Dead Rising 4 strives to be the game Xbox One launch title Dead Rising 3 promised to be. Proving there is still more than a little life left over in the corpse-like husk that is the zombie-slaughtering franchise, the new game takes the series back to its roots by bringing back original hero Frank West. Now a grizzled, middle-aged photojournalist who has seen and been through too much to let anything rattle him, he brings a sense of gallows humor and Evil Dead Ash-style bravado to a hack-and-slasher that never ceases to be a good time.
Games: Dead Rising 4
Consoles: Xbox One (reviewed), PC
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Release Date: December 6
Having West back at the center of the mayhem is just what the series needed. Not only does his tone and feel match the Dawn of the Dead-style subversive satire, his incongruous need to stop amid the frenzy to snap a cool photo is addictive. The in-game photo scoring system coaxes you to keep on trying until you nail the perfect shot. West is right at home as the narrative sends him back to small-town Colorado to investigate the latest undead outbreak. You tinker with found objects you turn into weapons, which eventually break down and disintegrate, spurring you to experiment with more stuff you find along the way. Hit streaks unlock on-the-fly combos that let you unleash a satisfying area-cleaning special move that makes you feel like king of the undead.
The setting is a straightforward point-A to point-B story disguised as an open world. The paths are wide and varied enough to allow you to get lost a little as you explore the surroundings to seek out power-ups, vehicles and survivors in need of a helping hand. Onscreen indicators shepherd you to the main path, allowing you to rumble straight through to the objective whenever you feel like it. A helpful auto-save prevents you from having to rehash much of what you’ve accomplished whenever a zombie manages to get the jump on you and induce an untimely game over screen. Since death lurks around every corner, it’s a welcome relief to know that a slip-up won’t kill your progress.
Story-wise, this series blew its load at least three games ago. That’s why it’s key that the dialogue is smart and snappy enough to keep the bland, predictable narrative entertaining. Focusing on character moments, including West’s sheer joy and penchant for self-aggrandizement after pulling off amazing moves, keeps the feel light and invigorating. It’s hard to believe that the same developer family responsible for the overly serious and unintentionally ludicrous recent Resident Evil games is capable of having so much fun with similar material. You get the sense that Dead Rising acts as the release valve for frustrations that build up amid the thankless task of keeping Resident Evil going.
Dead Rising 4 wraps up a solid year of system exclusives for Microsoft. Along with the likes of Quantum Break and Gears of War 4 and two Forza games, the year brought an impressive array of experiences you could only find on the system that Sony dropped the ball in counterpunching to deliver on the PS4. The surprising thing is that Dead Rising 4 is arguably the freshest and most vibrant game of that bunch. No one would have been shocked if Dead Rising 4 were nothing more than a bland rehash of what has come before, but by keeping things loose and free-flowing, it manages to remind players what made them fall in love with the tired genre to begin with, and realize that the thrill is nowhere close to fading. That smile West cracks when he snaps selfies with the undead is a genuine one.
Dead Rising 4 Reviews Around The Web:
“The new game ups the ante with seamless 4-player co-op.” –Windows Central
“Feels bigger, bolder and bloodier than ever.” –IGN
“It’s focus is on killing zombies – a lot of them – in the most creative way possible, and it certainly doesn’t falter in that department.” –Stack-Up
Dead Rising 4 Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.
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