Rod becomes a mallrat with a machete in Capcom’s undead classic. How does it fare ten years later?
Who made it?: Capcom Production/Studio 1 (Developers), Capcom (Publisher).
Genre: Survival Horror/Beat ‘em up.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
Format: Disc, Download.
Released: September 8, 2006 (UK).
Dead Rising celebrates ten years since its initial release in 2016! Before 2006, if you were asked about zombie games, one of your first thoughts would have most likely been the Resident Evil games by Capcom, who also brought this zombie franchise to undead life. But where the Resident Evil games were survival horrors without any (intentional) comedic elements, Dead Rising combines the horrific nature of survival zombie horror with zany and funny elements. It was a launch title for the Xbox 360, and for a while, the franchise was exclusive to Microsoft.
The basic story is that you’re a freelance photojournalist named Frank West. There has been a zombie outbreak in the fictional town of Willamette, Colorado. He wants to investigate the situation based on a tip he received. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t played the game, but one of the things I liked about the narrative is the different take it has as to why the zombies in this universe exist. The game’s first cutscene has Frank being flown into Willamette via a helicopter. After this, you are then given the opportunity to learn the gameplay mechanic of taking photographs by taking pictures of the carnage you see happening on the streets below. Once this part of the flyover is complete, the pilot then takes Frank into the centre of town, where they approach the local shopping mall in which the entirety of the game takes place. A swarm of army choppers interfere with your relaxing scenic tour of Willamette, forcing the pilot to fly away, but not before hovering above the rooftop of the mall so that Frank can leap out. He then flies away with the promise of coming back to get you… in three days.
If the whole “zombies in a mall” part sounds familiar to you, then you’ll know that it’s also where the action takes place in George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). In fact, Capcom placed disclaimer stickers on the covers of the game explaining that the Romero film is in no way related to it, as a pre-emptive measure against any confusion customers may have had between the two. However, there was a lawsuit filed in 2008 against Capcom, Microsoft and Best Buy by the MKR Group, who hold the copyright to both the original Dawn of the Dead and the 2004 remake, citing that Dead Rising infringed on that copyright. But the case was dismissed in court because the Judge ruled that there were no elements within Dead Rising that were protected by another producer’s copyright, and that Dead Rising‘s “wholly unprotectable concept of humans battling zombies in a mall” meant that the MKR Group had no basis in which to successfully sue.
The player is given an in-game 72 hour period in which to either play through the story by completing Case Files, which serve as story missions that advance the plot, or you can kill time and the undead by running around being a zombie hunter. If you decide you want to complete the Case Files, remember that you have a limited amount of time to get to and complete each one before it becomes unavailable, which then cancels the rest of them for the remainder of the game, meaning you can’t advance the story, and this also happens if you fail a Case File as well. There are multiple endings that can be achieved by meeting certain criteria relevant to each ending. In order to get Ending A, which is the canonical ending of the game’s story, you must complete all the Case Files, including the one where you need to be somewhere to talk to a particular character at a certain time, as well as being there at the helipad when your chopper returns for you. Ending B is achieved by not completing all of the Case Files, but being present at the helipad when your chopper arrives. Ending C occurs when you complete all the Case Files, but don’t meet with the character you had to meet in order to get Ending A. To be given Ending D, you must get captured at a certain point in the story. Ending E requires not completing all the Case Files, and not being at the helipad when your time expires. And Ending F is accomplished by failing to complete all the objectives for one particularly important Case File, which results in the game ending prematurely. Given that the letter “F” can be associated with “Fail,” it seems appropriate to be assigned to Ending F. There is also an unranked ending that you can get if you run out of time during “Overtime Mode,” but more on that later. When you achieve any of these endings, you will see a cutscene associated with the requirements of the ending you’re given, and then text will appear letting you know about the aftermath of the situation based on the requirements needed for that particular denouement.
