Zombies often are never a good sign, but for Frank West, their return marks a new chapter. Frank, a former photojournalist, has been off the radar since the very first Dead Rising a decade ago, and this Christmas themed sequel finds him working as a college professor teaching a new generation his craft. But when the dead return he again finds a new purpose. Even in his opening nightmare where he knocks back hordes of zombies like a human wrecking ball there is a strong sense that he wants this. Although the game is not perfect I was surprised at how much I wanted it.
One of Dead Rising 4’s strong points is that the story never takes itself too serious. The lightweight and enjoyable story is never weighed down with false hope. Neither is it entirely dismissible, even though it largely abandons the main conspiracy premise a couple of hours in, it handles its characterizations well. Frank drops plenty of silly one liners and wisecracks, but there is enough gravity mixed with the silliness to make the atmosphere seem believable. This is a tale about mowing down hordes and hordes of zombies, it’s about suiting up in exosuits after zombies overrun the local Megaplex after Black Friday and cutting them down with an electrified battleaxe.
The melee controls are satisfying and intuitive, although the removal of throwable melee weapons seems strange and ranged weapons suffer from very poor aiming mechanics. Never before has the undead been so relentless in their quest to murder you, massive crowds of zombies make the Christmas slaughter all the more enjoyable. What’s more impressive than the crowds are the Xbox One’s ability to handle them. Not once did I experience frame rate drops or crashes.
Capcom has removed the over hanging timer, which frees up the player to track down plenty of blueprints and assorted collectibles, as well as saving survivors. When you do find blueprints crafting is very streamlined. There is no need to track down a crafting table as Frank can build any weapon on the spot. The approach works well because the small-town setting is very well realized, this is due to the fact that the game takes place in fictional Willamette, Colorado, a small town during Christmas.
This adds a bit of flavor to exploring parts of town that would normally be dull during any other time of year. Surprisingly there is no co-op option for the campaign, thus robbing the series of a huge portion of its former fun. Gone too are the psychopath mini bosses, Capcom has replaced them with “maniacs” and they’re sadly nothing more than standard zombies with massive health pools and the fact that they are almost exclusive to side quests is a real disappointment.
Dead Rising 4 is a rather strange iteration within the series, for every addition something has been removed, making it unlike anything seen for Dead Rising. This approach might scare off veterans but attract new players. It was certainly one that I really enjoyed. This is one that no zombie killer should be without this holiday season.