Dead Rising 4 is an Open World Action game that once again takes us back to Willamette mall, where the zombie outbreak originally occurred and has us play as Frank West for the first time in a main entry since the series debuted in 2006. It sounds like a love letter for fans of the series, and in some ways it is, but at the same time has been massively changed from even the third title, so don’t jump right in due to its namesake alone. We begin with a cutscene that has Frank and his new protege called Vick driving to Willamette in search of a scoop to uncover. The first thing immediately noticeable is that Frank’s voice actor has been changed and his personality is unrecognizably different from before. He turned from a slightly shady person to a meme spouting middle-aged man. This change isn’t inherently bad but does tip you off that in their effort to keep old fans and bring in new players, they leaned more towards the latter.
Before starting the campaign, you are given three different difficulties to choose from that effects the amount of damage you take, weapon durability and how much items heal. If you enjoy a game with any semblance of challenge, I recommend starting off with Hard. Afterward, you will soon be introduced to several new features such as looting drawers and the new stealth system that lets you get the jump on human foes. Even if Dead Rising was the last franchise I ever thought would implement stealth in any form, it is a decent addition that lets you play the game in a different way and is entirely optional. In my opinion, the best difference comes in the form of the camera that has once again been reintroduced. Like before, we can take pictures to earn experience points, but it also comes with a night vision mode and a spectrum analyzer to detect hidden clues. These allow us to investigate a scene to uncover the story ourselves and has other uses such as opening safes containing goodies.
Perhaps the most impactful change comes in the form of the new inventory system that is now broken into four separate sections. You have one for melee, one for ranged, another for throw-able items and finally one for healing items. Each has their own button assigned to them, but in this effort to streamline the inventory system, they ended up making it convoluted and ripping out gameplay mechanics such as throwing your melee weapons. Remember throwing your nearly broken sledgehammer into a zombie’s face or using a broom handle as an improvised javelin? These are some instances of the depth that has been lost, and it does negatively impact the fun factor as a result. After some time I did get used to it but it never felt quite right. Like picking up health items as an example. You can’t sort between them and they seem to heal the same amount whether it be a first aid kit or an apple. The long-running feature of mixing food has also been done away with meaning we can no longer spit fire or run faster than humanly possible.
We’ve arrived in Willamette close to Christmas time and that theme will remain throughout from the craftable items to the vehicles we can commandeer while playing classic songs. This does make it an odd title to play outside of that specific season, though exploring the decently sized map is a ton of fun nonetheless. The mall is huge and has a ton of things waiting to be discovered ranging from blueprints for new weapons, access cards to hidden bunkers or silly new things to wear. It doesn’t resemble the original mall in any way whatsoever but it has its own unique charm and more importantly, doesn’t require any loading to go between areas. We are not contained within the confines of that mall either, we can finally venture out of it and explore the surrounding town. Once again, this town looks nothing like the one from the original game but does offer up a ton to discover. In your travels, you will come across many vehicles to screw around it be it a small electrical car, a jet ski or a wheelchair to name a few of the things you can have fun in.
Unlike Dead Rising 3, there are no longer terribly placed roadblocks whose only purpose was to annoy and make the map seem bigger. In this, we can ride anywhere without the need to pull up the map every three seconds due to bad map layout and can fully enjoy mowing down zombies a gentle, snow-covered Christmas evening. This does make it all the more noticeable that zombies no longer latch onto your car and the physics are noticeably worse in this entry. Having zombies just punch your vehicle instead of having to drift them off of your windshield is a disappointing omission. Other differences from the prior title come in the form of the gore effects being worse this time around and the lack of coop which is probably the most damning of them all. Yet another red mark against Dead Rising 4 is it having only 55 combo weapons in comparison to the 107 found in the third.
In a first for the series, this title no longer features the iconic timer that slowly but surely ticked down, making you have to manage between messing about or completing objectives be they important or not. This timer was greatly extended in DR3 to the point of being redundant, so its all together removal wasn’t that much of a sudden shift but it was still a vital ingredient to what made the original stand apart and gain its cult following. Time doesn’t even advance unless you do the primary missions so if you immediately set off to explore everything nook and cranny, it will never turn dark outside. This static day/night cycle is just bizarre, especially in the open world genre. Due to all of this and more, most people you ask will tell you that the third game is superior. Well in that I strongly disagree. It is a better open world since it has coop, better physics, more weapons and a far better inventory system, but Dead Rising 4 is a more well-rounded title despite its many flaws.
For one, it has good characters that have actual charm to them, better missions and a far better story. DR3 had a good open world containing nothing but fetch quest missions, while DR4 is a more structured and interesting title to go through. They offer different benefits for different people so it’s not as simple as one being superior to another since they are both all too intent on shooting themselves in the foot. A key factor to take into consideration here is the fact that I didn’t play this title when it originally released. I’m reviewing it as it is in its current state and after many important fixes to it, with even a new mode being added which I’ll get into later on. If I would have played this title as it was back then I’d wholeheartedly agree that DR3 was the superior game, despite not being a fan of that entry. Luckily for me, Capcom didn’t release Dead Rising 4 outside the Xbox One and the Windows Store until halfway through March so I waited for Christmas season to arrive once again.
