It has been over a decade since I first caught wind of Dead Rising. I think I first read about it in Official Xbox Magazine, when I was smitten with my 360 after Christmas 2005. To me, the concept was alluring not because of its nuanced referencing to Romero's "Dawn of the Dead", but more so for the idea of dressing up goofy and smashing a zombie over the head with a guitar. That's the kind of stuff a ten year old is into. I had Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo: Elements Of Power and Gun, but I guess you could say I was searching for something with a bit more genre-bending flair than the staunchly 'safe' launch titles.
Flash Forward ten years and here I am. The Xbox 360 I fawned over has since red ringed, there have been 5 more games in the series (with a sixth on the way) and I'm now an acolyte of the CPU and graphics card religion. I've long forgotten my time in the Willamette. However, thanks to Capcom going on a remaster spree, I can finally dive back in and see why I hold it so fondly in my memory banks.
Dead Rising on PC is the essential version of this timeless classic. Let's get the big compliments out of the way first, shall we? The game has been brought to PC in the most loving fashion. You can play it in 4k at 60 fps and it doesn't dare to stutter or drop a frame. The game looks palatable too. I don't think they've changed anything about the textures themselves, but they look great in modern resolutions, retaining that charm that made the game so lovable.
If you're reading this, perhaps you don't want to hear about how it looks, you want to know how it plays. Is this game series worth your time in 2016? The answer is a resounding yes. There's no mouse smoothing, the controls for Keyboard and Mouse are perfectly functional, and if you have a controller you can use that too. The gameplay is so eternally gratifying that it was barely changed for the next two titles in the series, with it basically being a port of the animations with a few new ideas and a host of new psychopaths, weapons, and areas. It was only when they ran with it for the Xbox One that it started to get saturated and lose it's charm.
Frank West is still one of the best protagonists in video game history, with a warped sense of morality and enough wisecracks to keep you chuckling, if the game's incredibly well-designed psychopaths and zombie interactions don't do it already. He's covered wars, you know.
To get you acquainted, the game basically drops you into a zombie-infested shopping mall. You are a photojournalist who has to figure out who caused this and why, whilst also dealing with the people trapped inside, for better or for worse.
The mall is covered in every kind of shop you could think of, which means you'll be killing zombies with antique battle-axes, laser swords, garden equipment and machinery as far as your imagination can muster. On its own, the satisfying zombie-killing could be a game in itself, but what makes it really pop is the humans left behind.
Your safe house is the mall's security room, your base of operations where you can save, change your clothes and restock on food before you get back out there into the wild. Expect to be returning here a lot. Out in the mall, you'll constantly be getting calls from the maintenance man, Otis, who will tell you about the people he's spotting on the security cameras. Most barricade themselves in certain shops, forcing you to convince them with your charm or provide them with something to get them to follow you back to the security room. This is how you earn PP and level up, acquiring more health, Item stock, speed and hand-to-hand skills to use on the zombies when you're weapons deteriorate. These are essentially the side quests of the game, which run alongside the case files.
Sometimes, instead of finding a survivor, you'll find a psychopath. This is a person who's gone stir crazy from being cooped up with the zombies, manifesting in a variety of hilarious characters. You can meet a clown in the theme park area who wields dual chainsaws, the manager of the mall supermarket who has a shopping cart full of dangerous weapons, and a Vietnam war veteran who has his own prisoners of war and thinks you're one of the Vietcong.
There's also a group of convicts in the game who ride around the outdoor park you have to cross in a machine-gun mounted Humvee, who can't tell a human from a zombie. The True Eye cult also appear in the mid-game, donned in yellow raincoats and green masks, sacrificing the survivor's you're trying to save and strip you of your items and clothes and trap you in their movie theater hideout if they catch you.
Now, this is an important segue because all of this is just beautiful set dressing. This is all done on free will. The game is controlled by a 72-hour time limit until your escape gets here, meaning you have to pick and choose who you save and manage your time properly if you want to save everybody. If you miss a case file, which are essentially the main missions, you fail the whole thing. You won't get rescued, and you're trapped in the mall until the military firebomb the place. There are six endings for you to work out, so depending on where and when you fail, everything changes.
You can make it a terribly stressful experience if you're a completionist, or just spend your time killing zombies in a variety of interesting ways. The mall is your oyster. All I know is that regardless of what ridiculous situations your mind is creating for you after this tantalizing taste of what Dead Rising has to offer, there's something here to satisfy your wild desires.
If you haven't played any of the Dead Rising games, this is still the best one, and this gorgeous remaster is the best place to start.
Dead Rising was reviewed on PC (Affiliate) via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.