Ahh, Christmas time. ‘Tis the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the silly season, and the apex of rampant consumerism. What better way to fight off the stresses of the holidays than a zombie outbreak?
In past years, the madness of Christmas time has always stressed me out. Not this year, at least since I started reviewing Dead Rising 4. The game is stupid fun, allowing you to kill zombies in the most creative ways possible. Even though there are minor glitches, and the hack-and-slash mechanic may be too elementary for some, the number of times the game made me laugh out loud outweighs any issues it may have.
Frank West makes his triumphant return to the series, and to the sleepy town of Willamette. The sarcastic and seasoned photojournalist imbues the game with clever quips and remarks, and makes the horror of a zombie outbreak infinitely more light-hearted. Within the first cutscene, when Frank realised he was duped into returning to Willamette instead of playing mini-golf, his reactionary comment of “I love mini-golf!” sets the tone of the game.
That tone is more like the first two games, whilst still retaining the open world design of the third installment. Dead Rising 4 takes place around Christmas time, after a zombie outbreak occurs during the Black Friday sale at the Willamette Mall Megaplex, the largest mall in United States. Frank West returns to the town to investigate the cause of the outbreak, whilst annihilating zombies.
And boy do you get to annihilate them in the most creative ways possible. Within the first hour, I had skewed zombies using a swordfish, jammed a handful of fireworks into the head of another and watched it fly away into the sky, and mowed down a corridor full of them using a segway. The discovery of blueprints allows you to make unique and hilarious weapons, by way of video game logic. Combine an assault rifle and computer parts, be it a monitor or boombox, and you get a gun that shoots electricity. In true Frank West fashion, a throwaway remark of “Oh yeah, that makes sense” makes the game self-aware of its ridiculousness.
Frank has also been beefed up, too. Instead of cycling through weapons, Capcom have changed the control scheme to allow access to melee, thrown and projectile weapons via the D-pad, giving immediate swap of weapons. This allows Frank to fight without missing a beat, giving him a greater chance to continue his combos.
A more powerful Frank also comes with its own problems. With the abundance of food, beverages, and medkits strewn around the world that restore a significant chunk of health, I never felt remotely close to dying. The aforementioned quick weapon swap means there's no threat of him being in danger either, boiling the melee combat down to a derivative of Dynasty Warriors.
Though the game is filled with tense, atmospheric horror music, it is a refreshing change when the game is paused to find a medley of Christmas songs played by a big-band. It further enhances the lack of seriousness the game has, and to remind you that “Hey, it is Christmas after all.”
An added element of Frank's camera is the extra filters he’s acquired. Night vision allows you to see in the dark, and a spectrum filter allows Frank to analyse clues, akin to detective mode in the Batman: Arkham series. It's sometimes a nice change to the straightforward combat, but its low difficulty level in solving puzzles leaves me wanting more.
Those that enjoy the timer mechanic in Dead Risings 1 and 2, be warned: Like Dead Rising 3, this game doesn't have a timer that forces you to ensure you return to the safe house in time. What you are getting instead is an open-world beat ‘em up, with quests thrown in for good measure. Conversely, if you are like me, in that the idea of being stranded when you have run out of time stresses you out to no end, then Dead Rising 4 is a perfect, stress-free action game.
Dead Rising 4 is not a perfect game - far from it. It's not thought-provoking, nor is it mechanically challenging, but it is a perfect Christmas game. Think of it as the Die Hard of video games: it sits on the left field when it comes to movies with holiday themes, but it is loved and watched by many over the Christmas break.
I may not play Dead Rising 4 everyday, but come Christmas time, when I'm worn out from the end of year festivities (that start in October, no less), I’ll break it out to help unwind. And maybe, just maybe, it will rid me of my “bah humbugs” during the silly season.
Tony received a digital copy of Dead Rising 4 from Xbox NZ for review.