Dead Rising 4 Rises to the Occasion and Takes a Bite out of Christmas
Dead Rising was actually the first games I personally bought for the 360 way back when, and alongside Gears Of War, is a series that personally exemplifies the Xbox experience for me.
Regular readers probably noticed Dead Rising 4 wasn't mentioned in our look at the state of horror in 2016 -- and that wasn't just because it hadn't come out yet. For all the blood, guts, and undead mayhem, Dead Rising has never been a horror series, but rather a comedy one... perhaps until now.
Returning To Consumer Hell
While Frank West returns to his old haunt Willamette in this entry, there's quite a few changes to the formula this time around, including a darker feel to the story and some of the locations (like an incineration room some psychopath setup for zombie test subjects),
The story has really never mattered before, but this time it's more front and center, beginning with a nightmare as Frank deals with a lack of fame after cracking the case in the first game.
This time around he also brings along a fellow journalist acting as his moral compass, complaining about immorality and atrocities committed by your enemies while Frank cracks wise and kills untold hordes of zombies.
Why on earth would Frank go back to Willamette you ask? Well, he wouldn't, and is lured there against his will, warning his companion things will go terribly wrong. Those dire predictions are of course ignored, and then all hell breaks loose just as Frank arrives. All that bluster is just for show though... Frank loves this stuff as much as the player.
There's a new mystery to unlock below and on the streets of Willamette.
Obviously something shady is going down again in Willamette, and only Frank can find out the truth, all while mowing down a couple of hundred thousand zombies along the way.
I'm Dreaming Of A Blood Stained Christmas
Frank is in over his head at the beginning, getting into a fist fight with a zombie with no weapon at hand, but within minutes you will be absolutely gore soaked as the kill counter increases (with some impressive blood effects on the clothing).
Quickly you'll find new ways to hobble together ridiculous combo weapons to more efficiently deal a second death to the undead masses, and yes, the absurd wrestling combo moves make their triumphant, blood-splattered return.
Oh Lord this is so satisfying.
While the second game had a casino focus and the third was about shifting away from malls into a town, Dead Rising 4 has a strong Christmas / holiday consumerism slant. A rendition of "O Christmas Tree" during an animated cut scene showing the city's downfall as the infection spreads in particular really drives the theme home.
Changes To The Series
Once you are finally set loose in the open world to cause mayhem as you please, long time fans will notice some pretty big changes. Of particular note are that escort missions and timers are gone, which is a welcome change from days of yore.
People have complained that those elements made Dead Rising what it is, but they honestly made the series memorable in a very bad way. As far as I'm concerned, removing the most annoying and frustrating parts of a game series is a good thing.
The camera snapshots from the first game are resurrected, but with more of a story component this time as you seek out clues to get the real scoop on what's going on.
Finding clues... or taking ridiculous selfies with zombies, either works.
As usual, there are crazy powerful weapons to be built but there are even more combos this time, including many vehicle-style weapons you drive over or through zombies.
Most importantly, Frank can build combos on the fly absolutely anywhere from a radial menu rather than a workbench. As long as he has the parts, the combo can be built.
No more searching for a workbench while wading through seas of zombies!
While the story is a little less ridiculous and more serious this time around, the gameplay certainly isn't.
As usual, the option is there to dress Frank in the most absurd, ridiculous outfits ever, and they're even more cringe-inducing than many of the oddball entries from the earlier games.
You can definitely add some levity to the story cut scenes while having Frank dressed like Morrigan from Darkstalkers, or in a hilarious shark suit that will get absolutely covered in buckets of blood.
The Bottom Line
Dead Rising 4 is the easiest of the bunch, as the difficult has been lowered a bit from previous games. Some gameplay issues return to frustrate however, like unsatisfying gun usage (literally anything else is a better weapon), and occasional difficulty in picking up cluttered items and quickly switching between them.
Those are just downfalls you've got to deal with for the incredibly fun experience of running over / slicing through / blowing up / pounding to bits / electrifying as many zombies as you possibly can, though.
The humor is still there as Frank throws out the quips fast and furious, and its downright impressive just how many zombies they can get on the screen at one time.
While a few of the core elements have changed, they have really changed for the better, and in terms of pure gameplay, Dead Rising 4 is among the best the series has ever seen.
If a lightning axe doesn't convince you to play, nothing will!