A security guard named Otis gives you a mobile phone at the start of the game, and he will call you when he sees survivors via surveillance monitors, which will then serve as side missions for you to complete if you choose to do them. If you need to check the time, Frank wears a watch you can look at, and this will also bring up a list of available side missions currently active, including Case Files in progress so that you can see where their status bar is. The bar slowly depletes as it comes closer to disappearing and it will change colour as it gradually goes down. If multiple side missions are available, you can choose which ones you want displayed as active, and this will make an arrow appear leading you to where the next scoop is located. If you die or the game is ended prematurely, or you choose not to load your last save, you will have to restart from the beginning again. It is one of those games where you don’t have an autosave and must actually go to a save location in order to record your progress. Keep in mind, too, that the game only allows one slot per storage device and player profile. But the great thing about Dead Rising is that any progress you make with your character’s upgrades, as well as the XP Frank accumulates, will be retained as long as your save file exists. So, there’s a lot of replay value to be had, especially if you don’t erase your game save after getting Frank to the highest XP level of fifty, because if you want to experience the game all over again at a later date, Frank being at level fifty will make your replay much easier.
The upgrades that Mr. West can gain are the amount of health squares he has, his attack power, how many items he can carry at one time, how fast he can move, weapon/item throwing distance, and the kinds of hand-to-hand combat attacks and acrobatic abilities he can perform. The way you gain these upgrades for Frank is by collecting “Prestige Points” or “PP,” and you can get these by completing Case Files, finding survivors that decide to join you, successfully escorting those survivors back to the safehouse, and for every 500 zombies you kill. Another way is to take photos of certain types of events or situations. The larger the target marker when aiming with your camera, the more PP you will get from the photo you take. If you take a photo while attacking, being damaged, or in some other non-standard status, the target marker will change colour to red, which indicates an increase in the amount of PP you will gain from that photograph. The types of snaps you can take are colour-coded, so when your target marker changes to a particular hue and you take a photo, it will be classified under the genre associated with that colour. The genre that gives you the most PP will take precedence over other genres that are within the same photo you’re taking. The genres of these, and the elements within your photos, can be Brutality (violent images), Drama (emotional), Outtake (comedic), Horror (gory), and even Erotica. Yes.
Pretty much any item in the game can be used as a weapon, and this is where the zany and funny elements come into play, because you can even use soft toys, some of which can be placed on the head of a zombie. There are plenty of things you wouldn’t necessarily think of as being weapons initially. They range from very powerful to pretty much useless, being there just to provide humour. Keep in mind, though, that certain items useful as weapons cannot be stored in your inventory, and if you switch weapons or pick up another, then the current one you’re carrying will be dropped. These kinds of weapons are things like cash registers and other large, bulky items, such as long seats made of wood, pot plants and shopping trolleys. Some items that can be used as weapons are pushable, like lawnmowers, shopping trolleys, and large garbage containers on wheels, and these can be picked up and used as a melee weapon or thrown at enemies. Melee weapons will eventually break after using them a certain amount of times, but handguns, shotguns, sniper rifles, machine guns, and heavy machine guns won’t break but will run out of ammo and be discarded. You also have a variety of hand-to-hand attacks that Frank can gain and implement, such as the jump and kick, and even the ability to grab a zombie by the head before slamming it into the ground to make it explode gorily, among many others. You also have the ability to change into different clothes, creating combinations that can lead to some laughs as well. If you meet certain requirements throughout the game, you can even unlock the Real Mega Buster weapon, which is what Mega Man uses in Capcom’s series of games. This is very powerful, able to kill Psychopaths (more on those later) in only a few shots. And if you run out of ammo, you just go back to the safehouse where you’ll find another to pick up and use. There’s even pieces of Mega Man’s suit that you can find and wear, too, if you want to become the gaming hero. There is even a Toy Mega Buster you can find, but that, of course, is nowhere near as powerful and only fires tennis balls!
Apart from zombies as enemies, you encounter the aforementioned Psychopaths along the way. These people act as the game’s bosses. They are survivors that went insane from being caught up in all the outbreak commotion, and will attack with the intention to kill anyone who comes into contact with them. Psychopaths also provide elements of comedy due to how insanely silly they are dressed in some cases, as well as their personalities. Later, you will encounter other human enemies to deal with. The only types of zombies you face are the standard ones, and the ones who become more powerful at a certain time of night. Once this happens on the first day, every time night falls, the zombies will become more active, tougher and more numerous. Despite not having as many enemy types as a game like Resident Evil, this doesn’t affect the overall experience of battling an endless supply of ghouls in very fun and inventive ways.
