Dead Rising 4 Review: Merry Bloody Christmas

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Once a game franchise hits its fourth main instalment – mobile spin-offs and remakes notwithstanding – it’s safe to say the world has made up its collective mind about it.

Its publisher recognises it as a profitable undertaking, its fans pick up a copy when a new iteration drops and since developers don’t really tinker much these days with the core experiences in major IPs, those who were unimpressed to begin with remain so.

This is the landscape Dead Rising 4 finds itself in. Capcom’s latest zombie whackathon doesn’t shift at all in terms of what it expects from players; you grab a blunt object or a gun and then starting brutalising the living dead. If that sounds awesome, stop reading and pick up a copy – you won’t be disappointed. If you need more, read on.

Dead Rising 4: Welcome back, Frank

Dead Rising 4 sees the return of Frank West, the scumbag tabloid photographer from the first game in the series, and really, it’s great to see him again. West was always two parts humour, one part cynicism with a smidgen of bile thrown in for good measure and he’s the perfect foil for Dead Rising 4.

The reason for this is that – aside from the undead – Frank seems to live in a world populated almost exclusively by idealistic twits, pious self-appointed saviours and irredeemable bastards. In this landscape he’s a walking reality check, even if he also happens to be an unrepentant arsehole. His cynical world view and need for self-preservation above all makes him a believable – even likeable – protagonist and it also leads to some genuinely funny moments.

Frank’s return is arguably the best decision the developers made as slogging through Dead Rising 4’s list of uninspiring ‘Cases’ and unimaginative side quests would be a real drudge without him. For the most part, players are required to smash through hordes of zombies with whatever weapon they’ve picked up or crafted, using mechanics that are more streamlined than in previous iterations (yay!) but woefully unengaging (boo!).

Dead Rising 4: Let’s go to the mall

The open world environment isn’t exactly brimming with ideas. The Willamette shopping mall is interesting for a time, but as players progress into the town around it, Dead Rising 4’s world reveals itself to be thuddingly dull – even if Frank happens to be wearing something ridiculous while they explore it.

When they aren’t smashing through hordes of the undead, players will occasionally have to solve the odd puzzle. This involves taking snaps with Frank’s rather nifty camera, which has infrared and spectrum lenses that compliment his normal one. This is hardly challenging, but it does give players something to do during the game’s action downtime.

Dead Rising: It’s a laugh every 10 minutes

The real problem with Dead Rising 4 is that its greatest moments are brutally fleeting. Sure it’s a laugh-out-loud moment when you smash your first zombie in the face with a yuletide wreath or when you mow down a bunch of undead in a go-kart, but those moments of joy can’t be sustained.

No matter how cool Frank’s get-up is, no matter how bonkers the weapons he’s wielding is, ultimately, chopping up zombies – as well as the odd platoon of irritating solders – becomes busywork. In the end, it’s tempting to avoid the zombies altogether; they’re simply a shuffling, moaning barrier between one mission and the next.

Dead Rising 4: Verdict

That all having been said, there are a lot of players who will take to Dead Rising 4 like ducks to water. While its repetitive experience may put some players off, there are just as many who will revel in the activity of painting Willamette red with zombie innards.

As was mentioned before, players who love the Dead Rising franchise have already made their minds up, as have those who find it dull and unimaginative. In other words, you’re either in for this ride or you probably don’t care. Merry Christmas!

  • Dead Rising 3 was reviewed on an Xbox One. A retail copy was provided by the publisher.