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Dead Rising 4
Game Reviews

Dead Rising 4

Frank West returns in a lighter, fluffier zombie-killing action thriller with less of the grit and more of the BOOM.

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Look, if you’re one of the two people who read these things, I’d like to impart a little advice. Presumably you read video game reviews because you care about video games and want to play the best ones around, so I’m going to tell you the easiest way to tell which games are worth your time.

First, you’re going to need access to social media; you don’t need an account or anything, since you won’t be posting, and I recommend Twitter as the easiest source of material. Next, I want you to browse around and find the feeds belonging to smuggest, most arrogant, least pleasant nerds, we’re talking the most serious possible cases of unwarranted self-importance possible dropping the hottest takes they can. You’re not going to have very much trouble finding that kind of person since they’re basically the reason social media exists. I can think of at least three off the top of my head, and I’m sure if you’ve paid attention to the Video Game Community you can do the same.

Here’s the trick: every time one of those people proudly announces that they aren’t purchasing a particular game or product, you need to rush out post haste and pick up a copy because there’s a good chance it’s going to be gold. The more self-satisfied they are about their purchasing decisions, the better. Double points if they’ve “lost faith in the series,” think that the publisher or developer is “a terrible company,” any sort of hyperbolic statement like that should be a shining beacon that the game in question is probably going to be decent at least. My advice applies to pretty much anything that someone proudly announces they aren’t buying, but more level-headed types don’t use social media and, if they do, don’t presume that people care what they aren’t going to pre-order or purchase.

I’ve even got a great recent example of how well this works: Final Fantasy XV has been a favorite target, with nerds literally clambering over other nerds’ flabby bodies in an effort to be the first to proclaim that They’re Not Buying It. Naturally, it turned out to be kind of amazing. Look at recent Call of Duty titles, all of which have had interesting ideas and gameplay as well as plenty of “connoisseurs” puffing about not playing them, or even a near-universally-acclaimed title like Overwatch if you need more evidence. If you aren’t convinced by my system yet then maybe Dead Rising 4, which is currently soaking up plenty of nerd ire, might change your mind.

Scummy photojournalist and zombie-mulching badass Frank West returns in the latest iteration of the series; after (sorta-kinda) saving the world in the first game by uncovering some shady goings-on in Willamette, Colorado, Frank fell from grace as we saw in Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. Years later, Frank’s been reduced to teaching night classes on photography for cheap. When one of his students tips him off on some shady government experiments, though, one thing leads to another, and when the dust settles Frank finds himself in Willamette once more, this time at a new, improved and much fancier mall. He’s once again out to get the scoop and the glory while hopefully avoiding becoming zombie chow.

As you’ve probably heard, most likely by someone crowing about their smart purchasing decisions, Dead Rising 4 takes some interesting liberties with the series and guides it in a significantly different direction. The most notable difference is that this is the first game in the series that doesn’t feature the iconic timer at all; Dead Rising 3 largely removed this aspect of the game, but it was technically still there, just vastly extended over the previous two titles. Here it’s gone entirely. Yes, that means you’re no longer constrained by the tyranny of the clock, so feel free to romp around and go nuts. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a good or bad change. Players who’ve stuck with the series might miss the constant sense of tension that stemmed from being on a constant deadline, but it’s equally possible that those who avoided Dead Rising because of that tension might have a better time with a zombie game that’s more about killing zombies.

Speaking of that: boy, do you kill some zombies in this game. There are tons of them and you’ve got all the time in the world to lay waste to the horde with all manner of weaponry, including the return of the iconic combo weapon system. Dead Rising 4 definitely leans toward the silly side of the series; there’s a definite contrast with Dead Rising 3, which instead went the more sober, gritty route (at least ostensibly, as the game was still hilarious at heart) right down to a washed-out graphical style that 4 abandons for a more animated look.

That’s not to say everything is unfamiliar. You’ll still fight deranged humans as bosses, for instance, and there’s still a fair amount of side content to check out between story beats.  Other changes are hard to consider anything but improvements: no more escort quests featuring boneheaded AI survivors, for instance. Now the survivors will make it back to safety themselves, so you don’t have to worry about them getting stuck on things or running into walls. I suppose some might lament the loss of this aspect of the game, but personally I saw survivors get hung up on stairwells a few times too many in the earlier games, so it comes as a breath of fresh air.

Even if you end up absolutely despising all the changes to the Dead Rising formula on offer here, it’s likely you’ll still appreciate the game’s new control scheme. You’ve got ranged weapons, thrown weapons, melee weapons and healing all assigned to their own “slots,” each of which are accessed and used via different controls. In practice, this means that you don’t have to fumble around to get to your gun when you want a ranged weapon. Instead you’re able to draw your firearms smoothly, blast away, and then have your melee weapon ready to go immediately. In particular, this drastically improves thrown weapons since they can serve as a backup option while you have something else equipped. It’s pretty great.

You’ve got plenty of oddball gear to fill those slots with, of course, including a sledgehammer with grenades taped to the head and a pair of sonic-powered bell-gloves; those are some of the tamer options, by the way. You’ve also got the game’s iconic powered exosuits to rampage around in, which is great fun. The friendlier controls and vast selection of powerful gear tend to make Dead Rising 4 one of the easier games in the series, but that could just be the lack of a time limit talking.

As mentioned, Dead Rising 4 steps away from the ultra-gritty graphical style seen in the third game, aiming instead for an evolution on the more cartoony style from the original. It looks pretty good and runs well, with some unsurprising but thankfully uncommon frame drops here and there during crowded moments. Sound and music are both decent, though something must be said for Frank’s new voice actor; the man tries, but he just doesn’t sound like he’s covered wars, you know?

There’s a multiplayer option as well, allowing up to 4 players to team up and squish zombos while searching for survival equipment, but it’s more of a side attraction to the campaign. It should probably also be mentioned that there’s a DLC nontroversy going around about this game’s ending; you should look at that as something that will probably make people say they won’t buy the game on social media, then act according to the above advice.

It’s not the greatest game in existence – and as Dead Rising games go, 2’s combination of tension, comedy and horror has yet to be beat – but Dead Rising 4 is a solid and enjoyable zombie-exploding simulator. If you’re into running around grabbing junk, making weapons out of said junk and using those weapons to take out the undead in droves, you could do a lot worse. Some of the changes are bound to shake up series vets, but the formula doesn’t collapse under the weight of the changes, and the more relaxed style is likely to appeal to a broader variety of players.

As for the rest of what we talked about here, just keep it in mind: the next time someone’s really proud of themselves for not buying a game, you should probably consider checking that game out. It’s the games nobody talks about at all that you might consider skipping.

About the Author: Cory Galliher