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DEAD RISING 4 Is a Fun, Loony Christmastime Apocalypse (Review)

DEAD RISING 4 Is a Fun, Loony Christmastime Apocalypse (Review)

Capcom Vancouver wanted to streamline the experience of Dead Rising 4 by removing the likes of the restrictive timer and complicated mechanics. What do we end up with instead? A familiar but reliably wacky zombie apocalypse, an equally zany makeshift arsenal to cause massive destruction, and a Christmas theme to tie it all together with a perfect bow. This time around, photojournalist Frank West (he’s back!) has been thrust into an undead outbreak that has somehow been kept under wraps by the government. The unfortunate location of this outbreak: the Willamete Colorado Megaplex Mall and the surrounding city. Your job is to blow the case wide open and expose those who don’t want the world to know this is happening.

Joining Frank on this latest adventure is his student Vick, who gives our hero some interesting motivations. She’s all about doing the right thing, while Frank just wants the scoop. How they interact gives our photojournalist a bit more depth than we’re used to. What you’ll notice right away is that this is no longer the same old over-the-top Frank West. He is much older in this new game, which takes place a staggering 16 years after the original. He’s still kind of a badass, and still has insanely funny timely jokes, but he’s definitely much more mature this time around.

Exo Suit Power Up Tornado Action

While the narrative itself does have some interesting moments, it never deviates enough from some clichés to make it special. You’ll find some crappy people are doing crappy things. What’s great, however, is the Christmas theme. Going into the menus will play some holiday tunes (some people’s worst nightmare), and even the world is decorated accordingly.

For those who’ve played past installments, the bulk of the gameplay here revolves around brawling with large hordes of zombies using player-crafted weapons. Like in previous games, these weapons are wild. How about a magic wand that turns zombies into Christmas-themed items like wrapped gifts or plastic reindeers? Not your style? Maybe a firework-blasting crossbow is more to your liking. The list of usable items is impressive to say the least. Having the holiday theme makes it that much better. Soon I went from fearing large crowds to hoping I could find new interesting ways of causing complete chaos.

Frank West meets Evos

Best of all, you can actually craft on the go now. Through an upgrade, it’s possible to combine items without even having to go into your inventory; all you need to do is click a button upon finding a tool in the world. Longtime players of the franchise will surely appreciate the ease of crafting. The same can be done with vehicles. Creating all sorts of concoctions is as fun and easy as ever—I, for one, love it.

If that’s still not enough for you, brand new Exo Suits have been added to the game. Just as you’d expect, these mechanical body suits give you extra strength, and can also be upgraded with the likes of deadly weapons, like vacuums (yes, vacuums). The suits do run on battery, so they will run out of juice quickly. I wish it weren’t that way, but understand that the game would be broken otherwise.

The story missions do a great job of forcing you to try a variety of different zombie stomping weapons. The diversity in missions is actually a pleasant surprise as well. You’ll go from investigating scenes using Frank’s trusty camera to sneaking around heavily guarded mansions that hold a secret lab. Of course most of the time you’ll be crushing the undead, but there’s a good enough balance in different objectives that it never gets boring on the main narrative end.

Dead Rising 4 Blambow Weapon Red

As you progress you’ll also be leveling Frank up, turning him into the ultimate zombie destroyer. Every time you level up, you’ll get one point to invest into one of four upgrade trees that include brawling and survival. I was level 45 by the end of my first play through, and found myself going back to become the ultimate destroyer. For a game that isn’t all that focused on being an RPG, it sure does a great job of integrating those elements. Everything you do in the world will grant you experience, including creating huge combos when tackling the undead. My hit combo hit over 1,000 thanks to the amounts of enemies on the screen. And it shouldn’t go unnoticed just how smoothly the game runs, despite constantly tossing huge hordes of these unwanted walkers your way. I was shocked that I didn’t notice game-crippling stutters in my 40+ hours of gameplay.

Another improvement is the button layout. Your stored items (like weapons, etc.) are mapped to the d-pad, so it’s simple to swap between throwable items, close-combat weapons, and long-ranged weapons. Every food item is a health pack now, and is also mapped to the d-pad for easy access. Increasing the room to carry items does take away some of the survivor horror magic, but offers you the chance to experiment more with weapons since storage is no longer at a premium.

Unfortunately, not all is great here. The human AI is pretty awful. They’re dumb, and don’t pose much of a threat. At least with the zombies, this is expected. But the only dangerous enemies are the new Fresh (rabid recent converts to the undead) and Evo (smarter, more powerfully enhanced monsters) zombies, along with the boss fights, but even those tend to be easier. I was actually incredibly disappointed in the boss fights this time around. They’re not as unique as they were in the past. They just tend to be buffed up enemies with several stages to take them down. There’s one particular battle towards the end of the game that was utterly annoying. You’ll have to repeatedly beat down a damage sponge, and he will regenerate four times. Lazy, dull, and frustrating to say the least.

Dead Rising 4 Zombie Fresh Attack

Where the game really starts to disappoint is with the side quests and depth of the world. While the map is a decent size, consisting of five major areas, it feels sort of empty because the zombies filling the streets are more fodder than anything else. Sure, you can go save survivors by clearing out zombies, or even clear out safe houses, but how many times can you do that until it becomes a snooze-fest? The loss of time restrictions is nice, however, because you at least have enough incentive to go search for weapons and wacky outfits that you can wear. Even the zombie smashing will eventually get tiresome, considering that’s most of the gameplay.

I should also mention that there was one unfortunate bug that I ran into that had all of the voice acting completely drop out towards the end of the game. It doesn’t look like it was affecting too many folks, but it did derail some of the story for me, which was a shame because things get interesting towards the end of the game. I was able to fix it by restarting the game several times, but it was too little too late by the time it fixed itself.

There’s also a multiplayer component that has you playing with three other friends (or alone) to complete missions in the zombie infested mall. It definitely has more of that survival horror vibe to it, but I would say stick with the single player for the most part.

Exo Suit Power Up Tornado Close Up

The Verdict

Not every game has to be a grand epic tale with an engrossing narrative with hundreds of hours of content. Dead Rising 4 is just flat out fun. It will never blow you away, and some may be turned off because it no longer feels like a survival horror game. But it’s fun. What other title would allow you to drive around crushing hundreds of zombies in a taco truck while wearing a basketball uniform during Christmas? The team decided to focus on what made this franchise so enjoyable, and it worked out. If you’re looking for something to play between those hundred hour RPGs, there’s no going wrong with Dead Rising 4.



This review was completed using an Xbox One copy of Dead Rising 4 provided by Capcom. The game will hit shelves on December 6, 2016 for Windows 10 and Xbox One.

Images: Capcom

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