Dead Rising 4 Review
Extra Features: Online Multiplayer (1-4)
Ever since its debut back in 2006, the Dead Rising series has gained quite a recognition for being such a fun sandbox zombie action game where we can use anything as a weapon while rampaging through hordes of the undead. All the games had a main story that was told through case file missions and always gave us plenty of side quests involving survivors and psychopath bosses. Dead Rising 1 and 2 allowed us to escort survivors back to safe zones for extra points to level up and we had to work in extra side missions in a certain time limit in order to continue with the main quests of the story. Dead Rising 3 was the first game in the series to eliminate the escorting of survivors and the overall time limit for the game. The loss of the time limit reduced the sense of urgency and overall difficulty of the game but it allowed us to explore the environments more and kill more zombies so it was a mixed bag depending on how you look at it. Dead Rising 4 takes the formula from DR3 and mixes it up here and there.
Dead Rising 4 (DR4) is a Christmas-themed Dead Rising that brings back the original hero from the first game, Frank West. This time, we go back to Willamette, Colorado to unravel yet another zombie outbreak. Fans of the first game will remember Frank's journey while in Willamette, but this time we get to explore the full city that has been rebuilt and there is also an inside mall to explore. Frank and his protege, Vick Chu, go on their separate paths in revealing the truth behind the new zombie outbreak. The overall story is rather pleasing for fans of the original game since it gives us extra backstory on one character from that game.
The overall combat to Dead Rising 4 is around the same as it was in Dead Rising 3. We now get a chance to counter a zombie grab by tapping the Y button before the grab, so that eliminates some of the random grabs from past games. Zombies seem slightly harder and more aggressive in DR4. While battling my way through a horde of zombies with the usual X button spam, I would often get hit without even realizing it and you'll always have the constant threat of a grab that you can counter while fighting zombie crowds. It seems like the game doesn't have as many zombies on the screen at one time when compared to DR3 - you'll still run across a street filled with zombies but it doesn't seem as jam-packed. This is probably what makes the game so slowdown free because I didn't ever get a hint of slowdown while playing. Besides the standard zombies, you'll fight crazed survivors, soldiers and a few zombie mutations. Frank will fight against fresh zombies and evolved zombies. Fresh zombies are humans that have just recently turned and they are more aggressive with their lunges and overall speed. Evolved zombies jump and crawl along walls while avoiding and attacking Frank - they are easily the most annoying enemy in the game.
The game still has a great variety of items to use as weapons. DR4 has a whole armada of new items in it that didn't appear in other games along with some of the returning classics, such as the sledgehammer and fire axe. This time you'll have access to new weapons such as snow cone makers and singing santas to kill zombies with. Just like in DR2, items can be combined into combo weapons by finding blueprints. Like in DR3, Frank can combine weapons on the go without the need for a workbench. When you have one part of a combo weapon in your inventory and you come across the other ingredient, you can instantly make that type of weapon without the need to go into your inventory. Frank can also build combo vehicles just like in DR3. It seems that super combo weapons from DR3 are gone however. DR4 has a total of 50+ blueprints, which is much smaller compared to DR3's 100+ blueprints.
New to Dead Rising is a suit called an "Exo Suit" that Frank can put on and get instant super-human strength. You can pick up heavy axes and chain guns or rip parking meters up from the ground or you can change some electronics into a melee and gun hybrid for ultimate chaos. The Exo Suit gameplay is super fun, but it's often limited in how long you can use one. Frank only has a certain level of power per Exo Suit and once that is used up, the suit falls off. There are areas that have a wireless charger that will allow Frank to stay in the Exo Suit while in the area near it - these are scripted Exo Suit areas during cases. The Exo Suit gameplay can often lead to screen-filling carnage, especially once you unleash Frank's super attack from getting so many hits on zombies. It's a lot of fun to mess around with.
