I fucking hate this game with a passion right now.
Since initially writing this article I have played more, I really want to like this game. My opinions started to improve and I was really enjoying it for a while, although that was short lived. I’ve updated the article to reflect my current thoughts. Anyway, what pissed me off about it?
The introduction was fantastic with the chopper flying overhead and I quickly became keen to play more. I was a little surprised by the choice of controls during the camera/helicopter scene, but it wasn’t particularly dire. Smashing the zombies in the head with a desk, booting a football at them or running over them with a lawn mower… awesome fun. Pottering about and generally maulling the undead is a true joy and the game does an absolutely fantastic job at it. There is a range of weapons that you can use, many of which are ridiculously fun and entertaining.
However the story and time pressures associated with it don’t really let you have fun. It feels a little pushed and I felt this was very detrimental. I quickly became concerned about the mission timing system as whilst on my first real mission, I received a further 2 quests. Pretty sure I failed one in the time it took to navigate to my mission & complete it as well. Not impressed. This first mission, obviously a key moment as players are familiarising themselves with navigation and gamelay, involved a gun fight in a food court area. Sounds really promising right? Well it isn’t. The controls for weapons are attrocious and the ememy was just appaulling!
It took a lot of headshots to beat the first boss/psychopath. A lot. Bullets seemingly did no more damaging than throwing plates. Meanwhile I was getting shot at via an SMG and grenades thrown at me. To be honest the boss wasn’t too accurate or damaging, but it was very dragged out. I was doing pathetically low damage, they were doing low damage and it was just a case of waiting for the boss to stand still in your line of sight and then shoot them. After a hit or two the boss would run around for no reason. Given the rubbish accuracy and poor animations, attempting to shoot during this time was a waste of ammo so I just waited until they returned to where I was still aiming.
Dead Rising is the first game I’ve played where the stick to aim is the movement stick (left) rather than the one used to look/move the camera (right). This seemed very unintuitive and cost me a life whilst I figured it out. In fact it cost me a couple of resaves as it went against my usual instincts. Even firing is odd. X rather than RT? WTF? What made matters worse what that the aiming was very slow and insensetive. I was hit several times simply because I couldnt get my crosshairs in position quick enough. The final issue I had, and by no means the least, was going into aim mode took the direction of the character rather than where you were looking. As such you may nip around a corner, look up at the target, hit “Aim” and find yourself staring at a table, just because of the angle of your character. Given judging the direction your character is aiming is so unprecise and the direction you, the player, are looking is accurate and obviously where you WANT to be aiming, the decision to use these controls defies belief. [Note: I’ve later found out that I can fix this in the options, but aiming based on player not camera by default is still shit and deserves slating.]
Eventually I ground out the boss fight on about the 3rd or 4th attempt. I got in about half a dozen headshots plus probably twice that in body hits before running out of ammo, which was annoying. Meanwhile the guy I was backing up was busy running into a table (although smacking him over the head with a chair did free him up). I eventually won (well by won, he never died, just ran away) by throwing plates at him whilst stood pretty open due to the cumbersom aiming. In all I found this to be a very frustrating and atrociously designed & implemented first mission.
By this point I was fed up and decided to take the next mission/case as it seemed to be on the way back to my save point. Went outside and there was some guys in a vehicle armed with a 50cal machine gun driving around, terrorising a couple and killing the bloke. Naturally I felt inclined to go help, however upon realising my only weapon was a plate I didn’t hold much hope. Upon getting close I decided “fuck this” and tried to leg it for safety. Unfortunately after being ran over a few times I was gunned down by the 50cal on the back of their vehicle. Of course this meant I had to redo the gunfight in the food court. My 360 was promptly turned off and I decided to mail the piece of crap back to LoveFilm the next day. I didn’t though, the I wanted to love this game.
