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Destructoid review: Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop

2:00 PM on 03.03.2009 // Jonathan Holmes

Has any game in history ever been bashed as badly as Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop? It's one thing for a game to get bad reviews after the final build is sent out to reviewers, but the situation with Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop has been something else entirely. Ever since the game was announced last year, it has been mocked by everyone from journalists who have played early builds of the game to folks at home who have only seen video of it.

If possible, I'd like you to forget all the opinions you've already read (or formed yourself) about Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop. You should also forget everything you know about the original Dead Rising if you can. Comparing Dead Rising and Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop is something we'll do here at Destructoid very soon, but for this review, I'd like to focus on just one question:  

"Is Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop any good?"

Hit the jump for my answer.

[Editor's note: This review is based on a play-through of the game on Hard difficulty.]

Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop (Wii)
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Released: February 24, 2009
MSRP: $39.99

How much you will enjoy Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop has everything to do with what you expect from the game. That's the real reason I asked you to forget about the 360 version; if you go into this Wii adaptation expecting the same game you had on the Xbox 360, you're going to be wildly confused by what you get. The two games are in two totally different genres (Dead Rising 360 is a 3D beat-'em-up; Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop is a third-person shooter) and have totally different gameplay structures (Dead Rising 360 is a time-limited sandbox game; Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop is a semi-linear, time-ranked adventure game), and as such, they require you to think in totally different ways (Dead Rising 360 requires you to constantly be aware of the time so you don't miss any appointments; Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop requires you to constantly be aware of your immediate surroundings and what weapon you're holding or else you'll get murdered). All the two titles really have in common is the their story.

What I'm saying is, if Dead Rising is like a bunch of grapes, and Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition is like an apple, then Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop is a grapple. It sort of tastes like a grape, but clearly, what you're eating is some kind of apple, and we all know what happens when you compare apples and grapes.

That's right: you make an ass out of apples and grapes. 

That's why I didn't want to get into that comparison right now, and would rather stick with the question from before: "Is Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop any good?"

The short answer is, "Yes, it's a hell of a lot of fun." It's the kind of game that you can play for hours longer than you planned, due to that "just one more level" compulsion that has plagued videogame aficionados forever. It's the kind of game that could very well be the last thing you think about before you go to bed at night, and the first thing you think about in the morning. Despite its flaws, it's a game you can fall in love with. 

Here's why.

Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop is the story of a group of humans trapped in a mall overrun by zombies. The game stars Frank West, a photojournalist who initially is driven by nothing more than his own ambition, but by the end of the game, finds more noble reasons to pursue the truth. Like most good zombie films, Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop is sometimes scary and sometimes funny, but under it all is a message about trust, American culture, and the meaning of life. It's a story that's full of ridiculous moments (cannibal butchers and chainsaw-wielding clowns are commonplace), but at its heart are some pretty interesting themes. 

Also interesting is the way the game is played. Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop isn't really like any other game I've ever played, but the closest thing I could compare it to is Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition's Mercenaries mode. Just like in Mercenaries mode, the zombies here respawn constantly. You can never totally clear an area of enemies; they will always come back, sometimes just seconds after you move forward.

The game uses RE4's control scheme with a few additions, like the ability to use an RE5-style real-time overlay to change weapons and reload. It also allows you to use items in your surroundings as melee weapons: shower heads, TVs, and chainsaws are all potentially at your disposal. Some items, like the frying pan, can be enhanced by stuff you find in the environment. Heat up the pan on a stove top found in one of the mall's restaurants, and you have yourself a weapon capable of frying zombie faces off. 

As cool as the melee weapons are, you'll be spending more time using guns to take on your enemies. For the first hour or so of the game, the only enemies you face are regular zombies, who are equally easy to kill with hand-to-hand or distanced combat. After that, though, the mall starts to gradually be overrun with more and more enemies that are next to impossible to take on without the right gun and a decent sense of aim. It starts with zombie poodles and parrots (which behave a lot like Resident Evil's dogs and crows), and then come the giant taser-toting zombies that remain unfazed even when chainsawed in the face. After that come the parrots trained by some maniac to drop grenades on you (ridiculous, I know, but so are chainsaw-wielding clowns), the gun-carrying photographer zombies, and the fast-running, machete-carrying undead.

