(Jonathan Holmes recently posted a c-blog
challenging the community to play through this game and write a c-blog about it. He was concerned about being crazy when he recently gave it a glowing review
which ended up being the highest score on MetaCritic, where the average is 63%. I took him up on that challenge. Here are the results.)
When Capcom announced that they were porting the Xbox 360 game Dead Rising to the Wii, many people were shocked. Dead Rising was one of the first games to truly take advantage of the horsepower that this generation of consoles has to offer. How could it possibly survive the transition to the Wii, which is only slightly more powerful than consoles from a generation past? Not having played beyond the first 20 minutes of the original version, I'm not qualified to answer that question. If you read on, however, you'll find out if the Wii version stands up as a good game on its own merits.
Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop follows Frank West, a photojournalist who is following up an anonymous tip that leads him to the town of Willamette, Colorado. Flying in by helicopter, he finds that the whole area has been cordoned off by the military. It soon becomes clear that the town has been overrun by zombies. Frank is dropped off at the local shopping mall. He has three days to uncover the story behind the outbreak before his ride returns to fly him home.
The Wii version of the game is built upon the Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition engine. This is most obvious in the shooting mechanic of the game. You control Frank from a third person, over-the-shoulder perspective. Hitting the B button draws your weapon, and you're then able to aim with the Wii remote's pointer. Hitting the A button then fires the weapon. Aside from gunning down your enemies, you also have the ability to use various items strewn around the game as melee weapons.
The combat in this game is very glitchy and poorly designed. The vast majority of the weapons you'll pick up are used in pretty much the same way. You have the option of hitting the A button for slowly delivered, weak attack, or waving the remote for an amazingly slow, but more powerful blow. Trying to rely upon your melee attacks is futile, because you'll be taking damage left and right from the hordes of zombies that are coming for you. At the beginning of the game, you have to endure a long pause between attacks. This isn't helped by the questionable addition of auto aim. The game decides which enemy it wants you to hit and will turn Frank towards that zombie whether or not it was the one directly in front of you or not.
There are nods to the classic NES beat'em up, River City Ransom. For instance, there's an RPG system and you can buy books that will allow you to gain special abilities. Killing zombies gives you experience and upon leveling up you'll gain nonsensical upgrades like extra inventory slots, and the weapons that you pick up won't break as easily. Half of the books for sale will allow you to swing particular weapons without pausing in between strikes. Most of these are only semi-helpful because they are being applied to weapons that attack very slowly to begin with. But one book allows rapid swinging with the knife. This is a must get item, as it turns the knife into the only legitimately usable melee weapon in the game. Since the knife attacks quickly, you can generally get multiple hits on the zombie in front of you before you get attacked on the sides or from behind by another enemy. It doesn't slow you down much at all when you're running and stop to knife the zombie that gets in your way.
The rest of the books grant you special attack moves which mostly seem to apply to downed enemies. There are three reasons why they are completely useless. First, enemies on the ground are of zero threat to you, they're very easy to avoid. Second, stopping to attack them destroys the flow of the game and opens you up to attacks by other creatures. Finally, you must hit the A and B buttons together at the exact same instant with little input forgiveness. 90% of the time you will draw your weapon or punch the air.
This leaves the gunplay as your most reliable source of offense. The RE4 aiming controls as smooth as ever. Sadly, this is not without issues of its own. First of all it is incredibly slow. Pulling your weapon takes more time than it should, with some weapons taking a solid second or two before the first round is fired. In addition, all of your weapons will hold precious little ammo, and it takes half an eternity to reload. Trying to blend hand-to-hand with gun combat is made more frustrating in that you can't switch freely between them. If you try to hit the B button to draw your gun while you're waiting for a melee attack's animation to complete, you will get stuck in a loop of melee attacks. You'll first have to release the button, wait until you're standing still again, then finally draw your gun. Finally, the control scheme is wasted. Only a couple of enemies have location specific damage and animations. This is just unacceptable for a game engine with this much precision.
The two most common non-zombified human enemies that you will face bring the frustration to a boil: the zombie poodle and the grenade dropping parrot. Both of these characters feel like they escaped from an 8-bit platformer with the silliness of their concepts and their near-infinite numbers. They don't have any business in this game. That aside, they make combat a pointless endeavor. The dogs are too low to the ground and the parrots are too high to hit with a melee attack in most cases. Which leave your firearm as your best bet. However, once they spot you and come running towards you, you're a sitting duck. They can only hit you when you're standing still. Which is exactly what you'll be doing when you draw your gun. The poodles immediately run directly towards you and dive at you. Afterwards they're so low to the ground that you can't see them unless you're looking down at your feet. The parrots are difficult to aim at, because they will swoop overhead beyond your field of vision. By the time that you've lowered your gun, spun around and take aim again, they've managed to disappear. It will take another few seconds to locate them again, giving them plenty of time for another attack.
All of this would seem to make the game difficult. In truth, though, it's a ridiculously easy game once you get the hang of it. There are very few things in this game that will do much damage at all. That's only when they hit you. If you stay on the move, you'll survive the vast majority of situations relatively unscathed. Even if you get grabbed, you can usually waggle the remote to escape without getting hit. As the game progresses, it doesn't become more difficult, just more frustrating. You'll eventualy face cult members who will throw dust in your eyes that causes you to pass out. You'll wake up in a room with your clothes and inventory stolen from you, except for your guns
. I know when I kidnap people, I want to make sure to give them ample opportunity to shoot my ass to death and make their escape. You'll then need to kill about 15-20 of these cult guys before you can leave the room and continue your mission. If you're carrying any irreplaceable items, they're gone for good. It's best to reset and pick up from your previous save.