Frank's inventory is now separated up into different categories. You have inventories for melee weapons, ranged weapons and throwable weapons. Frank also has a separate inventory for healing items which can be viewed below his life gauge. The controls for DR4 take advantage of this new inventory setup by assigning certain buttons to instantly use each one of the currently equipped weapons for each category. You can tap the LB button to toss your throwable weapon, aim with the LT button and press the RT button fire your ranged weapon, tap the X button to swing your melee weapon or press down on the directional pad to use a healing item. Inventory screens are brought up by holding any of the four directions on the D-pad besides down and then you can cycle through them with the right thumbstick. You have to hold down on the directional pad in order to drop a currently equipped item or you can drop it while on the inventory screen for the item you want to get rid of. All of these additions work well, but the overall controls take a bit of getting used to.
DR4 still has a leveling system similar to other games. You get Prestige Points (PP) for defeating zombies and performing various tasks that all add up to unlock skill points that you can use to upgrade Frank. You can unlock enhancements to your health bar or stamina bar and upgrade the damage done per attack with each weapon group among other type of leveling options. Along with Prestige Points are scrap coins that you get from performing various attacks and searching around the environments. You unlock safe zones in the game and Frank can buy extra outfits, items and other collectibles from safe zones using the scrap coins.
If you haven't seen a pic or a video of Frank West from DR4 yet then he has changed quite a bit in looks and voice. He has that "50-year old in a 30-year old's body" thing going on that Sam Fisher started in Splinter Cell: Conviction. Frank actually has the slight appearance of abs on his lower body now! Along with the younger look, Frank also has a different voice actor. The voice actor sounds more like an older person and fits the role of Frank West very well once you get used to him. This Frank West is more of a wise-cracking old man that is mainly out for himself. Frank has TONS of personality in DR4. You can feel his personality through his dialogue and his actions very often. Frank still has his camera that you can use during gameplay in order to snap pictures that are worth Prestige Points for leveling up. Pictures are still ranked based on the images and given a genre such as brutality, horror, etc. Frank's camera has night vision and a mode for seeing hidden objects on walls. You'll go through a few investigation mini games where you'll have to take pics of certain objects in a room in order for Frank to discover and comment on them. While photo mode is activated, you can press the RB button to make Frank come into camera view in order to take a selfie with the displayed image - besides adding to his personality even more, this will give you extra points in some shots. While in selfie mode, you can move the left thumbstick in order to change Frank's expression. Frank also has a selfie stealth kill you can get while sneaking up on enemies in photo mode.
The main story of the game is presented through case files just like previous DRs and none of it is timed. You'll be traveling throughout the city to meet up with survivors and do fetch quests. The game has a few bosses in story missions and side missions, but just about all of them are so very forgettable when compared to the psychopath bosses in previous games. DR4's bosses are called "maniacs" and they can be plowed through with just about any weapon for the most part. During side missions, you'll often meet up with a maniac that has a squad of human enemies with him. There are no cutscenes leading up to the fight and there is no special licensed theme music for that boss either. The boss has a unique name and he will have a bit of dialogue while you fight him. I was able to blast through maniac bosses in side mission in around 3 minutes per boss and never had any trouble thanks to the sheer amount of damage I took from the boss with simple melee and the variety of food lying around that I could grab when damaged. I actually stealth killed one boss during one mission - yeah, you read that right, one hit kill! The bosses during the main story put up a bit more of a fight and they seem to have more invincibility frames that kept me from pounding on them, but they are rather easy and have very little personality. The final boss of DR4 is the only boss that gave me a bit of trouble and the only one that actually feels like an old-school DR boss. All of this is so very disappointing when I look back at other games that had bosses that were bursting at the seams with personality, whether good or bad, and many of them sure wouldn't let you hit them with constant attacks like many of DR4's bosses do.
