Dead Rising Xbox 360 Review

It has been a decade since Capcom brought survival horror to the masses with Resident Evil. In that time there has been little advancement in the genre; it’s always been pretty much a case of more of the same. But now Capcom have taken the genre to a whole new level. No more spooky old houses or gothic castles; no more compulsory objectives and linear gameplay; this time ’round the settings are more contemporary and the gameplay is totally open-ended. In a nod to George A Romero the action takes place in a shopping mall and the story, should you choose to follow it, is worthy of any big screen zombie flick. At the start of the game our hero, photojournalist Frank West, enters the town of Willamette by helicopter. The town is cordoned off by the military and there’s something funny going on. He is able to jump off at the local shopping mall before his ride is forced out of the town’s airspace by the military’s own choppers. This is where the action starts and as you venture from the rooftop you pass through the game’s central point, the malls security offices, before you enter the mall proper and encounter the survivors. Some beautifully rendered cut scenes reveal your predicament and it’s not long before the zombies break their way in. Then it’s back to the security office where the game starts properly.

Being an open-ended game there’s several ways you can play the game. You have 72 hours before the chopper comes back to pick you up and you can do what you like in that time. The intended way is to follow the game’s main story taking the form of a series of cases, and the first one is triggered when you go to re-enter the mall. Once started you have a set amount of time to complete a series of tasks in, and if you complete the first then subsequent cases are triggered at specific times. If you’re not back at the security office when a case is due you will miss it and all following cases. If that happens you’ll never find out who is behind the zombies. I won’t spoil the story for you, but whether you’re a fan of zombie movies or not you’ll find it gripping enough to give you the motivation to follow it. If for whatever reason you don’t follow the story, it is still possible to complete the game on its most basic level, and there are plenty of things to keep you occupied for the game’s time span. There are plenty of sub missions, called scoops (well, you are playing a journalist) which are radioed to you by Otis the janitor. These are also time triggered like the case missions, and also like the case missions only last for a certain time before they expire. The scoop missions are mainly rescuing survivors from the mall if you can get to them before the zombies do, but there are also a series of boss battles, ranging from a chainsaw juggling clown to a Viet Nam vet gone native, with plenty of other psychos as well. These scoop missions are optional though, with no real penalties for missing them. If you wish you can just spend the whole 72 hours taking out zombies with any of the game’s multitude of weapons.

For an open-ended, free-roaming game, the map you’re given is comparatively small to other games of this type, but the size of the environment is offset by the wide variety of weaponry at your disposal. Practically every item on the map – and there are hundreds – can be picked up and used as a weapon. You aren’t just limited to the usual guns and knives and the like here; everyday objects can also be lethal to the zombie horde. Every shop in the mall is well stocked with an arsenal of destruction – bowling balls from sporting goods send those zombies flying like pins, showerheads from hardware can be planted in a zombies skull to drizzle you with claret – you can even nip into women’s accessories and hit them with your handbag. Unlike most games though, all weapons have a limited usage before they disappear, even the vehicles you’ll find in the car park and underground tunnels, so you have to be on the constant lookout for new items to keep your arsenal topped up. Shops don’t just hold weapons either, you can nip in the chemists and pick up some hair dye, pop into the shoe shop for a new pair of shoes and there are numerous outlets for you to pick up a new suit, or even a dress if you’re feeling a bit kinky.

The uncomplicated gameplay is made all the more accessible by the easy to grasp controls. As is usual for third person games, the left analogue stick controls movement with the camera on the right stick. The controller face buttons allow you to jump, pick up, and use objects and call out to fellow survivors. The shoulder buttons are used to cycle through your inventory and the triggers are used to aim your camera and any weapon you’re holding. The D pad is used for dropping and unequiping objects as well as checking your watch and radio, and a map of the mall with any active missions highlighted is brought up with a tap on the back button. Although every button on the controller is used it all feels very natural and takes just minutes to get used to.

Presentation wise everything is pretty much top notch. The visuals especially are excellent, with everything exceptionally well detailed. So good in fact that the game’s cut scenes use the game engine rather than FMV; they don’t look as good most of the time, but if you have your back against the wall the camera zooms right in and you can see the details. This level of detail is all the more impressive when you consider the amount of action on-screen too, with literally hundreds of zombies appearing at times. Audio is good too, with some excellent voice acting for all the main characters, believable sound effects and some nice music when you get into a boss battle. There is one shortcoming on the presentation side though, and that’s when you get your mission descriptions through on the radio. Rather than have a voice telling you what to do you just get some text at the bottom of the screen. This wouldn’t be that big a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that the text size is ridiculously small and unless you’re right on top of the telly it is very hard to read and can be distracting if you get a message whilst you’re in the middle of a hot zone as using the radio effectively disarms you – it won’t even let you jump while you’re on the radio.

Another problem with the game is the save system, it only allows one game save per memory device, so if you have just a hard drive or memory card once you make a save, that’s it. No going back to correct any mistakes you’ve made. Save points are pretty few and far between too, with only one in each section of the mall, a save from the pause menu would have been a lot less frustrating. But despite these minor, but annoying faults, you still get a very entertaining game that while it is more than a little short, has a lot of replay value before you get to see everything. The unlockable overtime and infinite time modes take off the constraints of time limits when replaying which makes things easier to find in the game as well as extending the game’s life. And even when you’ve finished all the missions and side missions it’s still fun to go back to in short bursts for a bit of mindless zombie slaughter. Overall the game is good, but slightly flawed – a little more thought from Capcom would have stopped these problems from arising. The story leaves things open for another game at the end, and hopefully they’ll take notice of feedback if they decide on a sequel.

A good game that could’ve been great, but still you’ll find it infectious once you’re bitten.

8.6 out of 10