Dead Rising has had a shaky history of late. While the first two games generally got the B-movie tone spot on, Dead Rising 3 attempted something much more serious with its narrative, while keeping the same over-the-top action and adding to it with vehicles. While it was a decent launch title, Dead Rising 3 didn’t exactly resonate with fans, so with Frank West has returned to ruin Christmas for the zombies of Willamette, it certainly sounds on paper like it is business as usual.
Our favourite investigative journalist has somehow been roped into returning to Willamette to deal with yet another zombie outbreak, but matters matters are complicated by the appearance of a student of his who has been seen in the area. Conspiracies abound, this is an engaging plot that knows when to take a back-seat for Frank’s quips. There are even moments where Frank is put in his place, including someone actually asking which wars he has covered. It’s far from the best, being fairly predictable, but for fans of the series there are a lot of little moments to enjoy.
Right off the bat, Dead Rising 4 ditches the series’ traditional time limit, in favour of a complete open world experience. As such, the game is a lot easier to manage, perhaps a little too easy as the combat is largely unchanged mechanically. Skill points are gained as each level increases, but the main way to survive is to craft weapons and vehicles out of things found all around you.
What Dead Rising 4 does manage to do well is have a sense of theme. By setting the game during a zombie apocalypse that began during the Black Friday sales, the game is filled with garish Christmas paraphernalia and wonderfully jazzy Christmas music in the pause menu. This is even leant on with the game’s blueprints, leading to such wonderful creations as a head mounted Gatling gun that not only resembles the nutcracker, but plays a short rendition of the iconic melody.
While Dead Rising 4 isn’t the most original game in the series in how it controls, the setting does a lot to have interesting things to discover. In fact the only legitimately new mechanic in Dead Rising 4 is with the Exo Suits – temporary buffs that allow you to use heavy weapons such as a giant axe, flamethrowers, and even ripping up signposts to swing concrete at enemies.
These are temporary upgrades, with the time you can spend in one being upgradeable, but not by a great deal. Exo Suits definitely made me feel more powerful, but once I’d finally found one of the upgrades, the juice had worn out and I was left with shattered dreams of what could have been.
If you were worried that Frank would not have his camera, do not despair. The camera is just as great as it was in the original Dead Rising, allowing you to line up shots for points. You can even take selfies with the undead, should you fancy! However the use of the camera in the campaign is more significant here as there are moments where Frank can take pictures of items in a room in order to get one step closer to the truth. It’s a nice way of tying into Frank’s character as a photo-journalist.
Since Dead Rising 4 fully embraces the open world gameplay, there are moments where you encounter either a random survivor to rescue, or Obscura equipment to destroy/loot. Since these are entirely optional, there isn’t a major downside to missing out on them, but survivors do at least help bolster the local shelters for more equipment to become available to purchase with scrap.
Aside from the main campaign there are very few diversions of a mission-based nature. Rumours are perhaps the closest it gets to having dedicated side-quests, but usually this revolves around going to a place, beating some thugs, and then dispatching a Christmas themed boss.
Multiplayer has four players surviving nights by achieving objectives in each episode. You’re rewarded based on how much you have contributed to the efforts of the team and while you could just pick up any old thing, it’s best to craft things like in the single player game. With boss fights that appear and optional objectives, it’s a fun romp with a few friends, but doesn’t really have much lasting power beyond a few sessions.
Yet the one thing that completely ruined the experience of Dead Rising 4 for me was the awful PC port, which was falling apart and crashing on a constant basis. By far the most common crash experienced was freezing in the loading screens, but the same thing also happened at the Capcom screen upon booting up the game.
On the higher settings there were some severe hitching that at times made the game hard to play. You’d assume that downgrading to Medium or lower settings would help, but strangely they got even worse, freezing for around a second rather than a few milliseconds. It’s crystal clear that the team who ported the game to the PC weren’t given enough time to polish the game.
Other strange issues included cutscenes not loading or clues for investigations and items shown on the map not spawning, resulting in times spent endlessly wandering around before realising the game had just given up. I was even, at one point, was reloading checkpoints constantly, only I instantly failed the mission I was on as soon as the game loaded. Thankfully a reboot of the game fixed it, but a dozen hours of gameplay could have potentially been wasted as a result. As such, every issue had me tense up, hoping that all my progress wasn’t for naught.
I persevered through the issues on PC because I genuinely found things to like in Dead Rising 4. The silly, if somewhat hackneyed plot was light-hearted in tone and Frank is just as likeable as ever. Investigations are a nice way to break up the action, which is just as insane as it ever has been. However, it’s a ridiculously easy game thanks to a liberal slathering of healing items, and the diabolically bad PC port is frankly embarrassing to see in 2016. A reasonably solid game that sadly on PC is just out of frame.
Version Tested: PC (Xbox Marketplace)