Christmas has come early this year. Frank West, the protagonist of Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, is back for another zombie-slaying adventure in Capcom’s Dead Rising 4, returning to the town that started it all in order to expose a new conspiracy. Featuring new gameplay mechanics, more weapons and stuff to play with, and plenty of zombies and evil humans to slay, is this the best Dead Rising yet?
Dead Rising 4
Developed by Capcom Vancouver / Published by Microsoft Studios
Available on the PC and Xbox One. Reviewed on the Xbox One.
*Review code provided by Microsoft Studios
In Dead Rising 4, Frank West has retired from journalism and has become a photography professor. After a student decides to bring him to a military base to investigate claims of zombie experimentation and gets Frank involved in a manhunt, he must return to the town of Willamette (the setting of the original Dead Rising) to find out just how deep the conspiracy goes, all the while facing off against thousands of undead that sprouted up on Black Friday.
The story in Dead Rising 4 is bloody, loud, action-packed, and also loads of fun. It’s a return to form after the occasionally bland and uninspired Dead Rising 3, with Frank West returning with his signature snarky attitude and action hero persona to once against face hordes of zombies and get to the bottom of things like only he can. The writing is solid, the jokes are funny, and the variety of scenarios is great, and best of all it doesn’t take itself too seriously, returning to the lighter, sillier tones of the original.
It’s also visually pleasing as well, bringing Frank and Willamette gorgeously up to date with impressive mall and outdoor environments, fantastic character models and animations, a greater variety of zombies, and flashy, impressive lighting effects. It’s built similarly to Dead Rising 3, but with the large mall to explore and the Christmas season in full effect in the game, it’s even better.
It also plays great too, taking the best elements of all four previous entries to present the best gameplay yet. It plays similarly to its predecessors, with Frank West navigating various locations, both in the mall and the surrounding town, and facing off against zombies and humans alike with weapons found around the environment. In addition to all the melee weapons you’ll be able to wield and craft, players will also be able to use a variety of firearms and explosives with improved third-person shooter mechanics, as well as drive a selection of zombie smashing vehicles to get around the map quickly.
Dead Rising 4 borrows the most from Dead Rising 3, as it controls similarly, and comes with the improvements to movement, better gunplay controls and combat mechanics, and more that the fourth entry in the series introduced. It however also gets quite a few tweaks of its own that really help the game out, like being able to have each type of weapon at the ready (melee, ranged, and thrown) and are switched as players use them, as well as easily swap between the available inventory with the directional buttons. It’s a smooth system that does a great job at letting players switch through weapons in a flash and deal with whatever comes their way. Then there are special attacks that each melee weapon brings, but must first be charged up by keeping the combo counter going in order to use them. These are brutal strikes and wicked explosions that can deal massive damage or clear up surrounding enemies quickly, and they also look pretty awesome to boot.
Then there’s the all-new Exo Suit, which players can find hidden throughout the map and allow Frank to become a tank as he can plow through enemies and deals massive amounts of damage, dash without running of out steam, as well as wield special weaponry that require inhuman amounts of strength just to carry around. The catch however is that the suit only lasts for two minutes, so players will have to make the best of it while they’re equipped. There are random charge stations around the map that help players extend the suit’s duration as well as powerups that improve its functions, allowing Frank to cause plenty of mayhem and turn the odds in his favor. It’s a cool and fun addition to an already option-filled combat system.
Frank’s photojournalism skills also make a return, but this time with a purpose, as not only can players take photos to earn points or complete specific challenges, but the camera is also used as a tool to investigate scenes or find hidden objects. Certain areas will let Frank know that something’s amiss, and players can pull out the camera to search about and find clues, use night vision to see in the dark, or use a spectrum analyzer to find hidden stuff or find key combinations to open locked doors. It plays out similarly to investigations from the Batman: Arkham series, and they are a nice break from the constant carnage of slaying never-ending waves of zombies.
The gameplay is also the same mission-based sandbox adventure we’re familiar with, with players exploring the town of Willamette and completing missions to move the story forward, saving survivors to add to the base, fighting off strong enemies, and occasionally deviating from the main path to complete side quests. The biggest change here though is that the series’ signature timer is gone, and players can freely tackle missions as they see fit. It’s a big change that eliminates some of the urgency the game was known for (which was already slightly lessened in Dead Rising 3), which might bother some fans, but it’s a nice change that lets players have fun and take things slowly, rather than rushing through everything just to prevent a game over.
The skill unlock system from Dead Rising 3 also returns, which Is a great feature that lets players build Frank according to their strengths and preferences. Players have various skill trees to choose from, including melee, firearms, fortitude and more, and they come with quite a few options to make Frank a zombie-slaying machine. Players get experience at a rapid pace too, which lets them constantly tweak the hero as they go about completing missions.
In addition to the main campaign, the game also sees the return of multiplayer, but unfortunately, it’s the weakest version to date, as instead of story based co-op, the online play here consists of players jumping into arenas or sections of the main world and completing objectives (mostly about killing things) with three others in order to earn points, survive nights and make it on the leaderboards. It’s uninspired and pretty boring actually, and while it adds some replay value to the title, it’s definitively the weakest part of the game.
Overall, Dead Rising 4 is an excellent entry in the horror beat-em-up series, building upon its predecessors to offer the most entertaining entry yet. While the multiplayer is not terribly good, the enjoyable single player campaign and the improved zombie slaying make for a very fun time.