I’ve never been a fan of the “sandbox” games very much. Oblivion has been the most appealing, but I like my freedom in games to be a bit more structured that what’s offered in your typical Grand Theft Auto or one of its many clones. Normally I find myself so distracted that I either lose sight or lose interest in the main quest and ultimately brush the game aside in favor of something else. Dead Rising gives me enough structure that I’m able to stay focused, but it also gives me enough freedom to find diversion when I’m hungry for it.
The gameplay is pretty simple, but for a gore fest you wouldn’t want to make things too complicated. For those that need more of a technical fix, Capcom’s Devil May Cry may be more suitable. Basically you find yourself dropped into a mall in the middle of a city infested with zombies. You play as a journalist that’s out to get a scoop and possibly save some people along the way. As you roam the mall in search of clues to what’s going on, taking pictures of the carnage, and escorting people to safety, you’ll find yourself engaging in a zombie massacre with just about anything you can get your hands on. Over time you learn new combat moves, raise abilities, and increase your life meter. Every aspect of the gameplay is implemented in a straightforward and easy-to-learn fashion. Capcom does well not to muck things up with complexity.
The graphics are great, especially when you consider everything that is going on around here. Once in a while you’ll see a framerate stutter or two, but for the most part the visuals manage to be impressive while holding a good framerate. The details in the mall, character models, and just about everything else are great. Capcom definitely spent a good amount of time ensuring that everything looked great and animated smoothly.
The audio package is great. Crunches, splashes, clanks, and thumps sound spot on and the music is varied and fun. Certain situations will bring about a new kind of background music, often with comical results. In one scene a group of escaped convicts is racing around in a jeep causing extra havoc and their music is an odd mix of hip hop and crappy rock. Another situation has a psycho clown in an amusement park type area with an equally fitting audio track.
The game does have a few downsides to it; one of them being pretty awful. The save system is one of the worst I can ever remember, especially for a game of this nature. You are only allowed to have a single save file and you are only allowed to save in a few designated areas. This forces you to be extremely careful when saving since you can’t have a backup file in case you mess something up. It’s a bit disappointing to see this because it discourages experimentation at times in a game that begs you to try stuff out as often as possible. The lack of multiplayer is a tad bit disappointing, but it’s not that big of a deal. While some might miss it, I prefer to actually be left to my lonesome to progress and wander around as I see fit. Another downside is that there is a time limit, similar to what was seen in Pikmin (the original). Often this time limit will cause you to miss out on storyline elements or push you into abandoning quests in favor of other time sensitive things. I understand how the time limit fits into the storyline, but it’s more fun to not have to worry about it in a game of this nature. Subsequent playthroughs can remedy this issue; but I still would like to have seen to seen the storyline driven more by events than by time line.
It’s not that often that a summer release is really capable of grabbing you and keep you glued to your set. Normally summer is a time to work on your backlog and look forward to the massive Fall release schedule. Dead Rising, however, is one of those rare titles that manages to draw you in and keep you entertained for just about as long as your willing to sit hunched over on your couch with a controller in your hands. The game surely has its flaws, but it’s something I feel I can safely recommend to just about any 360 owner. The secrets, hidden objects, and variety of goals and achievements are great, so this is a title that’s a pretty safe purchase. Those that opt to rent the game probably won’t find enough time to experience all the game has to offer.
Overall Score: 8 out of 10