Another aspect to the gameplay is being able to eat food or consume drinks to replenish your health. These can either be used straight away or kept in your inventory for when you need them. You will find these strewn about all over the place, and there are some areas where you have an unlimited supply of drinks that you can keep returning to when you run out and need to refresh your supply. In areas where you can find Blenders, you can create drink combinations which have different affects on Frank. These range from giving him temporary super-speed to making him feel sick, causing the poor dude to throw up every so often for a limited time. You can even put certain foods into the microwave to increase their effectiveness, or place frying pans onto a stove to heat up and use as a more powerful weapon. Some food, though, will be spoiled, and while it does replenish health, it also makes Frank sick and vomit-y.
As previously mentioned, you have an in-game 72-hour period in which to play, and if you want to experience the whole breadth of story, why it happened, and what is currently going on, then you will want to complete every Case File. If you manage to finish all of them, you will unlock what is called “Overtime Mode,” which allows you to accomplish the true ending of the game. And when you complete that, you unlock “Infinity Mode,” which is really difficult because your health depletes constantly; you must find food to replenish it, and these items are in very limited supply. Added to all that, you have to do these things whilst also surviving attacks from other people, including ally characters and even those you would find as survivors in the other modes. How long you last will depend on whether you can endure, and how long you are willing to keep your console switched on because you cannot save your progress, so if you die, you must restart again! There’s two Xbox Achievements you can get that are associated with this particular mode. One requires you to survive five days in-game, and the second demands you survive seven days in-game. The way time works in every mode for Dead Rising is two real-time hours for every 24 in the game, and for “Infinity Mode,” it will take quite a few hours to get through five or seven days. When I got the two Achievements, being the kind of endurance gamer I am, it took me about fourteen real-time hours to get both in one sitting without breaks, and despite starting “Infinity Mode” the night before, I still managed to land the Achievements the next morning without any sleep. Those who also play long into the night will surely know where I am coming from.
The game isn’t without flaws. Initially, the control setup and how the controls are executed feels a bit uncomfortable. But the more you play the game, the better you get at controlling Frank, and the button scheme becomes second nature. A gameplay element that can also prove very frustrating at times is the dreaded “Escort Mission,” which in Dead Rising is a regular occurrence due to having to escort survivors back to the safehouse. If you let them die, either by accident or choice, or you don’t help them in time when they’re under attack, they will be killed for the rest of the playthrough. But, if you rescue them, you must escort them back to the safe location every damn time. Along the way, you can press a button to ensure they’re following you and to call out to them (I end up spamming that button!), or you can point at a spot and then get them to travel to that position. You can give a survivor a weapon to defend themselves with, but don’t completely put faith in them because they can still end up in situations where they will die unless you intervene.
If you haven’t played Dead Rising before, and you want to get the most out of your first playthrough, then I recommend you focus at first on gaining as much XP as you can. This will allow you to upgrade Frank’s skills, thereby making the story missions much easier to get through, especially when going up against Psychopaths. Then, once you get Frank up to a level you’re happy with, focus on doing the story missions as it will make playing through Overtime Mode much easier, too. Something else that can prove useful is finding certain books that, as long as you keep them in your inventory, will give Frank certain perks. These range from weapons doing more damage to your health items giving you more of a boost, among others that you can find.
Overall, if you want a change of pace from Resident Evil and would like some laughs along with your dosage of gore and violence, then I do recommend Dead Rising because, in spite of its flaws, it really is a whole lot of fun to play. As part of the ten year anniversary of this game, I also recommend the sequel Dead Rising 2 as well as the “What If?” version known as Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, which will be re-released for the current generation of systems in glorious HD. It’s a great day to kill some zombies.
- Dead Rising Original Soundtrack was released in Japan on March 30, 2007 in a 2,000-copy limited edition, bundled with a T-shirt. It was packaged with a T-shirt that showcased Frank, Isabella, and an outline of the mall. A non-limited edition of the same soundtrack was released on June 20, 2007.
- Many costumes are made available to the player once completing certain tasks, such as a Special Forces uniform, wrestling boots, Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask and Mega Man X‘s armor.
- According to Capcom, Dead Rising shipped 500,000 copies in the first month after its release, and one million copies worldwide by the end of 2006.
- A Wii remake was released in February 2009 titled Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop.