It’s taken a year, but finally Dead Rising 4 has made its way to the PlayStation 4. As a fan of the series, I was rather depressed when Dead Rising 3 became an Xbox One exclusive, and then Dead Rising 4 afterwards. With the likelihood of me actually getting an Xbox One a rather distant possibility, I despaired. So I was quite excited when the PS4 version of the game was announced, and even more excited when I got it in my hands.
Dead Rising 4 is set some years after the initial outbreak in the first game and brings Frank West, the hero of Willamette, back as the games protagonist. We find him teaching a journalism course, in a world in which zombie-ism has mostly been cured, but it’s not long before Frank is back in the midst of another, large scale outbreak.
Willamette, in the years since the first outbreak, has been rebuilt and not long after the games opening, during a Black Friday sale, the outbreak occurs. Cue Frank being pulled back into the journalist/zombie-slayer lifestyle while he searches for one of his wayward students and tries to uncover the source of the outbreak. Cue shady government organisations, maniacal survivors and a story that ties right back into the first Dead Rising. And more than that, a return to almost every zombie apocalypse movies mainstay, the mall. The Willamette Mall to be precise. To quote a famous action movie line: “How can the same s#it happen to the same guy twice?” We don’t know Frank, but we’re sure glad it did!
Dead Rising 4 keeps the same goofy, gory zombie-slaying action we love, but does change enough of the traditional gameplay to streamline the game and keep it moving forward at a brisk pace without worrying about the problems that slowed previous games in the series down. Ridiculous combo weapons, plenty of clothes to try on and thousands of zombies to slice and dice remain the order of the day.
The game also takes place in the surrounding town of Willamette and is more of an open world affair than previous games. The iconic mall is only one of many locations that you will spend your time exploring and re-killing through. The game is full of things to do and find, and chances are you’re not going to see everything in one go. Many of the buildings and shelters can be explored for rewards, weapons, blueprints and background story in the form of newspapers, cell phones and podcasts. Getting to them, however, is another story entirely.
The amount of zombies on screen at any one time is insane and perfectly displays why the terror of the slow moving hordes has endured through cinema and fiction for years. As easy as Dead Rising 4 is, and it unfortunately is a bit of a cakewalk, getting caught in the middle of a zombie swarm can still be the end of you.
There are new combos of destruction to try out, with some of the new vehicle combinations that are insanely fun. Fancy some knee high mayhem? Then combine a tricycle with a lawnmower and cut those zombies feet out from under them and turn them to mulch. The plentiful ways in which to exact vengeance are silly, over the top and just plain old fun.
New to your arsenal are military Exo Suits which add a whole new power-enhanced flavour to zombie smashing. Exo Suits can be upgraded with various environmental items. If you get tired of using an axe or minigun, you can bolt on a slushie machine and create devastating, freezing tornadoes. As powerful as the suits are, they are limited by their rapid battery drain.
Most notably absent this time around is the time limit. The story flows along in a case-by-case situation, think chapters, and does away with the three day time limit of DR 1 and 2. The game is actually better for it as it gives you the freedom to explore and just stuff around to your heart's content.
Also absent are the survivor cases. You can still rescue people when you come across them, but they don’t register as cases anymore and, most of the time, don’t need to be babysat to a survival shelter once you’ve rescued them from the predicament they’re in. This aspect of the game I do miss as, in previous games, these added a rather strategic layer of depth to the game and forced you to manage your time wisely. Despite one or two cases which were timed with some mini-objectives and offered a shelter upgrade, survivors don’t play a very large part in this sequel outside those that serve as the stories side characters.
Maniacs, those citizens who went cuckoo during the outbreak and filled the role of minibosses in the previous games, have also been downgraded. They’re just there in the world for you to kill now, with maybe one or two filling a larger, miniboss role. I honestly don’t miss them as antagonists.
The games story nicely ties back into the very first title, bringing the series full circle and, if this ends up been the last entry in the series, it’s fitting that it bow out where it began. The campaign ends rather nicely, I thought, though there is a DLC story set after the main games ending which feels more like an addendum than something that was actually needed.
Franks Big Package comes, err, packaged with all the games DLC. Included in the collection are two holiday packages that reskin enemies to specific festive times of the year, Super Ultra Dead Rising 4 Mini Golf, Frank Rising story DLC and, the drawcard, Capcom Heroes Mode. A multiplayer mode rounds out the already overstuffed package.
Super Ultra Dead Rising 4 Mini Golf is basically an Exo Suit wacky mini golf game that can be played in multiplayer. It really didn’t do much for me. The Frank Rising story DLC takes place right after the events of the main game. Harkening back to the traditional Dead Rising games (and other Capcom survival-horror games), you are tasked with escaping Willamette before it goes the way of Raccoon City and you have an hour and a half to do it in.
The Capcom Heroes Mode is the real surprise here, and a reason to replay the game. Starting right from the beginning, the experience has been altered to a more arcady affair. Littered throughout the game are stars that allow you to unlock Capcom character costumes for you to play dress up with. The caveat is that each costume imbues you with that specific characters abilities. Running through the game Million-Stabbing zombies as Dante is a total blast, while chucking out Hadokens as Ryu before launching into his AOE Shinku Tatsumaki Senpukyaku is cathartically glorious.
The costumes have a timer on them unfortunately, but Arcade cabinets from which you purchase them are so liberally scattered throughout the game, you won’t go long without playing dress up unless you specifically want to. Capcom Heroes Mode does significantly alter the way in which you play the game. The only items you can pick up are healing items or Stars to unlock more costumes. Weapons are locked out bar the ones Frank has as a default. Which doesn’t matter as you are the weapon once costumed up. Personally, I’m inclined to think this is the only way to play the game from now on.
Multiplayer places you in the role of one of four survivors who are then dropped into the various games locations and given specific objectives by Hawthorne, one of the main game characters, such as killing evolved zombies, surviving the night, etc. The randoms I had who dropped in weren’t particularly good team mates and ended up getting themselves killed very quickly. I can see a lot of potential in this mode if you play with friends as it has its own set of side objectives and challenges to complete. And there’s nothing like decimating zombie hordes with mates.
A few niggles, like the visual disparity – certain areas are loaded with low res textures and objects - and some finer control issues keep the game from been a true classic.
Dead Rising 4: Frank’s Big Package, however, is still a great game stuffed to the brim with content that will keep you playing for quite some time and is more than worth the price of admission.
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5 December 2017
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