Following a year spent in the realms of Microsoft exclusivity, Dead Rising 4 finally made its debut on PlayStation back in December, just in time for Christmas (even if our review wasn’t). In a clear return to the series’ characteristic excesses after the somewhat dour Dead Rising 3, you play as Frank West, the wisecracking photo-journalist from the first game. In fact, the beginning of the game takes place in the same Willamette mall that formed the backdrop to the original. Unlike the claustrophobic and fraught timescale of Dead Rising, however, Frank’s Big Package takes you out into the wider town and surroundings, providing some epic scale, at the cost of losing some of the focused purity.
The whole game is wrapped up in a festive frame, with the events taking place over the Christmas period. There’s further Christmas DLC included which turns all the zombies into undead elves and Santas, and leaves many Yuletide objects lying around for you to use as weapons. The fact that every item can be wielded, used, or combined allows for some fun moments when you are forced to fight off the brain-eating hordes with a bottle of household cleaner and a frying pan.
As we found in our original review, the novelty of this approach soon wears off and the vast numbers of zombies swiftly becomes an annoyance. The lack of depth to the combat system means that fights become repetitive and the introduction of human enemies doesn’t really add to this. There is enjoyment to be had here, but the game feels hugely padded and overlong. Whilst there are many hidden blueprints and journal items to be found, a pattern of buying item maps and checking off icons becomes the norm.
Graphically, everything is sound enough. The number of enemies onscreen is impressive and performance is fine on PS4. There are moments when the frame rate drops a little, but these were not game breaking. Audio is well done, with appropriately Christmassy songs in the background and effectively meaty fighting effects. The voice acting is affectionately B-movie-esque and the actors are clearly having a lot of fun with the ludicrous plot, especially when sci-fi exosuits are introduced which add extra power to Frank’s attacks and allow for zombie extermination on a huge scale.
Aside from the main story mode and obligatory multiplayer, this Big Package version includes all of the previous DLC –namely Christmas and Valentine’s Day custom packs –the story pack Frank Rising, and the wonderfully over the top Mini Golf game. The first two are purely cosmetic enhancements and quickly outstay their welcome, whilst the Frank Rising storyline is interesting, but was generally not well received. Mini Golf seems to be fun, but the overly sensitive controls and long loading times soon drain away much of the enjoyment from this mode.
New to this release, though, is the Capcom Heroes mode, in which you take on the roles and powers of a range of iconic Capcom characters. Unfortunately, this mode is tied up with a replay of the main storyline rather than any new levels.
You play through as Frank West and find arcade machines throughout that enable you to transform into Capcom characters for a limited time. These characters range from Megaman and Ryu to Morrigan and Amaterasu from Okami. Playing as these guests highlights the lack of depth in the main game’s combat and goes some way to justifying the huge hordes of zombies. However, the short time limits for each transformation and the need to replay the padded story mode hold even this mode back.
Overall, Dead Rising 4: Frank’s Big Package is perhaps the perfect Christmas game; stuffed to the gills with content that swiftly loses its novelty, with the overall effect being a kind of overfed sleepiness. In this case, less could have been more.