The Age of the Remaster continues, with plenty of old games finding new homes on current-generation consoles and PC. Sometimes that’s great, sometimes it’s not, and I find that games that were previously console-exclusive make for the best remasters. For instance, if you’ve never owned an Xbox 360, then this is actually your first chance to check out the debut of Capcom’s other zombie franchise now that it’s back back to life on modern consoles and PC!
While Dead Rising 2 and Off the Record both infected their zombie charms on other platforms, the first game was stuck shambling on Ol’ Red Ring for years. Fans of zombies, cameras, and malls can rejoice as Dead Rising Remastered is back!
Dead Rising follows photojournalist Frank West, who’s covered wars and is now going to cover a mysterious riot in the town of Willamette, Colorado. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the riot in question is actually an outbreak of the undead. Frank’s not going to let that stop him, though, so he drops into the town’s shopping mall via helicopter to get the scoop. His ride will be coming back in three days to pick up Frank and will be leaving with or without him at the same time, so the pressure is on to find the truth and survive the zombie menace. Zombies! Malls! What could possibly go wrong?
If you’ve played the other games in the series, you’ve got a pretty good idea of how this one works. Frank starts out fairly weak, only able to take a couple zombie bites before perishing, but will gradually grow more powerful as you gain Prestige Points for photography and zombie-slaying. You can defend yourself from the undead using…well, pretty much anything, really! Grab a bench or garbage can if nothing’s nearby! Learning the best way of dealing with zombies based on what sort of improvised weaponry is around you is key to survival. Zombies aren’t the only issue, though, as plenty of people just couldn’t handle the strain when the outbreak began and have snapped; these psychopaths serve as the game’s boss battles.
While Dead Rising did a lot to showcase how great a zombie game could be, I don’t find that it stands up quite as well today as the later games in the series. One of the biggest issues is the lack of a weapon combining system, since that was originally introduced later in Dead Rising 2. The number of weapons you’ll actually want to grab is significantly lower, plus those weapons are more powerful since you don’t need to combine them with anything, so rather than scavenging like you’d expect it tends to be easier to just load up on gear that you know is the best. Subsequent Dead Rising games let you get a lot more mileage out of grabbing whatever is around and combining it when you need a weapon.
There’s a few other qualms with the first game in the series as well. For instance, there’s no currency or anything like that, which cuts down on variety and potential rewards a bit. There was also a significant upgrade to your fellow survivors’ AI and ability to defend themselves in Dead Rising 2…which isn’t present here, so they’re dumb as bricks and need to be babysat if you’re interested in saving them.
Still, Dead Rising is a classic for a reason. It’s a great reminder of the glory days of the zombie fad, back before nagging hunger and thirst meters replaced the undead as the enemy of choice. This was one of the first games that really let loose the hordes and forced you to fight your way through armies of zombies, so it’s worth checking out even if the later games are better overall.
It’s a lot more enjoyable to fight through those armies when you’re playing at 60FPS, of course, and this remaster handles that with flying colors. The game rarely chokes for more than a split-second or so even with huge hordes onscreen; fans of the original game will remember how much it chugged in general, even at 30FPS. What’s more, the game’s loading times have been significantly reduced, which takes a lot of the sting out of moving between areas, watching cutscenes and just generally enjoying the carnage.
As mentioned, this was the most difficult entry in the Dead Rising series to find before Dead Rising: Remastered made it all kinds of easy, so there’s a good chance you haven’t tried it yet. With that in mind, it’s well worth the budget price to see how the series began and to get to know Frank West. Gamers who have already played through this one, though, don’t have much reason to do so again and should stick with Off The Record if they want more Frank.