Returning to the West
Dead Rising was one of my favorite franchises to debut during the last console generation, and the one launch game I thought best made the case for upgrading to an HD system. The game’s main draw, having tons of interactive zombies on screen at once, was something that simply couldn’t be done on earlier hardware. The extra power allowed nearly everything in the game to be used as a weapon, and most items worked just about as well as you’d expect their real-world counterparts to. What’s more, although the cutscenes and story took themselves completely seriously the player never had to, making for some amazing comedy moments.
I think the secret of the game’s success has to do with never telling the player “no.” Want to eat a rotten hamburger you found in the trash, or mix shrimp with ice cream in a blender? Feel free, but you’re going to regret it soon. Want to throw marbles on the ground instead of hitting zombies with a baseball bat? You can do it, but it won’t be as useful as introducing them to the business end of a Willamette Slugger. On the other hand, deciding to fight a boss while wearing a sassy sundress or trying to take one out with a mannequin torso could end up being surprisingly effective.
With Dead Rising 4, Capcom brings the creative zombie killing simulator back where it all started, returning to the series’ original protagonist and setting. Fortunately, the title has also added a lot of features the series has picked up along the way. Since Microsoft’s exclusivity deal just expired Dead Rising 4 is heading to the PS4, and Frank’s Big Package includes all the DLC released for the Xbox One and PC versions, plus a new mode based on iconic Capcom characters.
Dead Rising 4: Frank’s Big Package (PC, Xbox One, PS4 [tested])
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Release: December 5, 2017
MSRP: $49.99 (Current owners of Dead Rising 4 on Xbox One and PC receive Capcom Heroes mode as a free update)
If you haven’t seen our review of Dead Rising 4 it’s still worth reading, and everything Chris wrote there still applies. It’s disappointing not to hear T.J. Rotolo as Frank, and as a longtime fan of the series I feel removing the time limit makes the game a little too easy. I’m also not thrilled that combo weapons can’t be crafted at all until after you’ve tracked down the blueprint. Still, it’s a hell of a lot of fun plowing through hundreds of zombies using a literal snowplow, and the Christmas setting fits the game’s parody of capitalism perfectly.
The story’s set sixteen years after the outbreak that took place in the first Dead Rising, and the town of Willamette Colorado has been rebuilt, complete with a brand new mall smack in the center of town. Survivors of the first outbreak have been wary of a repeat occurrence, so some of them are a little better prepared for the undead. There’s a series of tunnels running through the town connecting various safe rooms together, and Frank’s learned a few new tricks since his last outing. His time working with Chuck Greene in Dead Rising 2 taught him how to combine items to create combo weapons. Somewhere along the way, he also picked up Nick’s ability to merge vehicles into cars that wouldn’t look out of place in a Mad Max game.
Frank’s camera returns to the series, and it’s been upgraded with a night vision filter and a scanning mode, perfect for finding hidden collectables or secret caches. New to the series are hidden panic rooms, and if you see the White Rook shield logo next to someone’s door, it’s usually worth your while to inspect the building extra thoroughly. Another new feature lets Frank equip temporary “Exo-suits” that boost his power immensely, but break down after a couple of minutes use.
Frank’s Big Package (tee hee) includes all previous season pass DLC released for Dead Rising 4. This includes the option to turn all zombies into elves or give them heart-eyed servbot heads, and also includes some extra costume options for Frank. All of the pre-order bonuses are included, though they can’t be crafted, so you’ll have to buy them from a vendor or find them in the world. The mini-golf DLC and Frank Rising post-story single-player content are also unlocked from the very beginning, though the game advises playing through the story mode before tackling Frank Rising. Hard and “Blackest Friday” difficulty modes are included as part of the Frank Rising add-on, as is the option to turn on a time limit, but only for this mode. The PS4 version also adds the ability to move the map by using the touchpad, an inconsequential update if ever there was one.
New to all versions of Dead Rising 4 is something called Capcom Heroes mode. It’s exactly the type of gloriously stupid DLC you’d expect from this franchise. Previous Dead Rising titles have always included some well-hidden outfits with special powers, but Capcom Heroes puts them front and center. In this mode, Frank can find special Capcom-themed costumes and equip them to gain that hero’s abilities and moves for a little while, changing his outfit at any time by visiting special arcade machines. He can complete bonus challenges to unlock each costume’s ultimate ability as well as a palette-swapped shadow version of each outfit.
Capcom Heroes follows the same beats as the main story mode, though Frank can’t manage his weapon inventory or craft combo weapons. As such, he’s heavily reliant on the powers granted by his costumes to make his way through the horde. You’ll probably find a few costumes far more useful than others; Devil May Cry‘s Dante seemed seriously overpowered, while Cammy’s melee focus left her more vulnerable to being grappled by the undead. (As a side note, to the person who lovingly rendered Frank’s ass in Cammy’s battle thong? I’d like to speak with you after class.)
Arcade machines are plentiful, so even though each costume has a four-minute time limit, you’re rarely far from a refresh. It was great to see some lesser-known Capcom characters get some time in the spotlight, and trying out the various movesets and powers brought back pleasant memories of Street Fighter II, Okami, and Mega Man and Bass. This mode is probably the best way to play through Dead Rising 4 casually, and it’s lots of fun even if it sucks all challenge whatsoever out of the story mode.
I ran into a few minor errors, mostly inconsequential stuff like zombies clipping through hedges or bodies getting stuck in the walls or ceiling after an explosion went off. It sort of added to the grindhouse nature of the game, so I didn’t mind rolling with it. I didn’t notice any major glitches, though there was a bit of slowdown when lots of explosions were going off at once in the middle of a massive horde. The final cutscenes had some audio issues, and I missed a little bit of what was going on since the subtitles cut out at the same time the sound did.
Dead Rising 4 did feel like it might have had less of a budget than Dead Rising 3, and I noticed the town’s radio stations only seem to play public domain songs. Opening a pause menu and hearing a jazzy Christmas carol helps set the mood better than any licensed tracks would have, so it’s hard to complain that Willamette’s country station only plays covers of “Oh, Susanna” and “Old Dan Tucker.”
Dead Rising 4 wasn’t as satisfying as my favorite game in the series, Dead Rising 2, but it’s still a big load of dumb fun, and perfectly appropriate for the holiday season. Frank’s Big Package offers a lot of content for the price, and if you’ve enjoyed any previous games in the series, you’ll probably have fun with this one. Just be aware it’s a shallower experience than you may be expecting, especially if you start with Capcom Heroes.
[These impressions are based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]