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Xbox 360 Review: Dead Rising

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Why must a zombie game be mindless? Sure, it’s fun to go around decapitating zombies left and right, but it’s really nothing more than masturbation. Apparently Capcom feels the same way, because if you sit around beating off in Dead Rising you’re never going to get anywhere.

Instead of opting for a traditional open ended experience where players are free to play around before starting missions, in Dead Rising everything runs by the clock. Be in the wrong place at the wrong time to start a mission, and you’ll miss it. Take too long completing other missions and you won’t have time to finish the rest. It forces you to keep moving, and while it may seem a little complicated and will cut into your random zombie bashing time, it actually makes the game very frantic and keeps things interesting. There is a chance however, that it may cause you some grief if you aren’t careful with your save points.

The game only gives you one save slot to work with, so you’ll have to be extra careful about when you save. Save with too little health and you’re going to have a hard time getting anywhere. Save with too little time and you may have to start the game over. At first this may sound like a bad design and certainly a little rough, but it actually works to provoking an emotional response in the player because you get to a point where you know you can save and you must survive.

Some gamers have criticized the system because they had to restart the game after they saved without enough time left to complete a mission; however this is not the fault of the developers but rather the fault of gamers who failed to pay attention to the game’s core element, time. Capcom was even nice enough to allow gamers who make such a mistake to carry all the skills and experience they had earned so they have a much easier time getting back to where they started.

The experience system in Dead Rising works just like it does in any other game. Earn experience, level up, gaining new skills. The neat thing about it is that not only do you get points for killing zombies and completing missions, you also get it by taking advantage of lead character Frank West’s profession, Photojournalism.

Take a picture with a bunch of zombies standing around and you’ll earn a couple of points. Take a picture of a bunch of zombies being eviscerated by you’re comrades (or better yet, eviscerating your comrades) and you’ve hit the jackpot. In short, get a picture that provokes emotion and you’ll be rewarded. The more emotion, the more points you earn, and yes, zombie panty shots do count because even undead snatch spurs “emotion” in some men. Of course zombies aren’t the only thing you can take a picture of, as there are also a handful of survivors scattered around the mall.

Some survivors are just poor souls, trapped by legions of the undead and in desperate need of saving. When you find these people you’ll be happy at first because they’re worth a lot of experience if you can save them, but that happiness is going to quickly fade when you realize they seem to be Darwin award all-stars.

Controlling your party members is pretty simple, basically point and click, but that’s where the simplicity ends. Members of your party will often take the path of most resistance, opting to ignore the clear path you’ve cut and instead charge headlong into a sea of zombies. The problem can be somewhat remedied by holding one of the survivors hand or by giving them some weapons to defend themselves with, but ultimately they’re still little more than chum. The survivor’s you find that aren’t in need of your help aren’t going to be much kinder either.

Psychopaths, as the game calls them, are survivors who couldn’t quite handle the stress of seeing their loved ones torn limb from limb. Every one of them is unique and in some cases their stories are quite touching. One psychopath is a Vietnam vet who snapped when the zombies came and started hacking up anyone who couldn’t give him a name, rank and serial number. At first he seems to be just another crazy but after he’s defeated and you learn that he was driven mad by watching his granddaughter be eaten alive you can’t help but feel sorry for him.

Dead Rising’s other main fault, aside from the escorting, is that while the main characters look amazing, secondary characters and zombie have significantly smaller polygon counts and lower resolution textures. It doesn’t really stand out during game play where hundreds of zombies are lurking, but it’s very noticeable and can sometimes be a bit distracting during the game’s otherwise amazing cut scenes.

All in all, Dead Rising is an expertly crafted game, with rich story, high production values and some really neat ideas about how an open ended game should be played. Its faults are only minor and at worst on par with the industry average. The save system will only give you trouble if you’re too dumb to read a watch — and if you can read one, you’ll probably barely notice it’s there.

If you just want to sit there smashing zombies all day like a masturbating monkey, then you’re best to steer clear. Yes there is lot of chaos and blood to be found, plus use over 250 weapons to reap undead lives, but there’s so much more to the game and it’s that little something extra that makes it a truly incredible experience.

Dead Rising is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Use of Alcohol.

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About Jason Westhaver

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    Oh yes, so dumb. I mean, if I need to go to work, need to save quick to leave, and am forced to redo six hours of gameplay when I get back, it’s a perfect system!

    Or maybe I get a request to play something else from a friend and need to save quick. Playing for another 20 minutes is perfectly acceptable because the design is perfect!

    Simply put, it’s completely ridiculous. The timed gameplay is fine. The single save slot is utterly absurd. If the game was a few hours long, I could see it. Of course, it’s not, and a few of the boss fights are rough. Replaying any portion of a beat-em-up is never fun, and the genre is my favorite.

    Letting the players keep their stats isn’t a kind feature, its required. To even attempt the overtime mode in anything less than level 15 or so is impossible. You HAVE to restart the game a few times to even stand a chance because of bad design. Oh, and the less said about the stupid ass people who walk either straight into the range of your weapon or right into the mouth of zombies the better.

    I can’t fathom how that’s acceptable to anyone.

  • http://www.njiska.com Jason “Njiska” Westhaver

    Hey if you save often you’ll be fine. Just don’t save when you’ve less then 5 real world minutes to do something.

    You don’t need to keep playing for twenty minutes to accomplish something, you can just stop in any of the plentyful bathrooms and save just fine.

    The fact is you just aren’t saving and paying attention to time and that is your problem.

    And to make a point i never restarted over at a higher level, nor did i ever do any FF power leveling (although i did take the car for a spin in the maintence tunnels every now and then when i had time) and i never had a problem with the save system, nor difficult.

  • darkbhudda

    Well, Japanese RPGs have been giving us bad save points for years. I end up pausing the game overnight when they hide the save point in some ridiculous spot or during day if I play before work.

  • http://www.folonline.net Kay

    This is part of what is ruining games today – people calling challenges “bad design”.

    I remember the days of NES, SNES where you sat and finished a game at a go or not at all (e.g. Battletoads, TMNT, Double Dragon as illustrated at my website). Being able to save at all was a blessing. Now, people want to be able to save at any time without any repercussion.

    So boring.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    But back then, games were a few hours long at best. I can rip through Double Dragon in about an hour and a half. Restarting wasn’t that much of a problem. They were built around memorization too. Also, we were kids back then with plenty of time on our hands.

    My problem isn’t with the fact that you can’t save anywhere, it’s that saving can force a full restart. When you’re in a rush, you don’t always pay attention to the four or five missions currently open. You need to go, so you head to a save point only to come back and realize you screwed yourself.

    “and i never had a problem with the save system, nor difficult.”

    Funny, I seem to remeber you ready to toss the controller and complaining about the “ridiculous” clown boss.

  • http://www.njiska.com Jason “Njiska” Westhaver

    Yeah i did think the Clown was ridiculous, until i realized i was being an idiot and not paying attention to how he moved. I wasn’t realizing that this block with his chainsaw destroyed weapons. Once I corrected MY mistake he was quite beatable.

    And as for your further complaint with the save system you just verified my point by stating you weren’t paying attention. It’s not hard to do, press left on the d-pad and check the time. Then either spend 5 minutes finishing one, or save. Easy as pie.

    Besides if you do screw up and have to restart (which only happens if you don’t pay attention) you still carry all your stats over so not only can you get through missions faster, but you do what you always wanted to do, “Just kill zombies.”

  • liam blair

    well dead rising is a very good game but also boring sometime.you get bored of killing zombies all the time and when you complete the game there is nothing else to do.