Dead Rising can be a difficult game to enjoy. Peculiar design choices, especially in the first outing, alongside an odd personality make the series challenging, occasionally unfair, and cringe worthy to experience. However, these same traits are also part of why the series is so beloved, and this triple pack provides a terrific selection to appeal to your nostalgia or introduce you to the strange zombie shenanigans.
This triple pack enhances the resolution of the three titles – Dead Rising, Dead Rising 2, and Dead Rising 2: Off The Record – as well as increasing their framerate, but are otherwise faithful ports of the originals. That is except for Dead Rising, which is further enhanced with a few additional save slots, which come in very handy in seeing the several ending the title has in store. As such, if you struggled to enjoy this trio of zombie slaying action games the first time around, then this re-release won’t have anything new to entice you. Furthermore, the standalone Xbox Live Arcade titles, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero and Dead Rising 2: Case West, are also missing in action, which is a bit of shame as the collection certainly feel incomplete without these bite-sized gems.
In Dead Rising you pay as Frank West, photojournalist looking to uncover precisely what’s going on in the sleepy town of Willamette that’s now overrun with zombies. The homage to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is obvious, with the entire adventure taking place within a mall, but Dead Rising spins an original and intriguing tale that serves to keep you engaged despite its challenging difficulty.
And indeed it’s very challenging. The sheer amount of zombies that litter the mall’s halls and stores is staggering, and they attack aggressive and forcefully, knocking your health away with ease in the early game. But this is a big part of its design; you’re supposed to feel overwhelmed and desperate, and it encourages you to scavenge for weapons and use whatever you can find to defend yourself.
This is the crux of the experience and it’s delightfully silly and satisfying. Grabbing a carousal and ploughing into the horde of zombies is amusing and effective at clearing a path, meanwhile, grabbing baseball bats, knives, swords, tables, and even lawn mowers, allows you to gruesomely decapitate, smash, slice and maim the undead obstacles in ever more creative ways. It’s compelling stuff that can easily keep you entertained for hours on end.
However, time is forever marching forwards, and in order to uncover what’s going on you’ll need to complete objectives before their time limits expire. These involve meeting people at certain locations and times within the mall, saving survivors that are trapped by the undead, and defeating psychopaths that have completely lost their minds and are on a rampage. Completing them all is difficult, in fact completing them at all is difficult, due to how restrictive the time limits are and how easy it is to die.
And when you do die, which you most assuredly will, you’re given the choice of re-loading the last save you made – which can only be made manually in safe rooms or toilets – or starting the game fresh with your experience carrying over. Indeed, Dead Rising is Roguelike is this way, allowing you to restart with your current character level and all the perks that level brings, including a more varied and effective move-set, damage modifiers, and more health. This makes the very difficult early game more manageable, although still frustrating, but after a handful of deaths, you’ll be better prepared to crack open the mystery of the zombie outbreak.
However, as competent as you may become at slaying the undead and managing your objectives to fulfil them within their strict time limits, the friendly AI is dumb as a rock. Saving the survivors in the mall is a Herculean task, with AI path finding often completely failing and the survivor’s combat skills being poor or in some cases entirely absent. It’s hugely frustrating trying to save them and is a task best left until you’ve levelled up your character entirely and are willing to start again from the beginning with your complete set of skills and knowledge.
Dead Rising 2 fortunately makes huge improvements to the AI. In the second outing the survivors of Fortune City – a caricature of Las Vegas – are savvy enough to follow you and strong enough to fight off or dodge the many zombies. Furthermore, Dead Rising 2 improves the controls significantly, providing you with more responsive movement and better combat.
This time around you play as new protagonist Chuck Green, who is trapped in Fortune City with his infected daughter, and must find daily injections of Zombrex for her to prevent her from turning completely. Whilst you can still use whatever objects you can find to fight off the hungry undead, you can also craft magnificent weapons from everyday items. Find a rake and a car battery, tape them together and you have an electrified rake. Find some gems and a torch and you’ve got yourself and light sabre, of course. It’s a terrific evolution of the original outings combat system.
The third outing takes the setting and core story of Dead Rising 2 and adapts it to fit returning protagonist Frank West. It’s a fan service title for those who missed the original protagonist but smart changes are made to make it feel new enough to justify the return to Fortune City.
Indeed, the Dead Rising games don’t have the most consistent or clear cannon to its overall narrative, but it’s intriguing nonetheless. The twists and turns take you on quite the rollercoaster in a TV soup style that’s hard not to enjoy. Individually, each game’s story is a well-paced mystery that feeds you a great mixture of questions and answers to keep you engaged until the end. And as a set you can certainly feel that a bigger picture is being painted outside of the characters you’ve met. It’s corny and the psychopath’s special brand of insanity is utterly over-the-top, but it’s thoroughly entertaining.
The Roguelike aspect of dying and retrying makes each title’s early game very difficult, and at any level the psychopaths are a bit of a nuisance to fight, but the delight you get from massacring the many zombies is a wonderful reward, and the story is engrossing despite its corniness. The improvement in resolution and framerate are subtle but the fun is timeless, making this triple pack a joy to play.
Thanks to Xbox and Capcom for supporting TiX