Later on I figured out how to best kill these guys. Because the path finding & AI is so dreadful, just take cover until they are stuck. Then move as close as you can, as quickly as you can, and smack them. It is such cruddy gameplay but that is Dead Rising. All subsequent boss/psychopath fights were very much this. They have more powerful weapons but move incredibly erratically and they will just get stuck or leave themselves open. To me this isn’t fun and it just annoys me that the game has you doing these sort of rubbish missions when it could, or perhaps should, be using the sandbox as a foundations for a story.
The sandbox is great. The various stores all have different weapons and by exploring you can pick up rare weapons such as SMGs, although they do run out fairly easily so they shouldn’t be used within the sandbox for fun (unless you aren’t saving). There are also side missions/quests where you are called and given the location of a person or couple of people to rescue. These however are generally just annoying due to the awful AI. People you rescue are pretty much incapable of defending themselves or avoiding/walking around any obstacles in your path. It is quite a painful process to get them back and the challenge is more baby sitting them back whilst getting attacked (when of course they stand there) and keeping them from dying (which is made challenging when the run into you whilst fighting desperately).
I mentioned the time pressures earlier. Of course while doing any mission, side mission or pottering about open world the clock is ticking for the overall story as well as any active missions. This wouldn’t be so bad if you had your one story mission and maybe a near by side quest active, but you are CONSTANTLY being phoned. Answer and you are unarmed and given missions you probably dont want at that time. Don’t answer and believe me, the phone going off every 20 seconds or so will do your head in. This is especially annoying as you may want to go save, explore to find the katana or just want to do something else in the sandbox. As a result the game is effectively punishing you for wanting to enjoy the best aspects of the game. Should you miss one of the story missions, the story is gone. You can either restart, load your save or just carry on playing without the story. Surely this isn’t a big deal though? If you want to maybe ignore the story and have fun for a few sessions (saving if you do find that awesome weapon or rescue a particularly challenging survivor of course) then surely just create a different save file for having fun? Hahahaha don’t be so silly. This is Dead Rising!
You get one save in Dead Rising. Of course this isn’t the first game to do this, but it is probably the first (and hopefully the last) where you have one save slot and a story that can time out. Personally I feel as though this is too much and unfair. It also puts extra weight on sticking to the story and its awful missions rather than exploring as you WILL fail missions and if you then save, they are gone for good. As weapons have limited usage, it also means that at the end of a mission you may have used a rare weapon but wish to save to avoid having to repeat the mission if you die later on. Ordinarily if you wanted the opportunity to have another go at the mission and keep old of your chainsaw at a later date you’d create another save file, but this isn’t possible. For a game like Dead Rising, surely they’d want to be able to provide you with multiple slots so one can be used to follow the plot and then in the second, keep your character armed up ready for a good fun 30 minute session.
There are a lot of other things that I don’t like, but I’ve been awfully negative and about time to discuss one very positive system. As a photographer, your character is able to take photos and depending on the quality, you get a score that goes towards levelling up. This provides an interesting challenge and a novel alternative way of increasing your level. They’ve done an excellent job of this as you need to ensure the subject is in frame and if appropriate, zoomed in. Not only that but you get different special classes such as “Brutality” from photograping anything a bit on the gory side, “Drama” from catching the reunion of a couple on camera and even “Erotica” for being a naughty chap trying to take photos up a girls skirt!
To sum up, killing zombies is Dead Rising is fantastic fun! Controls and camera angles can be a bit iffy but the core gameplay of killing zombies is very enjoyable and provides the foundations of what could have been a new favourite game of mine. However the rest of the game is just a complete mess and ruins it. But it goes further than that. Not only is it a case of having masses of negatives weighed against two very solid positives (taking photos + zombie killing) but the dreadful missions system actually takes you away from doing the fun stuff! Sheer madness.
I can understand why the game was so well received. There’s a diamond of a game with the ingredients of killing zombies with a fantastic (and often comedic) array of weapons. It provides great Youtube factor & magazine style selling points. However I gave Dead Rising half a star (out of 5) on LoveFilm. I know I was overly harsh, but the game frustrates me more than any other.They have taken a diamond and covered it in faeces, something that shouldn’t be touched.