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Goondu review: Dead Rising 4 lets you walk in a zombie wonderland

December 25th, 2016 | by Yap Hui Bin
Goondu review: Dead Rising 4 lets you walk in a zombie wonderland
Gaming
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In the mood for a Christmas zombie slash fest? Welcome to Dead Rising 4 on the Xbox One! Set in a mall with many stores, there’s plenty of gore, and a large map to explore.
Like many movie franchises these days, Dead Rising 4 is a reboot of the original game – same protagonist, same location, different time.

Set 16 years after the events of the first Dead Rising game, Frank West, the callous and mercenary photojournalist, is now a college professor teaching investigative journalism.

His student, Vick Chu, lures him out to investigate a secret military base in – where else – the original zombie outbreak location in the town of Willamette, Colorado.

Things go wrong and Frank is accused of attacking the guards, leading to a manhunt. Months after the failed “field trip”, Frank, under the pseudonym “Hank East”, has been tracked down and invited to investigate the zombie outbreak by the Zombie Defense and Control Department.

Frank goes back to investigate Willamette and attempts to track down Vick Chu who has continued in her own investigations.

Gotta bash ’em all! Use anything and everything to bash the zombie hordes. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Dead Rising 4 scores high on the “feel good” factor. With Christmas carols playing in the background and creative Christmas themed weapons, the game definitely gets you in the mood for Christmas.

Frank’s return to the iconic Willamette Memorial Megaplex also evokes a nice bit of nostalgia. There is much more to explore in Dead Rising 4, with the hotels, food courts and retail shops in the massive mall. Frank even ventures outside the mall to the Old Town and West Ridge areas of Willamette.

One of the biggest differences in Dead Rising 4 from the previous installments is the removal of the timer that forces you to complete a level within a certain time. This is a plus for those who love open-world games where you are free to wander around and explore.

The drawback is that you have no urgency to complete the missions and I found myself happily wandering around the mall for hours, picking up loot and slaying zombies randomly, almost forgetting about the mission objectives.

Soak in the immersive Christmas atmosphere – an electric wreath to spread some electrifying cheer! (SCREENSHOT: Microsoft)

The weak and unmotivated single player campaign, which  comprises of six cases, leads you from place to place in a bid to investigate the outbreak but doesn’t really compel you to complete the single player campaign.

Making it worse are the uninteresting characters you meet in the game. The survivors you meet, even those that help you along in the game, seem rather superficial and forgettable, probably due to the lack of cutscenes or backstory to develop them further.

Most interactions are conversations that go somewhat like “Save me!”, “Go here and do this”, and “kthxbye”.

Survivors and Maniacs you encounter are quite forgettable, unlike the previous Dead Rising games. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Zombies roasting on an open fire
Dead Rising 4 makes it easy for newbies to pick up zombie slaying. The weapon selection interface uses the D-pad, which lets you switch quickly between firearms, melee weapons and projectiles like grenades and Molotov cocktails without missing a beat.

And what fun are the weapons! Dead Rising 4 makes the creation of crazy combo weapons easy in Dead Rising 4 – all Frank needs is a blueprint and the right materials for whipping up an innovative combo weapon or even a vehicle.

Examples include an ice sword, a sledge hammer combined with fiery explosives and an acid maul. There are also weapons for the festive season such as Santa-styled staves, candy cane crossbows and electrocuting wreaths.

Create and wield insane combo weapons, like this Acid Maul. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

A cool weapon is the Exo suit that lets Frank wield huge and heavy objects like parking meters and railguns for melee encounters and power-ups like missiles and firearms can also be added to the suit.

Although the Exo suit can only be used for a short time, a lot of damage can be done by Frank while donning it. If nothing else, it lets him run through hordes of zombies to the next checkpoint, which is important if you need to trigger the game to be autosaved.

Yes, bashing hordes of zombies with hilarious weapons can be fun – for a while. Zombies just gravitate towards you for their share of mindless bashing.

Combat is nothing more than mashing the X button on the Xbox One controller, with the Y button for Frank to perform kicks and an occasional Y+B combo that lets Frank deal some over-the-top, gratuitously violent attacks.

Offering some variety are the Freshly Infected zombies, which are tougher and faster, and also the animalistic Evo (Evolved zombies) that have special abilities and can climb and jump. There are also Maniacs, which are hostile humans who are more challenging than zombies.

But unlike the Psychopaths from the previous Dead Rising titles who are typically colourful boss characters with their own motivations and cut scenes, these Maniacs are so mediocre you won’t even remember their names.

The more zombies Frank kills, the more Frank can upgrade his skills!

The more zombies Frank kills, the more Frank can upgrade his skills! SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

The more zombies Frank slays, the more points Frank can accumulate, and Frank can level up and attain new skills through investing his points on the Skill tree in Brawling, Fortitude, Shooting or Survival type abilities.

This helps add some variety to the development of Frank’s skills but since the weapons are so overpowered and healing foods and kits are so plentiful, I have actually not bothered to level up Frank’s skills even though I have accumulated a fair number of skill points in my zombie bashing frenzy.

Deck the halls with blood of zombies
Dead Rising 4 features large open spaces for you to explore, but the environments are seriously buggy.

I have managed to get Frank stuck in walls, pillars and even floors with no way to get out but to restart the game at the last checkpoint. Survivors are also occasionally buggy and cannot be rescued.

In one instance, I killed all zombies in the area but the survivor was still stuck atop a vehicle and refused to be rescued.

Another annoying issue is the placement of too many objects that can be interacted with close by. Too often have I accidentally swapped a super cool weapon for a useless object that was placed too close to a drawer that I was trying to open, and I cannot find my nice weapon anymore after it was dropped.

Frank’s camera does more than take photos – it has a night vision mode and a spectrum analyser. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

With a more open world and no timer, Dead Rising 4 lets you take your time to soak up the atmosphere and explore the locations.

Another nice touch is Frank’s upgraded camera with new functions. Not only can he use his camera to take hilarious selfies, photos of graffiti, zombies and survivors to score points, the Night Vision and Spectrum Analyser filters can help Frank find clues pertaining to the investigation.

They also unlock rooms and secrets, encouraging you to explore more but leading you further away from the mission objectives.

Take selfies with zombies and score points! SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Dead Rising 4’s multiplayer mode is limited to four scenarios that you can play online with four other players. Unlike the previous titles, there is no co-op mode for the story missions, which takes away some of the fun.

TL;DR
Dead Rising 4 is a “casual” and lighthearted version of the Dead Rising series – not very serious and extremely silly.

If you want to enjoy some mindless zombie bashing fun and get into the holiday mood with a Christmas themed game, with plenty to explore and heaps of inane things to do and have a laugh or two, then Dead Rising 4 will be a great way to pass the time.

Otherwise, the watered down Dead Rising 4 doesn’t quite live up to the series’s previous standards, so veteran zombie slayers or Dead Rising fans might be disappointed.

Even for a casual gamer, Dead Rising 4’s short and unsatisfying single player campaign, mediocre enemies, game crushing bugs and limited replayability is not likely to hold your interest for very long.

Dead Rising 4 is available on the Xbox One console and Windows 10 at S$69.90. The Deluxe edition, which include the Season Pass for DLCs costs S$94.90.

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