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Dead Rising 4: Frank's Big Package
Score: 70%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2- 4 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Survival Horror/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
The Dead Rising series is now over a decade old, and while I guess I could consider myself a veteran, that status is somewhat fresh. I remember buying the original on its release date, and I remember even better being put off by its structure and a hundred tiny annoyances that congealed into one massive whole. I consider myself a pretty patient man, but I gave up on Dead Rising pretty quickly and never thought Iíd return. But we live in an era where the remaster is king, and the Dead Rising Triple Pack gave me the opportunity to reconsider Capcomís "other" zombie series. This time around, it clicked; I got it. Considering how janky the earlier Dead Rising games are (especially in this day and age), thatís no small feat. I didnít get the chance to play Dead Rising 4 when it first launched late in 2016. I had, however, played Dead Rising 3, and my experience with that installment was adequate preparation. Dead Rising 4 has much more in common with that game than it does with its storied forbears. Most people will view this as a negative, and Iím sad to say I would have to agree with them. Dead Rising 4 is by no means a bad game, but I just canít shake the feeling that itís just going through the motions.

Nearly everything about Dead Rising 4 is crowded, and were it not for the gameís subject matter and deeply-ingrained irreverence, I might be tempted to think that was some kind of social commentary. The oversaturation of Christmas imagery contrasts hilariously with all the ridiculous bloodshed to such a degree that all the rampant commercialism absolutely takes a back seat. Dead Risingís staunch refusal to take itself seriously is one of its greatest values, and itís on full display in Dead Rising 4. For example, I went through a fairly large swath of the game dressed like an elf and my primary form of locomotion was an electrified go-kart. This is an insanely stupid game, and thatís absolutely by design.

That being said, the frequent visual jankiness is a problem, not an endearing quirk. Its effect on the combat has a fairly strong negative impact on the game as a whole; the result being that it feels weightless and oddly insubstantial. This a huge shock, considering that Dead Rising 3 arguably did this better than any of its predecessors. This is most painfully illustrated by the finishing moves, in which the camera zooms in close to showcase the often sadly hilarious physical incompatibility between the character models and the animation work. Nearly every time I executed one of these moves, my weapon seemed to exist on a completely different plane than the rotting cranium of a random zombie; Iíd watch Frank uppercut it with a knife, only for the knife to completely miss the zombieís head by a good two inches. But the resulting spray of blood, the nervous twitching, and the reward of experience would occur anyway. Talk about immersion-killing.

Perhaps the most noteworthy element of the audio is the fact that T.J. Rotolo does not reprise his role as Frank West for Dead Rising 4. Fans were upset about this when it was announced, and as a huge fan of that kind of consistency, I ultimately agree with that sentiment. Iíd argue that the change is about as jarring as Michael Ironsideís replacement in Splinter Cell: Blacklist or to a lesser degree, David Hayterís in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Ty Olsson picks up the slack admirably but frequently comes across as a strange hybrid between Tony Soprano and Deadpool. I suppose in the context of everything, that approach works pretty well. The rest of the voice acting is about par for the series. That is to say: not good, but intentionally not good. By and large, characters in this series donít really behave normally.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear some cues from the original Dead Rising; I guess Frankís got something of a leitmotif about him, now, and itís an instantly-identifiable one at this point. A huge portion of the music in Dead Rising 4 is dedicated to the ever-present snark factor. Pause menus are dominated by big band renditions of Christmas songs, and while the timing is absolutely perfect as of this writing, I can see it getting old in time.


Gameplay:
Itís 2022. Frank West is still around and kicking, having survived two zombie apocalypses. His biggest challenge these days is middle age; heís crested 50 and acts every bit the part. His relevance quickly fading, heís adapted and shifted gears to the profession held by so many in the same situation: college professor. Dead Rising 4 opens with one of Frankís students enlisting his help with an investigation. The subject: a military compound with an unknown charter. The location: Willamette, Colorado. See where this is going? The mission goes about as well as youíd expect: Frankís cover is blown, and his protťgť leaves him to the wolves. For all intents and purposes, Frank West is now a wanted man. Fast-forward four months, and Frank is finally tracked down by ZDC agent Brad Park. His goal isnít to put him down or even to take him in, but to ask for his help. It turns out, Black Friday in Willamette was a smidge deadlier than usualÖ

At its core, Dead Rising 4 is pretty much "just another Dead Rising game." As Frank, you venture around a series of open-world environments, slaying zombies, leveling up, completing objectives, learning new skills, taking photographs, hunting for upgrades, customizing Frankís appearance. Thereís no ambiguity and very little spontaneity to the proceedings; while events pop up here and there throughout your travels, youíre generally allowed to go anywhere and do anything, provided itís all in the framework of the game.

