missing-- with using the Resident Evil 4 control set-up is that moving around like a tank when zombies are 360 degrees around Frank is rather archaic. You can quickly turn around 180 degrees, but making 90 degree turns is a tad on the slow side. It's by no means a deal-breaker (far from it), but it's still a notable problem.

We're having a Red Light Special here,
but we ran out of lights and improvised.

The mall itself isn't as packed with zombies as it was in the Xbox 360 version. At first it just seemed like laziness on developer Tose's end. However, Frank's constant need to stop and pop an enemy with one of many guns (handgun, magnum, shotgun, sniper rifle, etc) would make having more zombies to contend with interrupting your aim and shots constantly nerve-racking. On the easiest difficulty of three, the mall is rather bare. On the hardest difficulty, zombies are much more aggressive and in bigger numbers. There's definitely enough of the undead for even the macabre fetishist in Chop Till You Drop, and especially so in the maintenance tunnels. Not only will Frank have to contend with zombies of the human variety, but in this version of the game he'll deal with zombified... poodles... and parrots. I'm still out on that one. Not for the ridiculousness of a parrot dropping a grenade from above, but from the lack of variety in the animals. Why just poodles and parrots? Regardless, zombie versions of Jo, Kent, and Cliff, who have no bearing on the story at all this time around, later inhabit the mall as the story rolls on for even more danger.

As for the other psychopaths, boss characters who had such hopelessness regarding the zombie outbreak that they had no other alternative but to snap, they're still all well and accounted for. Well, that's at least until Frank gets finished "interviewing" them as "witnesses". The only main change from the 360 canon is that in the Wii version, the gun store owner is kept alive and begins selling guns, ammo increases, and books. Why Frank just didn't kill the hick and rob the store instead of saving his life only to get rewarded by paying for the crap instead is still a mystery to everyone. The boss battles themselves aren't too glamorous. No one will be saying "I'll remember that (I better make up a name to prevent spoilers) Bob Saget fight as one of the best ever" anytime soon. The only other main change is that one fight is now completely a quick time event. I know Resident Evil 4, the game Chop Till You Drop uses the engine of, made this game mechanic popular, but it's beyond obnoxious no matter how short it is-- especially to a player who still gets the B and Z triggers on the Wii remote confused.

I won't kill you because you're trying to kill me.
I will kill you because your outfit is TOO tacky.

While Tose did an excellent job bringing the mechanics and reworking them for the Wii, the game could have used some visual polish. This is the only part of the package that feels truly lazy in some regards. For one, cut-scenes are ripped directly from the 360 version. I wanted to see my Frank in a Servbot mask and one-piece bikini talk to the bad guy! Also, zombies have a habit of spawning in view of the player far too much. A player just killed a group of zombies in the distance when a new batch slowly appears where the undead dead ones just fell. Performing a 180 turn also brings out zombies from nowhere, too. Load screens are rather fast, so waiting isn't as long as the 360 version. To be fair, the 360 was loading a lot more, but a victory is a victory no matter how small. The soundtrack is as wonderful as ever with a delightful combination of licensed tracks and original recordings. Well, at least the ones where the singers don't yell expletives loudly and roughly for no reason at all.

Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop is not really like the 360 version at all. It plays completely different-- better in some aspects, worse in others. Those who couldn't stand the time constraints, survivor frustration, and odd save system may just like this version. Those who loved Resident Evil 4 on Wii will no doubt enjoy the controls without fail. As for those who love Dead Rising, this version on Wii is still very much worthwhile as it's familiar and new simultaneously. As for which version is better, since they're both so diverse in how they're executed, it's up to the player to decide which they like best. For me, I rated the 360 version higher just because it was the original and a new experience at the time. Regardless, just as the original Dead Rising was worth it for 360 owners, now Wii owners have a version that they can be proud to know is worth it, too. Both games do the Dead Rising brand proud.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]


Christopher Jon said...

Thanks SP, I may have to get this game now. Good review

Anonymous said...

I. Love. Zombies.

That is all.

-Zac Pritcher