Dead Rising 4
takes some of the best aspects of Dead Rising 3
and combines them with the series’ original protagonist. Frank West returns to Willamette, Colorado, where the original zombie outbreak occurred. It sounds like a perfect match and at times it is, but for all of the improvements that Capcom has added over previous iterations, there are an equal number of missed opportunities.
Dead Rising 4 Dead Rising 4
takes place a year after the events of Dead Rising 3
and ex-photojournalist Frank West returns as the main protagonist. Frank is voiced by a different actor this time, something with which only the series’ staunchest fans will take issue. For everyone else, however, he’s still as sharp-witted and wise-assed as ever before.
Now working as a college teacher, he is persuaded by Vicki "Vick" Chu, one of his students, into investigating a military base on the outskirts of Willamette, Colorado – the place where the first zombie outbreak from the original Dead Rising
began. Once inside the base, they discover that it is being using for zombie research. While they attempt to investigate further to get their scoop, they are discovered and are forced to flee. Frank is falsely labelled by the government as a terrorist and is forced in to hiding. Fast forward a couple of months and Frank is found by Brad Park, a ZDC agent who convinces him to investigate a new zombie outbreak that started in Willamette during the Black Friday sales, in exchange for clearing his name and having the rights to the story.
As you return to Willamette with Frank, there are a few big differences to be found. Most significant is the fact that you’re not confined to the restraints of the mall like you were previously. Now you are given the freedom of the town – similar to Dead Rising 3
– with different episodes within the game being set across the town’s varied environments. From residential and industrial areas, to vineyards and the iconic mall (rebuilt with shops to loot, themed areas to explore and even an indoor go-kart track), Capcom has delivered a large sandbox in which you can play while you rack up zombie kills into the tens of thousands.
The second difference is that the time limit that was found in previous games has been completely removed. On one hand, this change means that you are free to fully explore the world and take part in the numerous side objectives such as rescuing survivors, finding collectables and levelling up the new Emergency Shelters (think safehouses with vendors), but on the other hand it makes the game far too easy. With no pressure to get things done and no difficulty setting to make things harder, you’ll quickly feel like Frank is completely over-powered to the point that finishing the story is far easier than it should be. Combat is so shallow that it becomes quite monotonous as you button mash your way through scores of enemies. With no free-roam, once you’ve played through the game’s six chapters then there’s very little reason to return to play missions again, unless you absolutely want to do everything that is available in the game.
Playing as Frank means that his trusty camera returns, although this time it has some modifications that are used to assist with investigations that are found throughout the story missions. Using different lighting modes, Frank can find clues that aren’t visible to the naked eye to solve puzzles. These aren’t especially difficult to solve but do go some way to breaking up the often monotonous task of button mashing your way through crowds of zombies. The camera can also be used for photography challenges that will award you with XP that can be used to upgrade Frank’s skills. With challenges ranging from humorous situations to snapping the fallen bodies of slain zombies around you, there’s always a reason to keep your eye open for that perfect shot.
As you’d expect from a release in the series, Dead Rising 4
’s world is filled to the brim with random items that would be non-interactive objects in most games; in Dead Rising
they can be used as weapons to fight off the seemingly never-ending number of zombies that densely populate the game’s world or new costumes in which to dress Frank. The sheer number of items that can be picked up and used is staggering. While this makes for a huge variety of zombie-slaying weapons that are on offer, it does quite often lead to annoying moments where manipulating the camera to pick up items that are placed closely together is far more difficult than it should be.
Like previously, how useful each item is as an actual weapon varies greatly, but sometimes even the most obscure items can be combined with another item to make a super, powerful death machine. This is as long as you have found the necessary blueprint, of course. Combining items is now easier than ever before; Dead Rising 4
allows you to make combo weapons on the fly by holding the B button if you’ve already got the other required item in your inventory. This isn’t the only place where better use of the controller buttons makes the game simpler and more accessible. Switching between melee, thrown and ranged weapons is as simple as pressing LB for thrown, the triggers for ranged weapons and mainly using X for melee. You can also switch quickly between items in your inventory for each weapon type and heal quickly by using the corresponding direction on your D-pad.
Combo vehicles return from Dead Rising 3
, although this time around they aren’t as memorable as they were previously. Whereas they used to feel essential to get around the map, their only use this time is for some novelty. Like the combo weapons, you’ll need to find blueprints to create them. Meanwhile, a new addition to the arsenal of weapons that are available are the Exo Suits, which are timed items that are found in both the story and scattered around the world. They can be combined with other items to add some different types of firepower, but outside of the story they have very little use. After a couple of hours of gameplay, you’ll have made enough upgrades for Frank that he’s almost invincible if you have a few healing items in your inventory.
Besides the lack of any real difficulty, the main issues in Dead Rising 4
’s campaign come in the way of things that have been present previously but have now been removed or dumbed down to the point that they aren’t recognisable anymore. Psychopaths, which were a huge part of previous Dead Rising
games, have now been replaced with enemies called Maniacs. Whereas Psychopaths were epic encounters with difficult fights and memorable characters, Maniacs feel like throwaway characters that are there to provide a slight change from fighting zombies. They’re easy, infrequent and largely pointless.
The biggest omission comes in the lack of campaign co-op, which was a major factor in my enjoyment of Dead Rising 3
. Instead, Dead Rising 4
is a much lonelier experience that only highlights the tedious nature of the core gameplay that is on offer. The co-op has been replaced by a four-player multiplayer mode where you take on random objectives, such as finding and taking pictures of items, surviving until a set time or defeating bosses. With its own levelling up system, it does mean that there is quite a bit of replayability to be had here but be warned, there are a lot of connection issues at the moment that will mean that you’re kicked from matches midway through. Dead Rising 4
comes with 50 achievements, many of which are to be expected based on previous releases in the series. Playing through the campaign and the four multiplayer episodes will earn just over half of them if you don’t go out of your way to find collectables and complete the large number of trials on offer. If you’re looking for a completion, there is one achievement
that is either currently unobtainable or for which people haven’t yet worked out all of the requirements.
While there’s certainly a cathartic sense of enjoyment to be found in making light work of tens of thousands of zombies using the large and crazy array of weapons that are available in Dead Rising 4
, the removal of campaign co-op, psychopaths being replaced by forgettable maniacs, and the lack of any challenge due to the removal of the in-game timer really highlight that the gameplay that is on offer is shallow. If you liked Dead Rising 3
, you’ll no doubt find some sense of enjoyment in Dead Rising 4
. For everyone else, it’s not going to convince you otherwise.
- Large number of weapons to try
- Good humour throughout
- Simplified controls
- Varied and large environment
- No campaign co-op
- Lack of timer makes the game far too easy
- Combat becomes shallow and monotonous
- Maniacs are a poor substitute for Psychopaths
The reviewer spent approximately 12 hours completing the game's campaign and frequently dropping in and out of multiplayer episodes, earning 21 of the 50 available achievements along the way. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher for this review.