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Dead Rising (Xbox 360) artwork

Dead Rising (Xbox 360) review


"A horror fan's playground"



Dead Rising asset


I will confess that I didn't find Dead Rising to be a thoroughly frightening game. At no point in its campaign did I get the deep psychological heebie-jeebies, nor did I find myself reluctant to go to bed at night. More than anything, I viewed the game as a virtual playground. Often I've wondered, as many horror fans have, what it would be like to reenact the movie "Dawn of the Dead." I've toyed with various possible events and outcomes, and a number of daydreams end with me going out in a blaze of glory. I've also entertained the possibility of hot-wiring a contest car parked within a shopping center, plowing through scores of zombies whilst burning rubber down the corridors, and ending the carnage with Iron Maiden blasting while I empty two fully stacked SMGs, just before the car explodes.

Realistically, though, I'd probably manage to punch one zombie in the face before a horde descends upon me and I suffer a screaming, Tom Savini-like fate...

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Thankfully, Dead Rising's protagonist is not Grade A zombie chow like I am. Frank is quite athletic and intelligent enough to survive a burgeoning zombie apocalypse, or at least not become dinner from the get-go. Of course, becoming the main course is not by any stretch impossible. You see, Dead Rising doesn't throw merely a handful of zombies at you at a time. You don't wander a virtually empty campus, only to be occasionally accosted by regiments of flesh-eaters; nor do you find walking corpses lightly interspersed throughout the shopping center. Rather, you'll find the various locales and corridors of the mall teeming with horde after horde of shambling corpses. We're talking hundreds of zombies occupying a particular location, such as the maintenance tunnels beneath the mall or the grassy courtyard in the very center of it.

Frank did not bring his own pistol and saber to the this party. Thankfully the mall is practically lined with deadly weapons, mostly ranging from your standard melee items to scattered firearms. Guns like the various pistols and rifles the game sports may get the job done effectively, but I prefer the game's wild array of melee weapons. I get plenty of kicks out of whacking droves zombies to re-death with baseball bats and two-by-fours, or cutting them up with various knives, axes, and swords. My personal favorite, though, has always been the katana. Just watching that finely honed blade slip deftly through rotting flesh and rend my foes to bits grants me a little catharsis. That and it makes me feel like a Ninja Turtle.

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Unfortunately, it's best not to become too attached to certain weapons. Every blow you successfully land adds to the wear and tear on your arsenal, and eventually even the shiniest Eastern blade loses its luster and shatters. Not that it matters much, as weapons are just about ever-present and easily secured. The only real problem is the zombies tend to get in the way...

As you might have imagined, a game with literally thousands of zombies invading the explorable domain can be quite challenging. Mostly, it's because you're constantly surrounded and sometimes can't fight off a horde quickly enough. Also bear in mind that there's something of a time limit, as the storyline events transpire over a period of 72 in-game hours. At times, I found myself frantic to get to the next story event, and it didn't help that I had legions of ghouls slowing me down. I'd attempt to run past them, but that usually earned me a fair collection of bites and scratches. All of the damage adds up over time, and can potentially exacerbate hairier situations like battling the many living psychopaths found throughout the mall.

The hordes are even worse when you engage one of Dead Rising's many side quests to rescue survivors. That's right, most of the extracurricular activities available in Dead Rising involve locating survivors and guiding them back to the safe house. Think about that now: you have to escort computer-guided NPCs across a crowded mall campus inhabited by hundreds of zombies. Bear in mind that these NPCs can die, and quite often do. I can't count the number of times I've attempted to escort an able-bodied fella through a mosh pit of hungry undead, unable to fight them all off, and failed. Usually, it isn't pieces of me that fill my foes' ghoulish stomachs, but that of my supposedly able-bodied cohort, who was either too stupid to push past the horde or martially inept.

I watched numerous characters succumb to the tidal waves of zombies. After each death, I would reload my game and start over. It eventually grew so wearisome that I became numb to watching zombies devour feeble survivors.

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The biggest issue I have with Dead Rising is that it's more stressful than it is frightening. However, it's also more entertaining than it is stressful. Regardless of how tough or irritating the game is, I still find myself having fun running zombies over, cracking their skulls with baseball bats, and battling difficult psychopathic bosses. It also helps that there's no obligation to follow the campaign laid out for you. If you want to spend Frank's seventy-two hours chopping zombies up, there's nothing to stop you. Exploration also begets a variety of pleasing subplots and special events, like a memorable fight against a chainsaw-juggling clown.

Rule #32 in the movie "Zombieland" instructed you to 'enjoy the little things', which is precisely what Dead Rising is all about. It isn't about charging through an overblown storyline or bragging about your mad skills. It's about enjoying the pleasant thud that comes with bludgeoning the living dead, or making the biggest splatter you can when driving a car, or seeing how many undead you can roast with a single molotov cocktail, or finally killing that boss in the grocery store with the spike-lined shopping cart. Dead Rising is all about enjoying the small things, all of which aid you in forgetting about the game's few annoyances.

Rating: 8/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 29, 2013)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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mrmiyamoto posted October 29, 2013:

You make me wish I hadn't abandoned the game as quickly as I did when I tried it a few years ago. I remember the controls being so junk that I simply couldn't force myself to go on. Perhaps I was expecting the fluidity of, say, Halo's controls and was disappointed to find a small dot of a reticle, with touchy and sensitive movement. I do recall being surprised with the variety of weaponry, but ultimately found the combat banal. I never played the second game because of this experience.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 30, 2013:

Well, it won't work for everyone. I didn't mind the simple combat or the control response so much, but it did take some getting used to. I had to restart my playthrough at least once. I basically recommend that anyone playing the game do a sloppy playthrough the first time, just to get acclimated with the mechanics.

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