Dead Rising 4 Review
Where in the World is Frank West? It’s the question that has been on our lips since 2010 when he made a DLC appearance in Dead Rising 2. Cut to 2016 and we find him hiding from the aftermath of covering many major world events, now teaching photojournalism for people’s special events. Duped into revisiting Willamette by Vick, a sassy young student with an idealistic axe to grind, her motivations being the polar opposite of our now jaded Mr West. Once again Frank finds himself involved in the middle of a zombie fight pursuing a mission he didn’t ask for. Thrown in with militant groups, rising cults and crazy biochemical experiments Dead Rising 4 is a Christmas special to die for, and then rise again to play. New characters and a backfilling story breathed new life into a long running franchise, whilst paying homage to its rich history of slicing through shambling hordes of the undead.
After so many zombie games, movies, television shows, books, I could keep naming them but you get the point, it’s a saturated market and Dead Rising knows it. Frank West is weary, he’s had enough of the mayhem but once again he’s thrown under the bus and expected to save the world with his photojournalism skills, even if his motivations are more monetary than moral. Much of the story felt influenced by the money hungry nature of the consumer driven market, right down to rewarding you for destroying Christmas ornaments in game. Our young female protagonist provided an interesting story arc that represented the current generation of idealistic youth quite well, she was a great counterpoint to Frank’s cynical, older perspective. I liked the story, there was a lot to like but it could have done with a bit more padding. Six cases were available to play through focused on an outbreak in Willamette which wasn’t a lot of time to unpack the variety of shit storms that unfolded during the disaster. Like modern media only skims the surface of news stories, Dead Rising adopted a similar attitude to a lot of their storyline, and they even threw in a selfie option with Frank’s camera to underline their point.
Shredding through the crowds of undead lacked the same fun that previous instalments and their weapons caches provided. It might be because the previous game handed many wild and wacky blueprints without too much exploration or effort, but number four didn’t hand out the mandatory blueprints with the same fervour. Instead if you wanted a greater variety of weapons it was necessary to find special areas and survivors which can become very tedious and time consuming when you’re focused on progressing through the story. The bizarre nature of the weapons in previous games was the source of much entertainment between missions. Because the game was set in a small town the repertoire of organic items available to craft peculiar weapons is limited. Vehicles were much more amusing and effective at mass destroying zombies, even in an unmodified vehicle it was easy to rank up enormous kill streaks without the effort. In many ways the combat against the undead was just more filler for the game, personally I don’t feel they added any challenge, they just gave you something to destroy on the way to the next objective. Human enemies were mildly more challenging with their varied movements and projectile weapons, but if beating them wasn’t a part of the linear story it was easy enough to run past them.
Customising Frank’s outfits has been a long running and amusing feature of the series, there are endless options to find laying around people’s homes, like a Fire Man’s helmet, paired with a Girl Scout uniform and biker boots. However occasionally the various elements of our hero’s costume would pixelate like some bizarre warping scene from the Matrix, creating an 8-bit portal where Frank’s neck once was. Mostly the visuals were great but perfect they were not which is in part a reflection of the console’s limitation’s and not just the game’s programming. Design wise I liked the game, it felt appropriate for a zombie apocalypse and for a town of desperate people fighting an enemy they didn’t fully understand. Everything was a chaotic mess which suited the story dynamic nicely, although for a small American town that has been isolated by the military Willamette can produce a mind boggling number of undead. Connecting small town America with today’s youth and adding an exploratory element to the games was Frank’s camera which had 3 different modes (and the selfie option) which were used to explore the area for story clues. This camera and the three different visual modes provided truly engaging gameplay as you thumbed through every part of the mission area.
Reflecting on the experience, Dead Rising 4 was slightly repetitive hack and slash fun with some great improvements but could have had a little more life inserted into it. There was a good story and plenty of side missions to pad out the game, a little like a push up bra: on the outside there’s plenty of filling, but take away the pieces of padding and you’re left wishing for a little more. Technology has improved enough that it looks pretty but occasionally does something to remind you that consoles are limited beasts and game’s graphics haven’t quite caught up to real life. In a realm overpopulated by the walking dead Frank West’s return was a fresh morsel of fun that wasn’t perfect but set a good standard for sequels and returning main characters. The fresh plots, mixing the young idealistic youth with the money hungry older generation was an interesting contrast that provided unexpected and insightful cut scenes, when they weren’t making mildly crude jokes. Playing through the game to find all the special items, blueprints and survivors is an option but if I’m being honest I won’t for this game. There is plenty of fun to be had with a controller and Dead Rising 4 but for me that ended when the story finished.
About: Sarah Rigg
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