Ten years ago, one of the greatest zombie games graced the Xbox 360 and thus one of the craziest survival horror series was born. It wasn’t survival horror in the traditional sense as it created a wonderful B-Movie inspired world where players demolished the hordes of undead in some gruesome and spectacular ways. With insane ultra-violence, intense action and a large open world to cause havoc, you can understand why this became such a beloved series to gamers as it’s basically a dream come true, and has even inspired many others to follow in its footsteps. But after ten years down the line, do these games still hold up to the test of time?
So let’s start off with my personal favourite and, of course, the first in the series.
Frank West is a photojournalist trying to get the next big story and, sure enough, he might have just found it. When he hears word that the small town of Willamette is closed off by the army, he sneaks in via helicopter and gathers a disturbing picture of what’s happening. The people have literally gone insane as they tear each other to shreds and eat those who scream for help. Frank detects this isn’t a simple case of civil disobedience as he is dropped off at the local shopping mall where the hordes are gathering. Soon he finds out zombies have taken over and, for the next three days, he must survive and uncover the truth of this horrifying nightmare.
Dead Rising is still a great B-Movie inspired Zombie romp with plenty of gore, guts and action to satisfy any zombie fan. It has great gameplay elements, such as makeshift weapons on hordes of zombies, a dynamic story line that doesn’t need to be followed and interesting events throughout. It was unique in a way back then and still is thankfully, but the interesting aspect was the photography mechanic allowing players to capture images of the sheer horror around them and gain XP with it. This included taking photos of violence, drama, romance and even sexy shots. I mean, Brad is hot in that yellow shirt!
Using the camera did help to create a new sense of observing a zombie outbreak, which still can’t be matched to this day (until VR is fully integrated) as an unsettling voyeuristic appeal with dark comedy elements that come into play. This made the world more immersive and with a decent story behind it all, you were kept engaged throughout and multiple playthroughs were encouraged as you became a better player with each failure and retry. However, the level of difficulty for new players is immense at times and early stages can prove painfully slow for newbies. But it’s worth it and, with a retry or two, you’ll get the hang of it.
Sadly, Capcom have not done the same treatment as The Coalition have done for Gears of War or 505 Games for Metro. The visuals look extremely outdated, flat and lifeless and the lack of revamping for textures or anything in general appears very lazy on behalf of Capcom. It’s made worse when there are still backgrounds which pop in and out depending on the distance you are from them, and the game also has some annoying minor bugs such as a split second freeze in the game when you hit a zombie with a blunt weapon. Worse still is the awful A.I, as rescue attempts are painfully awkward or certain psychopath encounters are laughable as they’re just plain stupid. It would have been nice to get a full revamp for the ten year mark of the original game and this total lack of care is the biggest let-down. I personally did have buyers remorse and think a backwards compatible version would have been more beneficial. Still, the game itself is massively fun, just a poor Remaster if you ask me.
Dead Rising 2
Dead Rising 2 is visually more impressive than its predecessor and the graphics still hold up very well. On the plus side, there are a number of improvements technically as the controls are better. With no slowdowns when using melee weapons means the game flows smoothly. There are the odd screen tears during cut scenes but this is not a massive problem. The best improvement overall is the more responsive AI that actually follows your commands better or can defend themselves with greater impact (most times). This does encourage rescuing people as it’s doable this time round and risk factor is made up by the great rewards. The grasp of relentless enemies grabbing you is reduced as well as the game feels more balanced, especially for new players. The game is more forgiving and since the world itself is bigger and more complex, this does help out a lot, even though there clearly aren’t enough save points around in my opinion. So bumping into the boss with the pet tiger ends up being a nightmare if you have no weapons and haven’t saved in a while.
The best feature by far is the weapon combo mechanic. This allows for some creative and spectacular weapon designs and expels some wonderful displays of gory mayhem. The Paddle-Saw, Electric Mask and EMI Bomb are pretty awesome to set off into the zombie hordes. But you can’t carry multiple large weapons such as the Paddle-Saw and an Electric Mask together. This does ruin the game’s excellent over-the-top nature and fun factor as you can’t really stock up and unleash into the zombies as you would like to. Overall, it kind of makes you not bothered in some instances to make new weapons or venture out for parts. But it’s a great mechanic nonetheless and an improvement for the combat over the original.
The downside to DR2 is the story as the narrative lacks the charm or interest of the original. There are some interesting ideas and characters, such as the loud mouth TV show host TK, but everyone else just projects a blandness and dullness to never make you care. Big problem is the world you’re in. There’s very little interesting twists in the story and the climax is pretty subpar. It feels way too similar to the original game as 50% of it is big, dull looking casinos with little personality and the rest of it just looks like a shopping mall. Elements like psychopaths aren’t as interesting this time round with only a handful having some depth, motivation or decent appeal. Most go crazy in what feels like a short amount of time and without any real causes.
However, there is the online multiplayer mode making the game more enjoyable, even if the story is so-so.
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record
This is pretty much the same game as Dead Rising 2, just with Frank West instead of Chuck. This idea I love as Frank is way more interesting and likeable than Chuck. The new story elements that are introduced actually make the narrative a little more engaging as Frank is now a washed up celebrity who will do anything to get back on the top. His big chance is on a brutalist gameshow called Terror is Reality. After a bloody night of mayhem, Frank wants out, but stumbles onto a dirty conspiracy and soon a zombie outbreak is under way. Frank takes his camera and sets off to do what he does best.
The photography mechanic makes a well-deserved return as it adds another layer of depth to the gameplay. It again captures an engaging side of earning XP and seeing the world around you while advancing certain elements in the gameplay and narrative. The weapon combination is still here and feels a lot more fun with Frank doing the dirty work as he appears more energetic and fun loving when making and using these crazy weapons. The best addition is the sandbox mode where players can just go mad and wreak havoc where they please. This is a great mode the series, very much needed for causal play.
While the game is very good and actually adds small touches to make the game better overall, the major faults with the original DR2 are resolved or fixed. The story is just replicated with Frank West, which is a shame, and you still can’t carry more than one large weapon at a time. But this is the preferred version of DR2 and worth playing over the original.
While older fans might not see the full advantage of the remaster as it does lack certain content we should have got, those new to the series will find so much fun in the game. The remastered advancements are extremely minimal and the worst offence is holding back the extra content such as Case West and Case Zero from the DR2 game. This is a complete slap in the face from Capcom as there’s no need to keep it to one side. This holds the Triple Pack back from a full recommendation and not allowing simple changes to make the games more fun and updated just seems very lazy.
Still, this is worth checking out. For those who’ve played the game already, like me, it might be best to leave this alone for the time being.
Dead Rising Triple Pack Review - Triple Zombie Goodness
- Dead Rising is still a buggy little gem
- Dead Rising 2's weapon creation mechanic
- The Photography mechanic is still dynamic
- Plenty of zombie fun
- Off The Record is a better version of Dead Rising 2
- Dead Rising looks out dated and plays pretty poorly
- Difficulty Spikes can be too brutal
- Lack of DLC content including Case Zero is unforgivable
- Certain restrains hold back Dead Rising 2's ultimate fun factor
- Off The Record improves the formula but repeats everything else from DR2