The Dead Rising series has had problems when it comes to delivering protagonists that aren’t Frank West. When that character kicked off the series in the first game back in 2006, he became iconic very quickly for his cocky and silly demeanor. Dead Rising 2’s Chuck Greene and Dead Rising 3’s Nick Ramos did not come anywhere close to matching the likability of West, which is a big reason why Capcom brought him back for the fourth go around. This was an excellent idea, but it isn’t just the return of Franks West that makes Dead Rising 4 special.
What brings Frank back into the action 16 years after the events of the first game is that a new zombie outbreak has occurred in Willamette, and he must head in to discover the cause once again. Things have certainly changed in those 16 years, however, and that’s not just Frank’s original voice actor being replaced. Dead Rising 4 continues the bigger open-world formula that Dead Rising 3 featured, as Frank will be able to face off against hordes of zombies both inside the Willamette Memorial Megaplex and the town outside of it.
Frank also brings back his trusty camera, which has increased importance in the actual campaign this time. You’ll often come across parts of the story where you need to seek out and snap pics of items relevant to the current situation in the story, and the camera has new filters like thermal and night vision to add some twists to it. Otherwise, you can still try to take your own masterpiece photos in the midst of epic combat situations, or now even take selfies with a horde of zombies or even dead bodies hanging in the background.
The timer that made the first Dead Rising so unique is also nowhere to be seen other than a semi-appearance at the very end of the game. This is a change that works well with where the series is now, as the much bigger setting and increased emphasis on bombastic zombie slaughter lends itself more to casual exploration unrestricted by a timer. Frank won’t just be grabbing random chairs or planks to take down the living dead as he did before, as now he is literally a zombie-massacring machine.
The game’s weapon variety is astounding
In fact, one of the game’s biggest highlights is the sheer lunacy and variety in all the different ways you can kill zombies. It isn’t long into the game before you’re slaughtering zombies with a swordfish or a katana, and then combining them with certain other items to make whacky concoctions like the Fish Launcher or the Ice Sword. There’s a constant sense of wonder as you wander the game’s world, as just about anything can be used as a weapon and then be turned into something completely outrageous.
While a bigger world filled with zombies and more ways to kill them is enough, the cherry on top of all of this is the addition of the Exo Suit. At certain points and locations in the game Frank will be able to equip this suit to become a walking tank, which greatly increases his strength and skill set. However, there are also Exo Suit-specific weapons and combinations that the game offers to brutalize zombies in even more ludicrous fashion, and these moments are pure euphoria. From massive artillery to being able to rip zombies in half, the Exo Suit is a fantastic addition to this formula.
The game is also able to hold up its end of the bargain when it comes to running everything smoothly. Hundreds of zombies are often on the screen at once, and even during the most intense situations there were never any moments of slowdown experienced. Loading times are also at a minimum, with transitions between indoor and outdoor areas being masked by a quick door opening animation. The game knows that the action is where the core of the enjoyment is, and it does everything in its power to keep you in the thick of it at all times.
There are some annoying glitches present in the game that will pop up from time to time, unfortunately. One boss fight failed to start properly as he never actually entered the combat area and forced me to restart, and another quest scenario required me to leave the entire area for the next segment to even trigger. These don’t happen so often that you should be too concerned, but a bit more polish was definitely needed in certain spots.
While action is the bread and butter of what this game is all about, that’s not to say it doesn’t have anything to offer in the narrative department. While Dead Rising 4’s core story involves the typical bad guys doing things they shouldn’t and the good guys coming to stop them, it’s the dialogue itself that makes it a joy to experience. Capcom has decided to go full-on comedy with this entry in the series for the most part, and it’s a decision that worked out perfectly. Frank West consistently delivers hilarious dialogue that makes both in-game and cutscene encounters entertaining, and the game is able to do that without getting stale or annoying.
The lack of a timer means that Frank now has a lot more time to explore his zombie-infested world, and Dead Rising 4 has a lot of reasons to do that. There are numerous collectibles littered throughout every location, which feature great flavor text to flesh out this world. You’ll also have the numerous side quests that have you rescuing survivors or finding and killing the returning psychopath mini-bosses (now called maniacs). These will also often reward you with more weapons to play around with or the money to buy them, and thus the game’s addictive loop continues.
Willamette has plenty of reasons to keep you coming back for more
This is all facilitated by the game’s slick progression system, which has you leveling up at a rapid pace and gaining skill points to put towards any of the game’s four (5 in multiplayer) skill trees. These skill trees contain dozens of enhancements to improve your character in ways tailored to your preferred playstyle. If you like dishing out damage up close and personal then you focus your attention on the Brawling skill tree, or focus on the Shooting skill tree if you like killing from afar. While skill trees can often feel like a grind in games with slow progression, you level up so quickly in Dead Rising 4 that you always feel like you’re getting stronger and each battle feels productive.
One of the bigger areas of controversy surrounding the game is its lack of campaign co-op, which is something that previous games in the series have done before. Capcom took a bit of a risk this time and instead decided to incorporate a standalone multiplayer mode instead. This mode has you and up to 3 other players completing various challenges in Willamette mall, with a timer being present to please old-school fans. You generally do things like kill a certain amount of zombies or hunt down specific items, with each session lasting two days and allowing you to purchase items at safehouses inbetween. While it likely won’t scratch the itch of standard campaign co-op, it nevertheless successfully encapsulates the best elements of the single player and is a lot of fun.
Dead Rising 4 is able to take the best elements of the older and newer games in the series and mash them into a spectacular open-world zombie-slaying experience. The game’s core gameplay is just so engaging and enjoyable that diving into hordes after hordes of zombies to wreak havoc never gets old, and having Frank West back in the action makes it even better. The series is certainly in a much different spot now than it was 10 years ago, but its future has never looked brighter.