This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Dead Rising 4.
So now that we finally hauled ourselves out of Christmas period and the usual quagmire of familial tension where all the chocolates exist in some strange dimension out of phase with the rest of the universe 'coz everyone's too polite to start eating them, let's now immediately remind ourselves of it by playing Dead Rising 4, a.k.a. The Dead Rising Holiday Special. Setting a game in Christmas is the perfect method for drastically reducing its shelf life, especially for me. That fucking sleigh ride song is irritating enough without having to listen to it constantly while browsing for gifts in a shop only tangentially related to sleigh riding.
It's possible that playing Dead Rising 4 in New Year catchups time is doing it a disservice. And if anyone does think that, they'd better hold onto their trouser repair kit for the disservice the rest of this video's going to do, as I think I understand Capcom's thinking here. "Hey, let's make Dead Rising 4 a Christmas game." Some bold visionary must have said. "That way, everyone will be playing it through a haze of food coma and Baileys Irish Cream and won't notice it for the pile of steaming reindeer nuggets that it is!" In fairness, most of that is in comparison to previous Dead Rising games for Dead Rising 4 seems to consist entirely of bits of other Dead Rising games torn off in fistfuls and strung together with Christmas lights.
Recurring Dead Rising hero Frank West recurs once again, now sporting a slightly different face and voice and having apparently devoted his life to becoming a faintly desperate tribute Bruce Campbell's career-making performance in the Evil Dead films. He's dragged into a fresh batch of zombie hell by an overeager student seeking to expose the government conspiracy, for as has long been established, the government of the Dead Rising universe is a bit of one track mind and set off zombie plagues to deal with everything from intelligence leaks to lapses in state education funding. But Frank and his protégé have a falling-out because Frank insists on not getting involved in the story, a policy he states firmly while he's smashing a few roomfuls of the newly undead into the skirting boards with a bit of old pipe and he ends up alone in the latest outbreak trying to track her down driving armored bulldozers through crowded streets in order to not be involved as efficiently as possible.
The first thing you need to know is that Dead Rising 4 doesn't have a fixed time limit or mission deadline - you remember, that thing that every Dead Rising has and what makes them interesting and is as much a part of Dead Rising as the sense of betrayal is part of getting kicked in the balls by your beloved horse. What it does have is linear sequence of missions that will still be waiting for you even if you sit down in the mud outside and make daisy chains for 11 hours - you remember, the way every bloody sandbox game works. Dead Rising has taken the path to innovation that entails doing the shit that everyone else does, which is innovative in the same sense that the grey goo scenario is innovative. "Oh wow, my legs have been harvested by a ravenous unstoppable nanoswarm. This will add an intriguing new twist to the upcoming line dancing tournament."
I shouldn't have to explain time limits were there to add a unique challenge. Yes, it could occasionally get in the way of trying on hilarious barbecue aprons and tricycling down the escalator. But isn't that cathartic fun all the more satisfying when we know we parceled our time to allow for a quick barbecue apron session in between making progress and aren't just cocking about? I got through the entirety of Dead Rising 4 without dying once, and while I'd love to attribute that to my finally honed thumb on finger skills that are why they now know me downtown as Yahtzee Croshaw the Weapon of Mass-turbation, I think it has more to do with the fact that this game is mostly cocking about, that you get an overgenerous 500-point health bar right off the bat, and it feels like every food or healing item fills it up most of the way.
And on that note, inventory is now divided into types. So you can have a healing item, a throwing item, a melee weapon, a ranged weapon and your preferred genre of porn all at your hands with a touch of a button, which is all very convenient but 'convenient' is one of the words that doesn't belong anywhere near Dead Rising alongside 'restraint' and 'permanently exclusive'. If all you want is the catharsis of splattering thousands of zombies with weapon and vehicle combos copy-pasted from the last two games to a merry holiday soundtrack, then I suppose Dead Rising 4 offers that at least. But you'd get the same experience from pouring 5000 baby chicks into a meat grinder and putting on 'It's a wonderful life' in the background.
Now, doing nothing but comparing Dead Rising 4 to its predecessors would be a stubborn, churlish and counterproductive thing to do. So let's keep doing it. Hey, remember how the boss fights with psychos used to be elaborate and interesting with colorful characters and unique attacks? Well, instead of that, now you fight generic dudes in silly outfits with slightly longer health bars - another wonderful innovation to the format. "Oh look. The grey goo scenario has eaten my arms now as well. What a perfect opportunity to learn how to balance things on my nose."
Alright, fine. Dead Rising 4 introduces a couple of new mechanics. You can equip powered armor in order to continue doing the same zombie splattering you've been doing all along except with slightly more defense. And there are stealth mechanics now and HOLY SHIT I just thought of another word that doesn't belong anywhere near Dead Rising. Stealth is for characters who aren't carrying around 3 dynamite crossbows and a giant acid-spewing hammer, thank you very much. To me, stealth mode was just walk obnoxiously slowly button that I only ever pressed because I forgot that it wasn't the sprint.
So many bugbears in Dead Rising 4 but the biggest and sweatiest one for me is that it's reduced everything to generic random encounters wherein previous games every psycho and escortable civvy was unique. Even so, perhaps it could at least have been dismissed as a cheaply knocked out Christmas special with a plot generic enough to be safely discounted from the canon were it not for one thing: (time for a great big ending spoiler so if you're waiting for Dead Rising 4 to inevitably stop being XBone exclusive so you can at least ruin next Christmas with it, then this might be the point to stop viewing) Frank West dies at the end.
Yes, that lovable original Dead Rising protagonist so popular they had to do a version of Dead Rising 2 with him literally patched in to replace the other dude who was even in Marvel vs Capcom once, which was a little bit weird but nonetheless fun. This game features his canon death. Great! Might as well have hit him with a bus in the end credit to the next Phoenix Wright. Still, as I said, he looks, talks and acts different in this game so if it makes you feel any better you can pretend he's actually Frank's twatty cousin Marlon, who didn't get any of the lovable genes but crikey, does he know a lot about the Evil Dead films!
- Usually rises around 7: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Sometimes I wish I could augment my respiratory organs to continue functioning in an atmosphere of pure Baileys
- Grey goo scenario currently changing trains at Edmonton