Then there are the gun-toting enemies that you'll face en masse towards the end of the game. They will hit you with almost every single shot. And when they do, any action you're in the middle of will immediately be interrupted, even reloading your gun. And the camera's perspective will shift, making aiming your counter attack incredibly difficult. And if more than 2 of them are on you at once, it becomes impossible
to reload. You will have to run straight towards the nearest one (pausing every second to get hit by a bullet) and slice him open with your knife, then turning around and going for the next guy. But as I said, it's frustrating, not difficult. Their bullets only take out a sliver of health with every hit.
The escort missions are the real heart of the gameplay. Frank is holed up in the security wing of the mall. You'll walk up to Otis, the Janitor, who will tell you of a survivor that's in a certain location in the mall. It will be up to you to track them down and bring them back to the security station.
Here is an example of a single escourt mission: Talk to Otis. Enter the ducts that lead out of the security area. Wait for a loading screen to finish. You'll find yourself on the roof of the building. Run to the elevator. Loading screen. Exit the elevator into the basement. Run through to the door that leads to the mall. Loading screen. Follow the on-screen arrow that directs you to exactly where you need to go, while just running past the zombies who will almost never touch you. The survivor will be in one of the 5 areas of the mall, and each one is separated by it's very own loading screen. When you find the survivor they will follow along behind you. Then you reverse these steps to get back to the security area.
If that sounds like fun to you, then you're in luck, as you will have to go through this exact same sequence of events about 40 times throughout the course of the game. Once in a very great while they will throw in a a short fetch quest before the survivor will join you. But that's almost the best the game does to offer any sort of variety. There are a couple of bosses throughout the game. They are all human. They all take the equivalent of dozens of shotgun blasts in the face at point blank range to kill (which is still an easy task in most cases). It confuses me how the humans in this game can take so much damage, while the reanimated corpses will drop right away if you hit them in the large toe with the second handgun you find early on in the game.
The game is very tedious to get through. After the first 45 minutes of gameplay, you've pretty much seen all that there is to see. And you've certainly done all that there is to do. Your first escort mission encapsulates how you will spend the next 15 hours that it will take to complete the game's main campaign (only 8 1/2 are spent on gameplay the rest are all cutscenes and loading screens). To call the game repetitive would be an understatement.
In addition to all of these complaints are bugs, glitches and design flaws that are too numerous to list. They really show the lack of polish on display. Here are some examples:
Zombies don't just run up from off-screen. If you kill enough of them they will just magically appear as if beamed from a UFO. Often right behind you where you where you can't see them before they attack you, or right next to the survivor that you're supposed to be protecting.
Zombies wearing hardhats are completely immune to damage in their heads. Shooting them in the face or in their exposed ears will have no effect. But a bullet in their belly, kneecap, toenail or wherever with the second level pistol and they will immediately die.
If you enter an elevator filled with zombies, and hit the button to switch floors, the elevator will be completely empty when you reach your destination.
When you kill an enemy, they will often scream out after they've already died and their body has disappeared.
The arrow that leads you to where you need to go will often just flip out momentarily, and point behind you before correcting itself.
The ammunition of the gun that you're carrying is not displayed onscreen. At any given point in time, you'll only see the rounds left in the guns clip. You have to move to your inventory screen to see the total ammo in each gun.
At a couple of points you get to drive a car to plow over zombies. You walk up to it and press the Z and A buttons and instead of getting an animation of getting inside the car, or even just opening the door, you get a loading screen followed by the camera being behind the car which is now under your control. When you reach your destination, you get another loading screen and you're magically out of it again.
With all of this going against it, you might hope that the story would at least be good enough to keep you wanting to play. Unfortunately that is just not the case. The plot is completely inconsequential. The events that happen usually come out of nowhere and are so random that you can't possibly have any real concern for what is going on. And even if you did, the Young and the Restless-level dialogue and voice acting will kill it right away. And just when you think you're near the end, you'll encounter more false endings than The Return of the King, forcing you through more and more fetch quests.
I haven't yet mentioned the graphics. And really the less said about them, the better. This is not a game that is concerned with pushing the Wii to it's limits and showing you what how it can compete for your hardcore attention. The graphics are dated. This isn't a reved up GameCube game. It looks more like something from the early days of the Playstation 2.
For a system that is struggling to maintain any credibility with hardcore gamers, it was important for Capcom to knock this one out of the park. This was a rare opportunity to take a game that had been done well on a high def system and make an equaly strong game that delivers a new experience on the Wii. Unfortunately, instead of bringing their A game, Capcom turned the reigns over to the C team. They may have hit the ball out of the park with the Wii port of Resident Evil 4, but all they were essentially doing was adding motion controls to an already legendary game. When they needed to almost rebuild a game from the ground up, however, they ended up failing miserably. The Wii is capable of so much more. But it will have to be another game that proves it to the hardcore gaming community.
I'm sorry to say that I spent $40 on Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, and can't recommend that you do the same. It doesn't even feel like a beta build of a game. I was expecting, at worst, a game that was at least a fun diversion for a quick, brainless bit of fun. What I found was an unpolished game that offered zero enjoyment whatsoever, and more frustration than I could bear to deal with. Even with it being released at $10 less that the average Wii title, it's still priced much too high. I've played many a bargain title that have far more polish, far more playability and are far more fun than this game. Please avoid it at all costs.
My rating (using the Destructoid rating scale):2