Dead Rising 4
Reviewed By Steve Polak
If you want to find yourself knee deep in the dead once more, as you build your own custom weapons and then amass a kill count that extends into the thousands, then Dead Rising 4 is here to satiate your blood lust.
The game with the highest corpuscle count on the Xbox is both the same and yet different. There are still many silly weapon modifications with which you can execute the most bizarre kills. You also get to explore the town of Willamette again, as photo journalist and zombie slayer extraordinaire Frank West.
Frank's return is a great move on the part of the developers, as he flippantly quips his way through enough slicing and dicing to make a slaughterhouse worker squeamish.
Frank adds a sense of humour to the game that more recent iterations have been lacking and the new graphical prowess renders Dead Rising 4 far superior visually to the original Xbox 360 treatment, which is now nearly a decade old.
This time around, thanks to the processing prowess of the Xbox One, Willamette is more detailed and the throngs of mindless zombies more prolific. The impression is a much more serious plague of the dead to deal with. Thus, you buy into the premise of this post apocalyptic tale more consciously.
This is nicely counterbalanced by the Die Hard inspired Christmas location. You almost expect to see a wisecracking John McLane zooming about barefoot with a machine gun. Yes, setting Dead Rising 4 during Christmas is a great move. Thus the black humour that is such a key part of the game has such great fake cheery Xmas moments to counterbalance it.
Indeed, Willamette's central fixture, the mall, feels like a set from a movie with some terrific thematic touches and architectural flourishes. The rest of the town may not entirely live up to this standard, but by the time you get to explore these areas; you'll be riding high with West's one liners and some seriously over the top weapons.
This is not a game for those who appreciate subtlety. Also aside from a huge array of increasingly bizarre and destructive weapons, there are finishing move animations any fighter from Mortal Kombat would be proud to have perfected. Gore aplenty awaits you at the press of a button.
There are new elements that add further difficulty to the constant battles with mindless zombie hordes too. At times maniac soldiers will try and have a pop at you, forcing you to fight back. These guys are smarter, more elusive and better armed than your basic zombified foes.
Add to this more intense stuff the need to continue to look for clues, as you ply West's trade as an investigative reporter. Regularly you must attempt to grab some good pictures for your editor. This element adds a sense of varied pace and is a welcome part of the game design. Taking pictures makes it almost seem like there is a point to West's meanderings.
However is this enough? The game doesn't really deviate from the blueprint that has worked so well for the series to date. Indeed, its major draw card, the ability to throw tons of zombies all over the screen in one hit, is hardly a new trick these days.
What is new? You can use your camera to search for clues by using various light spectrums and the game also gives you an 'exo suit' armoured power up to play with that makes you even more lethal than normal. These small changes are noteworthy even if they don't substantially change the core concepts that power the game.
One change that does mix things up for the better, is the banishing of timed 'against the clock' play. The fact that you can 'stop and smell the roses' even if we have to substitute 'zombie' for 'rose', is a win. This change gives you more time to experiment, explore and ultimately enjoy the often massive levels on offer and this design shift is a good one as a result. You aren't forced to madly sprint from spot A to exit B like a madman possessed.
There are also some seriously mental vehicles you can use to mow down zombies like you are cutting the grass. These vehicles are great to discover, customise and experiment with, even if essentially they all do the same thing, namely cut a swathe through zombies at an astonishing rate.
Still the vehicles and all of the other elements add to the variety on offer and fans of the series will most likely be impressed.
That said, for all of these elements, and taking into account new weapons, the Christmas setting and some hilarious costumes, Dead Rising 4 struggles to get beyond its formulaic basics, and as such feels stuck in a creative rut.
So sadly while Dead Rising 4 is the best iteration so far and it IS fun to play, you are left with this empty feeling that a fifth game in the series would have to include some genuinely new and inventive elements to be worth more than a cursory glance.
Do we like Dead Rising 4? Well, yes we do, even if it feels like the quintessential example of formulaic fast food gaming for button mashers.
Will you enjoy it? Fans of the franchise and those who like quick fix instant action most likely will, even if the game's glitzy facade only barely covers up a core design approach that is dating faster than tank tops and flares.
Game: Dead Rising 4
System: Xbox One