A brief introduction to Dead Rising sees the main protagonist Frank West, flying in a helicopter over the Willamette Shopping mall which is based on an alternate town in Colorado USA. Frank is a budding freelance journalist who has “covered wars you know” yet in his desire for success and recognition has been given a tip off that something strange is happening in the small town Willamette. Upon arrival at Willamette it appears the Army has blocked off all routes leading in and out of town and some rather strange looking people are wandering the streets. This conundrum leaves Frank only one option which is kind of forced considering Army helicopters attempt to deter frank’s transport away from the surrounding airspace. Leaving instructions to his hired pilot to return within 72 hours, Frank drops directly onto the roof of the shopping mall itself and so his adventures begin as he attempts to uncover the truth behind the Willamette incident. Well this is where you the player comes in as Frank’s survival is purely down to you.
You can read our original full review of the Xbox 360 version of Dead Rising over here where we awarded the game and 8.5/10 and drawing comparisons to the Resident Evil Outbreak games. That was 10 years ago though and today gaming has changed. So the re-release on PC, Xbox One and PS4 comes as a welcome nostalgic journey for those familiar with the original release. That said, with no ammendments to the core gameplay and well expectations have changed especially since we’ve had a couple of expansions and two new games in the series since then (which improved things greatly). So, how well does the game fare now?
To be frank, pun intended Dead Rising hasn’t aged very well and whilst the game’s looks are pretty sharp in 1080p or bumped up to 4K on PC, the actual graphics are functional at best with low detailed zombies and textures all round although these are partially mitigated when playing in 4K. It’s a shame the visuals haven’t been given a proper overhaul like we’ve seen in other re-released games. That said, once you get over the fact there’s no update to the visuals and can enjoy the bump in resolution (and upgrade to 60 frames per second) as a compromise then it’s all good…kinda.
Perhaps what lets the gameplay down at this juncture is how clunky everything feels. Frank can’t move and shoot for example even if he can move when using a first person view with the camera. Movement is generally sluggish to begin (although this can be upgraded as you level up) and the whole idea of saving the numerous survivors contains the same problems as from 10 years ago such as AI getting needlessly stuck on scenery or being completely incompetent at moving past groups of zombies – requiring some major hand holding. Moving into new areas is now extremely swift with very short loading times which is a positive, but should your fellow survivors be just outside of range from the exit you’ll leave them behind which is incredibly frustrating. There’s still no actual speech when talking to survivors which just feels a bit empty. So, effectively this is a straight up port and nothing more which is a shame.
Once you get over the fact there’s nothing new here then you can crack on with enjoying the game based on its own merits. Ultimately it still retains some fun factor despite the negatives but is simply miles apart from the sequels especially Dead Rising 3 which beats it on every level. There’s fun to be had dressing Frank up in various costumes, mixing ingredients for stat boosts and generally seeing how well you can micro-manage the survivors. There’s plenty of freedom here which is what the game does best and if you fail to meet any of the objectives, who cares as you can restart with all your previous stats intact or just carry on and get one of the less favourable ending sequences.
As a zombie game Dead Rising is pretty basic by today’s standards where others titles have pushed players into new realms. However, there’s a certain charm here with Frank and the characters he interacts with which makes this game fun to play. The question remains though, who is this game aimed at? Newcomers used to simply better zombie survival experiences might find the negatives too frustrating to bear, and old school fans will no doubt be pleased at the visual fluidity but won’t be inspired by the temperamental gameplay quirks which could be dismissed 10 years ago but not now. The reality is, this is a cool game for nostalgia’s sake for those who played the original to death especially the free-roam no timer survival mode which needs to be unlocked. However it comes hard to fully recommend where the other two games in the series do zombies and free-roam gameplay much better. In some ways Dead Rising felt like a showcase game to present what the Xbox 360 could do in terms of rendering masses of zombies on screen at once in comparison to its predecessor. Now that ideal isn’t a factor, what’s left here is a game that is a bit on the basic side. If you’re a fan of nostalgia and are looking to bump up the resolution to 4K for the best visual experience on offer then sure thing Dead Rising is a worthy buy. Anyone else it’s not so clear cut. That said, the release price is pretty cheap and considering how much playtime you’ll get from the game means it’s still good value.