Dead Rising 4 is a bloody marvel.
In my first few hours, it gleefully told me I’d managed to snuff out the (after)lives of more than 750 zombies, spilling 1,800 litres of blood across Willamette’s polished town floors in the process.
It’s no coincidence these gruesome statistics regularly flash up onscreen: this is a game that constantly reminds you of the carnage you’re causing.
Capcom isn’t looking to trigger any pangs of guilt, though. This is a theme park of annihilation, where you’re just as likely to pierce your foe’s skull with the start from the top of a Christmas tree as by gunning them down with an assault rifle.
A deep and dark attempt at survival horror in the Resident Evil mould? Jog on, Grandad – Frank West ain’t got time for that.
NEW GAME, OLD TRICKS
The freelance photo-journalist extraordinaire (he’s covered wars, don’t you know?) takes the lead once more, returning to the zombie-infested town of Willamette, Colorado expose another conspiracy – and get very, very bloody.
It’s Christmas, y’see – and blood just looks that little bit redder on fresh white snow.
A faster-spreading, more deadly version of the zombie virus, created from experiments on human test subjects might sound pretty dark, but Dead Rising 4 is really an attempt to hark back to the original, now decade-old, game.
So yeah, rather than spectate from the sidelines, cataloguing the outbreak for the purposes a “great story”, Frank is almost immediately slaying zombies with lawnmowers, fire extinguishers and anything else you can get your hands on, as carving a bloody, dismembered path through the city’s brand new shopping mall.
These vast open world sections, where clearing a path through the masses of zombies to reach your next goal is left largely to your discretion, give way to more linear sectors focused on investigation.
There are also bases and safe zones, which typically have to be cleared of the undead before they can be inhabited. They’ll keep you free from zombie-related death, and let you buy items or equipment for more efficient carnage.
From the food you regularly need to snack on in order to survive out in the wild, to a change of outfit to make the whole affair a little more stylish, it’s all out there for the taking.
After all, what’s a little looting when the world’s going to hell in a handbasket?
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Frank’s still got a job to do, mind. Your camera comes in handy when unearthing hidden story clues, but also earns experience points by snapping the crudest most crass shots of blood and gore out on the battlefield.
The more action-packed the shot, the bigger your total, with snaps featuring hacked-up bodies of the dead, or fights between any survivors and the spectres out for their blood being the most sought after.
Nothing shows off Dead Rising 4‘s fine balance between horror and hilarity than whipping Frank’s camera out in the middle of a brawl, and watching as he casually takes a selfie with a ghoul attempting to sink its teeth into his neck.
Frank is a constant font of frivolity in the middle of Dead Rising 4‘s festival of flesh, cracking off one liners and, if you so choose, darting around in nothing more than his boxers in the middle of the mayhem.
Feel like running amok as the blood of your victims drips down Frank’s chest hair? You got it.
You’re not in a rush any more, either, so you can take your time and experiment. Long-standing Dead Rising fans might miss the original game’s punishing timer system, but it definitely makes things less stressful for series newcomers.
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There’s nothing else out there quite like Dead Rising – apart from the previous three series entries, of course. Beyond upgraded visuals and a boat-load more zombies on screen at once, it’s tough to see just where things have progressed in ten years.
Sure, there are a few new zombie types, now, but nothing we haven’t seen before in that other classic zombie game, Left 4 Dead.
That doesn’t mean it’s not still the ultimate playground of barbarity, of course.
The eclectic mix of weapons on offer, and the ability to combine them to create a weird and wonderful arsenal, is a toy box or terror begging to be played with. Firing off arrows from a crossbow laden with fireworks and watching as the inevitable explosion sends zombie limbs flying is unashamedly entertaining.
Most of your zombie slaying will be at close quarters, where Dead Rising 4 is easily at its strongest. Nothing tops running straight into a pack of bloodthirsty once-shoppers and smashing your way back out again.
Success means mixing things up a bit, though. Beyond short range weapons (which range from tyre irons to sledgehammers), you can also wield aerial items (basically anything you can chuck – think snow globes, grenades and Molotov cocktails) and use long-range guns.
In the heat of battle, though, picking the right weapon at the right time is easier said than done.
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DEAD RISING VERDICT
Moments like these are Dead Rising 4 distilled down to the bare bones. On the plus side, there’s no denying smashing zombies to smithereens never really gets old – it’s brutality at its most beautiful.
This has been true of every game in the series, though; it’s hard to find one definable area were Capcom’s latest makes any great strides forward.
It all means Dead Rising 4 it a bit like one of its own zombies – lumbering around in the middle ground. It’s not quite a franchise taking a dying breath, but if a fifth instalment is forthcoming, Capcom will need to ensure it pumps a little more ressurection juice into its veins next time around.
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Zombie-shredding carnage, turned up to 11 – but there’s nothing here series fans won’t have seen before.
No holds barred, gruesome action
Huge variety of weapons
Too similar to previous installments
Controls too hectic in the heat of the battle
More variety would be nice