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Dead Rising 4 Review
Dead Rising 4 keeps a running count of how many zombies you’ve sent back to the grave throughout the game. By the time the credits roll, that counter will probably be in the 5 figures. That should tell you everything you need to know about Dead Rising 4, a game that’s all about quantity: Lots of zombies, lots of weapons, lots of content. Sadly, the quality can’t quite keep up, but if you want to wade through oceans of zombies, you might find something to like here.
10,000 zombies is a whole lot of shambling abominations to kill, but why would anyone need to do such a thing? Well, it’s very simple. The town of Willamette has been wiped out by an outbreak of zombies that seem immune to the usual medications. Ace journalist Frank West is sent in to figure out what’s going on, but quickly realises there’s more to the outbreak than meets the eye. A mysterious military group called “Obscuris” has set up camp in town, and some kind of super-zombie is prowling the streets. Despite the grim setting, the actual tone of the game is often pretty light. Frank keeps up a steady stream of amusing quips and sarcastic remarks throughout the story, and fights the zombie threat with some of the wackiest weapons you’ll ever see. It’s not exactly a groundbreaking exercise in video-game writing, but it’s nice to see a zombie game that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Sarcasm alone won’t turn back the tide of undeath though. If Frank wants to get out alive, he’ll have to travel the open-world town completing a variety of missions. Well, not really a “variety”. Mostly, they all boil down to the same thing: travel to an area, find some clue or item, and kill a lot of zombies. Killing those zombies is one of the most straightforward task you’ll ever see in a video game. Press x to attack with your equipped weapon. Press y for a kick attack that knocks the enemy back. If you’re feeling creative, maybe use a gun instead of fighting in melee. And that’s pretty much it. The zombies which form the bulk of your opposition go down in droves before your x-button-mashing-prowess, never putting up much of a fight no matter how many of them there are. Even when the undead menace is literally choking the streets in a seething mass of walking corpses, defeating them is just a matter of persistence and time. The soldiers in Dynasty Warriors show more initiative than this. It’s not very difficult or intellectually stimulating, but the sheer number of zombies is rather impressive, and there’s something viscerally satisfying about cutting down hundred of decaying goons. Still, it does get old eventually, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that much of your playtime is being taken up by pointless busywork.
Fortunately, there are a few living foes around who put up a bit more of a fight. Mercenaries, lunatics, and angry survivors stalk the streets, and they’re all just waiting to take a shot at you. Their better armed and more aggressive than the zombies, and often possess ranged weapons, but they’re still not particularly smart or threatening. Charging forward and hacking away will get you through 90% of combats in Dead Rising 4 without much of a problem, so if you’re looking for the next Dark Souls, this ain’t it. Mindless, relaxing violence is the name of the game here.
Of course, if you’re going to kill a few thousand zombies, you’re going to need to be properly armed. Fortunately, Dead Rising 4 offers an endless variety of improvised weaponry, from baseball bats to televisions. These are scattered around the game’s map waiting to be picked up, and there’s plenty to go around: you’re never more than a few meters from a potential weapon in Dead Rising 4. It’ll take more than random junk to beat back the zombie menace though: sometimes, you’ll need to combine that random junk together. The town of Willamette is home to a variety of blueprints, deviously hidden throughout each area. Find them, and you’ll gain recipes that let you combine two weapons together into a vastly more powerful. A sword and a liquid nitrogen canister make the deadly ice sword. A crossbow and an explosive form the destructive “Blam-bow”. Even vehicles can be combined, allowing you to build terrifying contraptions out of shopping trolleys and lawnmowers.
Everything you find or build will eventually break, so in theory you need to carefully consider the best time to use your powerful weapons. In reality though, it doesn’t quite turn out like that. There are enough items lying around that you can always find a replacement for anything you use, and most weapons are basically similar, so matching the weapon to the situation isn’t very important. This also means that the search for blueprints quickly becomes pointless. Once you find a few reliable standbys, you never really need anything else. It’s a shame, but it’s once again indicative of Dead Rising 4’s embrace of quantity over quality. Lots of weapons, but few of them particularly interesting.
One aspect of the game that isn’t short on quality is the graphics. Willamette’s streets are impressively realised, as are the characters that inhabit it. Military bases, shops, residential areas, all are brought to life with a lot of detail and an obvious level of care. The stars of this show are the zombies. Their sheer numbers are impressive enough, but they also look good individually, with rotting flesh and snarling mouths. They also spray blood everywhere in a very satisfying fashion when killed. There’s nothing like wading through an ocean of zombies with a machete, becoming progressively more drenched in blood with every step. If that sounds a bit grim, then you can lighten the mood with Frank West’s customise-able outfit, which lets you try a variety of looks ranging from bad-ass to laughable (the game features masks of, among other things, Blanka from Street Fighter and a servbot from Megaman Legends).
Goofy outfits aside, is Dead Rising 4 a game you should play? Well that depends on how much you love killing zombies. At heart, this is yet another generic open world action game: you play through a story that isn’t that interesting, hunt for collectables you don’t really need, and complete missions that mostly all feel the same. Still, there a lot of zombies for you to beat down, so if you don’t mind repetition, this is a solid way to kill a few hours.
Dead Rising 4 was played on Xbox One