To get back to the topic of the game itself, let’s talk about survivors. They will appear around the map randomly and most either be rescued from zombies or other hostile humans. Some survivors are not spawned in randomly and typically require something from you such as finding a key to free them or photographs from certain areas before they go to a safehouse. Saving them will net you a fair bit of experience points and they will also count as an upgrade towards your safe house where other survivors gather. In these, you can also purchase various things from merchants using this game’s currency called Scrap you gain by looting. You can buy clothes, information about items locations, weapons, and vehicles. The more survivors you save, the better the stuff they sell and this progress does actually carry over if you restart your playthrough. It is a nice middle ground between mindlessly spawning in gear like in DR3 and having a currency system like in DR2.
Zombies themselves have also received a fair amount of changes. Among them, you may find a freshly infected who can outright print towards you and are a lot more difficult to take down. For the first time in the series, there are no more undead containing wasps which were used to quickly take out a group of them. To thin out a horde you must do it the old-fashioned way and chop till they drop. Or attempt to run them over on a Segway, this is Dead Rising after all. Frank who admits that he can barely make a sandwich now has the skills to jury-rig weapons and cars together to create something to devastate zombies with. They are just as ridiculous and fun to use as ever, even if the physics and gore has been inexplicably made worse. The big new addition to slaughter our way to victory are the new exosuits that may randomly spawn in. These grant you massive strength and the ability to pick up weapons you normally couldn’t. Rig it up with an upgrade such as a slushie machine and you will be unstoppable.
Exosuits only last a minute and a half however. You got to make your time in them count since they are gone just as soon as you found them. Aside from zombies, humans are a much more common threat this time around. Walking through either the mall or the town’s streets, you can usually hear a battle raging on between them and the undead. Guns play a much more vital role than ever before since humans can now be killed with a single headshot if they are not in an exosuit or are a boss. There isn’t just a single type of human faction. To name only a few of them, there are looters, mercenaries, medieval knights, elves, and pirates. Most of these are lead by a chief maniac who are different to the series Psychopaths in that they don’t have an introductory cutscene or unique fighting styles. Their biggest threat comes in the sheer amount of damage they do if they land a hit on you which do feel unbalanced if you are a low-level character on a difficulty other than the lowest.
I did die several times throughout due to those fights as they can combo you into an unwinnable situation. It is an entirely different type of challenge from what the series used to have. Before, death came slowly as your health whittled down to nothing and you curse yourself for not preparing your items well enough to keep you going. In this, it is over in the blink of an eye due to the high damage outputs, but I still appreciate it more than never coming close to dying like in Dead Rising 3. What may grind on your gears a bit is the hit detection on Frank. Zombies will claw at thin air and still manage to damage you at times. Also worth mentioning is that there are no longer any special moves to learn such as disemboweling a zombie with your bare hands or suplexing them right back to hell. We can’t even jump kick, it is now an automatic function that occurs when you jump near a zombie and is useless most of the times.
A first in the franchise is the fact that there is only a single ending now. On the flip side is that the story in this is the best since the original title and the characters were also pretty memorable. It pulls off having a serious story yet being all too aware of how silly the whole thing is rather well. Frank is hilarious and seems to have gone a bit nutty after one too many zombie outbreaks. The dynamic between Vick and Frank was a missed opportunity though, as the script and her few actions throughout make her seem like the ultimate douche with few redeemable qualities. Like most of the other good things about this title, the story itself has a big negative to it as well and what personally annoyed me most of all. There is no more manual saving and it now relies on checkpoints throughout the story to save. This drove me insane as I either had to progress through the story or hope for a random side mission to occur every time I wanted to exit the game.
The new mode that Capcom has added for free on December 5th is called Capcom Heroes. It sets you back to level one for that specific mode and has you replay the campaign with quite a few interesting changes. You can no longer pick up weapons or change clothes, instead are now given a unique set of moves that have a recharge meter. At the start you are still Frank West who can now throw a wasp, pull out a revolver that recharges its usage and attack using a random item each swing like in Marvel Vs Capcom. There are arcade machines placed around the map that you can use to change characters into one of many iconic Capcom heroes or villains each containing their own move set. You can play as Ryu from Street Fighter, Dante from Devil May Cry, Jill from Resident Evil and Morrigan from Darkstalkers to name some of the 17 characters in total. Some are unlocked from finding enough collectibles, progressing through the story or purchasing with scrap. Once you unlock them, two side missions for that specific hero will appear on the map which grants you a new move and a dark version of that character.
Leveling up in that mode doesn’t earn you skill points like in the campaign to unlock perks with. Instead leveling up will just slightly increase your health and stamina. Capcom Heroes is a pretty cool way of trying to repair Dead Rising 4’s reputation and does make you want to explore the entire map all over again. This title is definitely a strange one. For every step it takes forward, it takes another one back. As Capcom continued to attempt to salvage it over the year with multiple patches to include stuff like maniac bosses, harder difficulties, unique survivors to escort, and the aforementioned Heros mode, they did manage to turn things around for the better. It is by no means the best in the series but did manage to become an enjoyable entry. If you are looking for something to play this holiday season, you could do far worse than Dead Rising 4.