My love for the pairing of humor and horror is not a secret by any means. My lovely wife will often take the controller away from me when we sit down for movie night out of fear that she will be forced to watch Shaun of the Dead for the two-hundred and thirteenth time. “Yes, dear, you did tell me how you visited the Winchester bar in real life.” Perhaps it’s the fact that I laugh when nervous that makes the melding of these genres register as so delightful.
No matter the reason, the developers of Dead Rising 4 must also share this love, as the game plays like Evil Dead meets Sunset Overdrive. The only thing outnumbering zombies are sarcastic one-liners, perfectly delivered by protagonist Frank West. A self-proclaimed “soft reboot,” this iteration works well as both an entry point and a fourth installment to the franchise. Here, Frank must return to Willamette to find out the truth behind yet another zombie outbreak. However, this time he will have to explore all of the quiet mountain town in order to both get to the bottom of the eruption of undead and break the story of a lifetime.
More so than in any other title, the zombies in Dead Rising 4 are like a natural disaster. Floods of them pack the mall and roads, often pooling in lower elevations where railings or steps contain their shambling. The sheer numbers of zombies on screen at any given time is impressive, and cutting through them is something that could be sold as a stress reliever. To keep the experience from being too one-note, however, two new types of zombies have been added on top of the “horde” described above. Recently infected humans will rush you, eager for human flesh; evolved zombies, meanwhile, will dodge your attacks, and leap from walls like feral cats. While the majority of the game is mashing your melee attack as you wade through the horde, these additional ghouls give you more than enough reason to pull out the big guns.
In addition to zombies, crazed survivors return to the franchise. Referred to as “Maniacs,” these humans have been pushed over the edge by the chaos in Willamette. Implemented as side-missions, Maniacs have brutal backstories paired with comedic angles. For instance, a murderous cult I encountered ended up being lead by a local high school mascot. I enjoyed the break from taking down the same zombies over and over again, but ultimately these missions were too brief and too rare.
Setting the tone of the game as much as the writing are the hilarious weapon and vehicle combinations. The ideas behind the creations are simple: they remind me of the unrestricted creativity of a child. Yet, where I was a six-year-old left trying to explain to his mother why he broke her earrings and hair dryer, Frank is able to craft a fully-functional lightsaber from gems and electronics. Depending on your playstyle, there is surely a combination you’ll favor, but for me that was the Blambow—a crossbow and fireworks mash-up. Able to clear entire pockets of undead in a few short seconds, it was a go-to for boss fights and panic situations alike.
Frank can also don a powerful exo suit, enabling him to interact with heavier items. Instead of a sledgehammer, you can now pull a parking meter out of the ground. Who needs an SMG when you can carry a mini-gun? The exo suit can also be upgraded similarly to the combo weapons to humorous effect. By combining with a slushie machine, Frank can launch a blizzard at his foes, sweeping them up in blue-raspberry flavored tornados.
As fun as this may sound, the exo suit doesn’t mesh with the rest of the combat in Dead Rising 4. It’s slower, less agile, and takes away your ability to use weapons that you’ve found while you’re in it. Therefore—unless required by the mission—I often opted to leave the suits when I found them, choosing to rely on the weapons and vehicles that I knew could get me through a battle.
Unfortunately, the controls to Dead Rising 4 have not received an overhaul since the previous games. Ever-present is the challenge of trying to hit the correct zombies, especially those crawling on the ground. Many melee attacks end up swinging above the crawlers, leaving them to chew your ankles or kill survivors you’re trying to save. Tapping the “Y” button occasionally works—that is until you level up your kicks. I found myself often having to swap over to a firearm to take care of them, something that seems like overkill when you should just be able to smash them on the ground with your Equalizer baseball bat.
Along with new weapons, Frank’s trusty camera has also been outfitted with some exceptional features for the adventures he faces. A Night-Vision mode will allow the player to explore dark areas, and lends to some entertaining (and creepy) first-person moments. Less believably, a Spectrum Analyzer has been added to the DSLR, granting Frank the ability to see handprints, fingerprints, and long-erased messages. This comes in handy, especially when searching out the many collectables scattered across Willamette.
In what I’m assuming is further inspiration from Sunset Overdrive, the collectables hidden throughout Dead Rising 4 can be revealed on the map for a cost. By going to the Locations Vendor within a zone’s safehouse, players can spend Scrap (the game’s currency) to expose the exact locations of the collectables. Although it’s fun to find some of these on your own, this option is really handy, especially when tracking down a particularly well-camouflaged graffiti tag. Finding all of the collectables expands upon the game’s lore, and awards some deserved Prestige Points (XP).
Acquiring enough Prestige Points will earn Frank a Skill Point, which can be put towards one of his four skill trees: Brawling, Shooting, Survival, and Fortitude. I was happy to be able to focus on building skills around my playstyle, opting to put the most points in Survival and Brawling. Additionally, there are enough Skill Points to purchase whatever talents you may want, which took a lot of pressure off of creating the “perfect” build or spec’ing for a specific fight. Leveling in Dead Rising 4 is there to allow you to be more of a badass, no matter how you want to play.
For those looking to play with friends, the only cooperative mode available in the game is the new multiplayer. This mode allows players to compete in consecutively harder challenges, surviving the horde within the Willamette Mall. Like a brawler version of Left 4 Dead, the goal in multiplayer is to accomplish some primary objectives and survive. The Dead Rising twist, however, is that you have to do this all within a set amount of time.
This mode is where Dead Rising 4 misses the most opportunities to really shine. Absent from the mode is couch co-op, which seems like a given for a game like this. While this could be due to the intense number of zombies on the screen, it’s a feature that is sorely missed. Also, even though you carry over any blueprints and scrap unlocked in Single-Player, you will have to level up again and buy skill points in co-op—this time with an added Multiplayer Skill Tree branch. This is justified by the fact that you don’t play Multiplayer as Frank. Instead, you participate as one of four ancillary characters from the storyline, who you honestly may not even remember. In a game filled with as many customization options as Dead Rising 4, I can’t help but feel like the lack of carry over in the outfits into this mode was a miss as well. Sadly, these choices leave Multiplayer feeling more like an afterthought than a cherished aspect of the game.
At the end of the day, I find myself loading back into Willamette to continue my new game plus. I want to explore more—see what else the developers have hidden for those curious enough to seek it out. Is there another group of hilariously outfitted Maniacs that I’ll have to stop? Or perhaps I’ll find another Capcom nod like the succubus Morrigan costume Frank is currently wearing. No matter what, I know that I’ll be able to relax, plow through some zombies, and find a chuckle here and there.
|Publisher: Capcom • Developer: Capcom Vancouver • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 12.06.16|
Much like the “Roaring Thunder” weapon, Dead Rising 4 banks on nostalgia and humor. While not much new exists in the beat ‘em up genre, this title has a lot of fun moments, delivering an enjoyable return to a zombie-infested Willamette.
|The Good||Humor and horror, together again. Tons of incredible weapons and adventure await those who step into Frank’s shoes.|
|The Bad||Controls can feel a bit clunky at times, leading to frustration when trying to kill crawling zombies. Multiplayer feels like it was added as an afterthought, due to audience demand.|
|The Ugly||Some of the clothing combo options. Brown shoes with a black belt? Please, Frank.|
|Dead Rising 4 is available on Xbox One and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Capcom for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|