DR4 also has a very noticeable lack of side missions. Side missions appear during case file missions - Frank will receive a call about a problem and the location will get marked on his map. Finishing side missions will grant you extra PP and scrap and maybe an extra combo weapon - not the blueprint but a one-time combo weapon pickup. Many of the side missions lead into the maniac fights. Along with side missions, you'll still get events, like in DR3, that will pop up and allow you to perform a certain action such as save a survivor or break some military equipment for some extra points. Survivors that are saved are sent back to one of the safe houses around the area in order to level them up. All safe houses (total of four) that are unlocked in each district can be leveled up to purchase new combo weapons, outfits, etc. in that safe zone. Events are actually more worthwhile to get involved in during DR4 because of the lack of side missions. The lack of side missions really detracts from the overall length of the game. The actual story missions seem longer than those in previous games but there isn't much filler in the form of side quests between each story mission like in past games so it makes the entire game seem shorter. I beat the game in around 8+ hours which is rather short compared to the time that I usually take to finish games (usually around 12+ hours for most because I take my time) and I did EVERY side mission I got.
The main replay value and reason to explore the world of Dead Rising 4 is to find all the collectibles. DR4 has tons of collectibles to find, such as combo weapon blueprints, cell phones, newspapers, graffiti art, etc. Environments in DR4 are very similar to the setup of DR3. You'll mainly be driving around districts of a city that are loaded with stores and interconnecting streets. The game has a huge in-door mall area that can be accessed through the open world. You'll find several blocks with stores, playground areas and food courts just like in past DR games. The mall megaplex area is quite a treat for fans of the old-school games since it brings back the feel of fighting zombies in an in-door mall. The game's early missions start out in the mall then you'll move to the outside area where the majority of the rest of the game takes place. Besides all the added items, the game also has a great amount of customizations for Frank. You'll find outfits and pieces of outfits scattered throughout the world to try on. All outfits that are tried on can be accessed at a safe zone or mirror in some area for quick access.
The main game of Dead Rising 4 does not have co-op play at all - this doesn't bother me a bit since I didn't bother with it in past games. There is now a 4-player multiplayer mode where you can choose between four unique survivors (from a group in the story mode), each with their own starting weapon, and go through 1 of 4 mission-based stages to compete for the highest score. You get points for performing mission tasks and defeating zombies. The interesting part about this mode is how all players start with absolutely nothing and must search through the stages (limited areas from the main story) to find weapons and items. Combo weapons play a key role in this mode to gain points, so knowing the areas that each stage takes place in is vital to winning. It seems that the item placement for each stage is fixed per playthrough, so learning where all important items are placed seems like the way to get the best advantage. You can use all the combo weapons that you have found in the campaign in the multiplayer mode but the player level is unique for both modes so you'll have to relevel your character in the multiplayer mode. The multiplayer mode is actually quite hard - I had to fight for survival against the zombies quite often while searching for food and weapons. Once a character has fallen, another player can revive that fallen player.
Even with the flaws of the side missions and lame bosses, Dead Rising 4 is still a lot of fun to play. The Exo Suit is a blast to try out and the Frank West character is handled very well with his makeover. The game has a bunch of little extras for Capcom fans such as Street Fighter clothes and a Zero outfit along with other little knickknacks spread around the environments. DR fans are still going to have a lot of fun with this game just as I did, but there is still that feeling there that the game could have been more than what we got. It just seems like the side missions and bosses were limited due to lack of time in getting the game out the door and on store shelves in time for Christmas. Hopefully, the DLC will seek to recover those of us that feel empty from the game's shortcomings.
+ New Frank West appearance and voice are fitting
+ Tons of new items to use as weapons
+ Many outfit customizations for Frank's outfits
+ Pretty good story and campaign missions
+ The Exo suit gameplay is a lot of fun
- Easy and forgettable boss battles
- Side missions are way too few in number
- Zombies clip through objects and get stuck often
Final Rating: 75% - Dead Rising 4 does the series justice in many ways, but the game gets dragged down by some very noticeable shortcomings that deter from the usual Dead Rising experience.