He’s covered wars and the occasional zombie outbreak. And he’s back again in Dead Rising 4. Yep… it’s nice to see Frank West return again to headline a new game in the series. This time Frank is on the run and hiding from the authorities – as a photography teacher named Hank East (!) – when he is once again dragged into conspiracies and returns to Willamette where his zombie bashing adventures first started.
Set in a little sandbox town that surrounds one giant mall it’s pretty much Frank versus the world. Anything you find can either be a weapon to use or as a means to stay alive. Like all the games from Dead Rising 2 onward you also have the ability to craft weapons and vehicles based on blueprints you find. Even with the amount of gear your have at your disposal you’ll likely gravitate to those items that fit your style of play. The biggest addition to the items available are the exosuits which are powered exoskeletons that resemble the suits from the Matt Damon film Elysium. These have their own unique weapons to wield and can be upgraded with additional abilities too.
Almost everything you do in Dead Rising 4 earns you Prestige Points (PP = XP) if it involves killing zombies, rescuing survivors or doing silly stuff. Kill enough using the tools you find or build and there’s bonuses too. Frank’s camera also plays a role in this and there’s a pile of objectives for getting highly ranked photos of zombies, landmarks and miscellaneous items. As you level up you’ll earn points to spend on skills that can further help you play how you want – whether it boosts your brawling, shooting, healing or looting it’s all up to you. In my playthrough I acquired around a third of the total skills but players who focus on leveling through the game could do much better.
To say that the world of Willamette is full of a lot of zombies is an understatement – they are EVERYWHERE. A run through the game will likely mean a few thousand of the undead are going to be on the wrong site of Frank West’s destructive ways and you’ll always be able to find more if you’re pursuing more PP or achievements. Initially you’re stuck in the mall but once past the first case file the rest of the town opens up and the game does a good job of handling this in a way that gives players a chance to familiarise themselves with the base mechanics before throwing you into the open world.
So what we have here is a combination of the mall from the early games and the open world of the last. There’s a lot to see and odds are likely you’ll miss a lot the first time. To ease movement around the map the player can discover travel points at shelters to get you to locations little faster but they’re not as effective as a real fast travel system which is a surprising omission.
Silly humour has always been a key part of the franchise and having Frank West back in the main role helps reinforce the silliness. He’s a sarcastic meathead who’s only looking after himself yet somehow ends up being the right person for the job. The game goes pretty far with its references to other Capcom properties with there being no shortage of outfits and items calling back to their past franchises. Seeing Frank wearing a Morrigan (Darkstalkers) outfit might be going a little too far but you end up wanting to see just how disturbed you are by it! The game’s photo system even takes the silliness this into account by letting Frank take selfies… and pull faces too.
A single playthrough of the campaign has taken me over thirty hours and that was without me trying to be a completionist and scour the world for every blueprint, podcast, etc that’s hidden away. Though the game doesn’t stop you from playing again or revisiting cases there isn’t as much incentive to play again like the old games due to the game following a linear path with its story and missions. One of the unique aspects of the original games was that time was always against you and you’d often have to decide what to do (and what not to) in a bid to beat the clock and achieve your goals and maybe “the best” ending. How successful you were at this also gave you different outcomes with some quite substantial additions to the game’s length too in the case of the original Dead Rising. The Frank Rising DLC is meant to reintroduce the timed challenges but it might be a case of too little, too late.
The game does have multiplayer but it forgoes co-op which I think is a major loss. It makes returning to the game again a lot harder to consider because I’d be happy to work on hitting 100% completion with a pile of friends in tow. Working through the various achievements and challenges with friends was a major reason for playing the the past games multiple times. Doing so in Dead Rising 3 was one of my earlier memories of the start of this Xbox generation. It was a big part of the fun. A Capcom Heroes mode was added to let Frank play through the game again and unlock hero abilities which seems interesting enough but could easily have been a part of the main game considering the amount of Capcom references already in there.
What you get with Dead Rising 4 is like a nostalgia trip where you feel disappointed on reaching the end. There’s a lot here to like with the world and it’ll remind you of all the good things you’ve liked about the series in general but once it’s done you find that the things that kept you coming back are no longer there and that’ll break you. It’s by far the most streamlined game in the series which could work as a good introduction for new players but a little too much may have been chopped. That’s not to say the past games were perfect – the original Dead Rising only let you save your game in the restrooms – but they were unique in their approach and gameplay systems which helped them to stand out. Without those the game starts to succumb to the flood of other zombie games that are now in the market.
For a “one-shot” game Dead Rising 4 will give you plenty of entertainment. I certainly enjoyed my time with it. You may even play it for longer than that. But if you want the full experience and co-op too you could find the previous game (Dead Rising 3) will be a much better fit.
Dead Rising 4 is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Reviewed on an Xbox One X via Game Pass.