Finally, a game where killing zombies doesn't get old. Dead Rising was one of the biggest draws at the Capcom and Microsoft booths this year at E3, and one of the real competitors for your heart, your brain, and chunks of your neck flesh. As onlookers kibitzed, and for twenty to thirty minutes, the extensive demo took you from department store to department store, killing zombies in many gruesome and hilarious ways, courtesy of Capcom's funny bone. Dead Rising is showing more promise than we were expecting, enough to get our 'Gamer Approved' award from our Best of E3 2006
wrap-up. But here's the real reason Capcom has another winner (alongside Lost Planet), three words: bowling for zombies.
If there was only one new thing Dead Rising brings to an old arena, it's the many, many ways you can dispatch your undead enemies. In true "Shawn Of the Dead" variety, every object you pick up can "potentially" become a lethal, zombie-killing weapon. Remember when they used their old records to decapitate the slow-moving undead? You can do stuff like that. The player can literally pick up each and every object in Dead Rising to either hurl at, or beat senseless, the slow-advancing living dead. There are exceptions, it seems, because we picked up a large fluffy teddy bear and only managed to shove the zombies a little. Still, you won't believe the laughter from those watching as I tried to unsuccessfully use my fluffy toy as a bludgeon.
Here is a small list of the items we found and used to fight the undead in the Dead Rising preview build: katana, jewelry, compact discs, soccer ball, mannequin, golf club, chair, zombie forearm, pie, knife, baseball bat, large pole, canister of propane, 9mm pistol, lifesized 'Servbot' head, fluffy teddy bear, scythe, foot to the face, candy dispenser, cash register, chainsaw, shotgun, potted plant, bare fists, bucket. One of the most amusing things we did was toss a pie in the face of a zombie, one of my childhood dreams, mind you, and then take the scythe and rip the zombie's head off. He didn't need it anyway. Applause and cheer rose in the crowd. It's also a whole lot of fun to take the bowling ball and shatter the zombies' kneecaps.
Of course, there is a story, too, within Dead Rising. You are photojournalist Frank in Dead Rising and you're purpose is to document the alleged zombie horde and, if possible, stop them. All the while you have to rescue NPCs who have been trapped in the mall due to their ambition to take on the horde alone. You have 72 hours. As time progresses, situations change. Though the horde of undead zombies is mostly lumbering annoyances during the day, once the sun sets they become quick and blood-thirsty "28 Days Later" type zombies. This makes the time spent during the day all the more important. What do you do: set up barricades, stockpile food, collect weapons? Do you go and help others in need? Dead Rising is looking extremely promising because while it is, roughly, a modest 10 hours of gameplay, it's also completely open-ended and time sensitive, allowing different gameplay experiences to emerge depending on choice, location, and ability.
Speaking of ability, did I also mention that Frank can level up? Leveling up consists of gaining PP (Prestige Points), which is done by taking pictures of horrifying or hilarious situations during the course of the game. Things that fit the bill are people being murdered, zombies with Servbot headgear, television, and many, many others. The trick to getting more PP is getting pictures with more zombies and more atrocities, which shouldn't be a problem at all. As you level Frank up, he becomes better at hand-to-hand, grows stronger and more accurate with weapons, etc. There are more than 20 skills that Frank can achieve. We saw a jump-kick in the demo and it appears that getting each ability does take some real play time. We do know that you can eventually rip a zombie's heads off and hurl it into crowds of other zombies. Wearing clothing from the many department stores in the mall looks awfully silly, we're still not sure if changing clothes does anything more letting you indulge in a smug conceit. It's all the more amusing for the gamer, anyway.
While we did enjoy the demo on the floor quite a bit, there were a few pressing issues. Dead Rising is a very open game, but has quite a few load times in-between areas. This isn't to its condemnation, but it is disappointing that there were so many long load times. And while in game, there were a few camera-control issues, for instance, when you focus in to throw something, you always end up looking where Frank was looking, not where the third-person camera looks. This is, at first, slightly jarring, since you'll end up facing the completely wrong direction half the time.
But we cannot deny the promise Dead Rising shows after E3 2006. And after playing it more than once, we did feel comfortable with the targeting scheme and the throwing mechanic. Dead Rising does more than just "kill every zombie in sight" as far as the storyline is concerned, and it has more depth than a boot to the head. The 72 hours of story time is supposed to equal about 10 hours of straight up gameplay, but we'll see how that measures up when it's released.
One of the best changes we saw from previous builds is the improvement of the framerate, which still paused slightly when you kicked soccer balls at zombies or threw something large into a group of them. It's so much better, though, from earlier builds in that having hundreds of zombies on screen (which will happen) doesn't drop the framerate. So hopefully that little mar can be fixed before Dead Rising is released on August 22, 2006. Right now, we couldn't be more proud of Capcom for its strong showing of unique IPs and its ability to innovate for genres in need of innovation.