Tis the season to be jolly and to slay zombies in a festive manner! Dead Rising 4 is finally here after a long, controversial journey and it plans to be even more insanely bloodthirsty than previous instalments. Dead Rising has always been a series which has captivated a loyal fanbase and introduced many dynamic gameplay elements other developer use. But in recent years the series has fallen short in many respects and it’s not sounding too good for Capcom’s zombie gem. Can Dead Rising 4 rise above expectations and deliver a crowning moment for the series?
Good news everyone! The legendary zombie slayer Frank West has returned (well sort of returned) and has been called upon to investigate strange events in an isolated military base. With the help of a student named Vicki, they discover a horrific conspiracy involving a new batch of zombies, a sinister military organization and best of all it’s only a mile or so away from the town that started this trend of outbreaks, Willamette. What can go wrong? Well, a whole new zombie outbreak for one thing and Frank’s prime suspect number one while Vicki betrays and leaves Frank to take the heat.
Having been in hiding for a few weeks under the name of Hank East (ha yeah, it’s kind of funny) he’s visited by former Special Forces badass Brad (Dead Rising 3). Frank has been asked to help Brad return to Willamette when the outbreak reaches critical point and Black Friday turns into more of a scene from Dawn of the Dead (nothing different from real life Black Friday). To end the outbreak, resolve himself and find Vicki, he must take his camera and discover the truth back in Willamette.
It’s great to get Frank back in the town that started it all, with a new campaign expanding on the lore and brings in a new mystery for this zombie outbreak. The narrative is filled to the brim with crazed military figures dominating for power, zombies eating the flesh of the living and Frank capturing it all with his camera while causing mass mayhem in bizarre ways. Dead Rising 4 is set during the Christmas period and this captivates in injecting interesting themes on capitalism, greed and materialism while introducing crazy weaponry centered on the festive season. All of these elements are interesting but the main plot itself doesn’t bring anything new and exciting to the table.
While the comedy is well crafted and Frank himself is more of a buzz compared to previous incarnations, the plot just reframes from the same tired plot of soldiers, zombies and a big cover-up. Granted it’s good if you’ve not played the other games and indeed you won’t get lost not knowing anything prior to this game. But I don’t understand why we can’t get a narrative with a little depth in the character or have bigger twists and turns that truly engage the player.
For a large part, it’s fine and does keep you invested enough to play through the campaign but by the end, not all is resolved. More on that later in the review.
But what has always benefited the so-so story was the time limitations and the removal is both a good and bad decision. The bad is off course; you get very little replay value or that push to decide on what you want to achieve on this playthrough. This has helped as the story could be put on the back burner and while you just messed around, you could pick up interesting details and get more engaged the next time you start the campaign. I did spend about 10 hours just exploring the town, collecting weapon blueprints and finding survivors and only engaged the story if I needed to progress into a new area. For this aspect, removal of the timer does work as the game is massively enjoyable.
There’s an immense collective of weapon unlocks, exploration and collectables in the game, making it more engaging than some previous titles. Obtaining weapon blueprints is highly rewarding as the combinations can be just insane when using. There are some duds but most of the weapons and vehicle combinations are hugely enjoyable to use and you’ll never be left in a situation where you can’t make something brutal and have a hell of time playing the game. Fighting zombies and maniacs is highly exhilarating and additions such as the Exo suits make short gameplay moments frantically brilliant.
Improvements to the inventory are well received and the removal of escort quests is a Godsend. You just need to help a random survivor from a group of undead and they make their own way back to one of a few safe houses in the town. There’s also panic rooms to locate which have blueprints and other goodies which act as very satisfying rewards.
Other changes do lend to the game being easier but having replayed the older games, elements such as regenerating health upgrades, on the spot weapon creations and no super zombies after 7pm aren’t so bad. This lends to the gameplay just flowing better and eliminates the annoying and at times infuriating crushing blow of cheap kills from zombie hordes. I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating DR1 was playing it again after so many years. Plus you get new zombie types and certain perks can’t be unlocked until you reach a certain level such as regenerating health.
But Dead Rising 4 is fairly easy on a whole and my death toll didn’t even reach above 4. Another major disappointment is the removal of the iconic psychopaths and instead we get watered down alternatives known as maniacs who normally take the form of crazed gas mask wearing survivors, soldiers or from time to time a small boss battle. These could’ve been expanded upon and with the Christmas/Black Friday theme it would’ve been easy to make up some cool, exciting psychopaths to battle.
Among the problems, Dead Rising 4 is also buggy with a few instances of clipping, glitches in character animations and some mission tracking features were disrupted with the auto save system. This also affected certain features such as updating weapons loadouts, so where I had collected/made new weapons and loading the game removed most of them unless I continued with the story. Even though the game did save and I had all my updated inventory in order. It made the experience a little infuriating knowing how much fun it can be.
But the biggest letdown is by far the lack of a proper ending. It just ends abruptly and without a real conclusion to finish off what would be a rather good game. There’s also the possibility of having to buy the ending as a form of DLC from Capcom which is a complete and total d**k move. Then there’s the multiplayer, which to me isn’t bad just very underwhelming as an experience. Why couldn’t we play a four player co-op in the campaign? That would’ve been amazing! The multiplayer we get is just a series of mission based tasks that are limited and rather dull in comparison. Shame really.
In the end Dead Rising is certainly a mixed bag but has some brilliant factors to push it to high average. The zombie slaying, immense weaponry, destruction and exploration are fantastic and will keep you invested for a huge amount of time. Whereas the thin narrative, removal of classic elements, the buggy nature and lack of ending just make it uncomfortable to pay full price. Dead Rising 4 is definitely worth checking out but Capcom seriously need to make some improvements and restore certain factors to make Dead Rising 5 a success for newcomers and fans.
Dead Rising 4
- Immense amount of fun
- Awesome level of customization
- Good humor
- Plenty of zombie action
- Little too easy for long time fans
- Buggy with some annoying glitches
- Story elements aren't new or captivating
- Ending is total bulls**t
- Multiplayer is an underwhelming experince