In case you haven't guessed, these are not your run-of-the-mill Romero-style zombies. They definitely have a lot in common with them; in almost everything they do, they appear mindless. Even when they point their guns at you, they do it with that kind of limp, lifeless automation that most serious zombie fans look for in an undead performance. 

Where they differ from Romero zombies is in their level of unpredictability. You never, ever know what these zombies are going to do. In the average group of zombies you come upon (usually 10-30 at a time), half of them may start wandering towards you, three or four may just stand there, and the rest may actually run at you. As the game goes on, the zombies get more skilled at attacking you, and sometimes actually run behind you for an attack.

Keep in mind, this is just the regular brand of zombie I'm talking about. On top of worrying about what those zombies are going to do, you commonly have to worry about the poodles, parrots, or "special zombies" I described earlier. All of these enemies are best dealt with in particular ways that you'll have to learn as you progress through the game. At the very least, you will have to learn to recognize the signature noises each of these zombies make. Since you're constantly surrounded by them, you'll often hear these jerks creeping up from behind long before you can see them.

As you get more experienced in playing Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, Frank West will gain experience, strength, and money. Killing zombies in particular ways (usually using some combination of gun and melee attacks) will yield more money and experience points. Most of the time, you'll be killing the zombies around you for self-defense, but you'll also spend some time killing them for profit (and fun).

What this leads to is gameplay that can turn on you instantly. One second, you'll be having a ball cutting 20 or 30 zombies up at a time with a chainsaw just because it feels good; but then your chainsaw is broken and you're surrounded by 20 or 30 angry, sometimes fast-running zombies with nothing but whatever gun you have and your fists to protect you. 

The game is pretty hard at times ... at the start. Like many games in the third-person shooter genre, by the end of the game, you're pretty much a walking tank, and even hordes of "super zombies" won't really feel as dangerous anymore. It took me 10 hours to beat the game. In that time, I'd killed a little over 5,000 zombies, and died about ten times. I'd put the overall difficulty of the game right above that of Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition

Even after you're done with the game, there are tons of extras thrown in to add to the replay value. Though I technically beat the game, there are a lot of things I won't see until I play through it again. In order to unlock all of the content here, you need to get an "S" on each of the campaign mode's "missions." These are usually escort missions in which you are tasked to rescue one of the many survivors trapped in the mall. Since you're dealing with people, though, it's rarely as simple as just finding them and bringing them back to safety. Sometimes, they won't speak English, so you'll need to find a dictionary in a local book store to explain that you're there to help. Another time you have to feed a guy a well-done steak before he'll be willing to go with you. It's little touches like that keep the game feeling fresh, and not like Crazy Taxi on foot in a mall full of zombies.

You can replay the game to get a better grade on missions and see new things (including new missions, weapons, and clothing items). You also unlock a Bionic Commando outfit if you beat the game twice (and who knows what for beating it a third or fourth time). There is also some content that was too difficult and/or too weird for the main game, in the form of "Odd Jobs" and "Second Amendment" bonus missions. This is where you'll fight stuff like invisible zombies, giant zombies, incredibly fast zombies, and all the game's bosses at once.

Speaking of of the game's bosses,  they are probably one of the game's weaker features. Though they are usually pretty interesting, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, they are almost always too easy. A couple of the bosses in the middle of the game were tough, and the very last boss killed me a few times, but other than that, they all go down without much of a fight. 

Another thing I'd change about the game is its technical specifications. This is a $40 game after all, but still, I would have been happy to pay an extra ten bucks for the game if it would have led to Capcom putting a little more money into the game's budget. Sadly, this isn't the ugliest-looking game on the Wii, but it does look substantially worse than RE4, a game made on much weaker hardware. Just like No More Heroes, Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop is a very PS2-looking game, with occasional pop-in and ugly texture when objects get too close to the camera. 

Other than the boss fights and the graphics, there isn't too much I'd change about this game. As a huge fan of Resident Evil 4, Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop offered a similar take on that experience, but with more enemies on-screen, more melee weapons, more comedy, and more action. As soon as I get done with this review, I plan on getting back into the "Second Amendment" part of the game. If you get an "S" rank on all 20 of these sniper-based sub-missions, you unlock Mega Man's arm cannon. Then I'm heading back into the campaign mode with that gun for a second play-through to unlock the Bionic Commando outfit.

Wish me luck!

Oh yeah, the score ...

Score: 8.0 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won’t astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)



Jonathan Holmes, Bad Joke Uncle
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