If youíre a longtime fan of the series, you may or may not be upset by the fact that the baseline canonical experience offered by Dead Rising 4 is unwilling to adhere to the formula established by earlier games in the series. The biggest departure is that there are no time limits, and therefore, no sense of urgency. Iíll admit to not having been a fan of it in the first two games, but there is a strange sense of tangible progression that stems from restarting with all your stats intact and improving from there. Thatís obviously lost in Dead Rising 4, but the tradeoff is that itís more accommodating to varying playstyles. If you want to simply screw off until you possess an arsenal (and a wardrobe) capable of intimidating a small nation into submission, you can.

This PlayStation 4 release, dubbed Dead Rising 4: Frankís Big Package, comes with a handful of extras. Most of it is what youíd expect, and the rest of it, maybe not so much. The obvious one is all the previously released downloadable content. Most of it revolves around weapons and costumes, so your mileage is guaranteed to vary as far as thatís concerned.

Even the "Capcom Heroes Mode" feels like an extension of what the series has done since the very first game in the series; Frank can dress up as one of a generous number of classic Capcom heroes, and each outfit bestows a special move. Itís basically the Mega Buster from Dead Rising, but cranked up and fleshed out more. There are some inclusions that I would argue are absolutely the video game equivalent of deep cuts, and no way do I have the heart to spoil them.

SPOILERS BEGIN HERE. Frank Rising is the major story add-on that continues on past Dead Rising 4ís surprising double-whammy cliffhanger/downer ending. Yes, Frank sacrificed himself to save Vick and Brad. Yes, an inordinate percentage of Frankís body has been distributed among whatever passes for digestive systems among the writhing horde that consumed him. But nothing can be certain when you take those damned wasps into account. Of course, they converge on our deceased hero and transform him into an enhanced evo zombie. Frank Rising is ridiculous in all the right ways, but as was the case with the core game, it wore out its welcome long before I hoped it would. But it provides an actual ending free of an additional price tag, which automatically gives it a leg up over the original release. SPOILERS END HERE.

The final bit of tangible content is Super Ultra Dead Rising 4 Mini Golf. And I have to be honest: this mode kind of surprised me. I went in expecting something really dumb and shallow; well itís certainly dumb, but shallow it is not. Now, Iím not sure why theyíre calling it Mini Golf, as youíll have to make use of both woods and wedges in addition to putters. But the gist of it is: single or multiplayer golf with zombies and a robust economy/customization system. I was a bit concerned about the presence of the zombies on the course, but they donít impact the ballís flight path in any way, which gives them the effect of darts going through balloonsÖ that happen to be filled with blood and guts.


Difficulty:
In terms of what the game considers its default settings, Dead Rising 4 is about on par with Dead Rising 3; not surprising, considering that in many ways, theyíre basically the same game. Provided you can keep your inventory replete with the best combo weapons, the most powerful guns, and enough healing items, youíll be fine. The Case structure may have lost all of its meaning with the excision of the time limit, but when you take into account the size of the playing space, itís a fair enough trade.

For me, the biggest challenge was staying invested. All too often, I caught myself spacing out. This happened regardless of what I was doing. I could have been going from point A to point B, I could have been fighting off hordes of zombies, or I could have been fighting psychopaths. Iíd suddenly snap out of my reverie, completely mindless as to what Iíd been doing. That could only mean one thing: I was bored. Iím tempted to write it off as burnout; after all, I played a ton of games this year. But the sad fact of the matter is, none of the other games Iím currently playing have done this to me even once.


Game Mechanics:
If you played Dead Rising 3, Dead Rising 4 is functionally almost identical. Itís got the brawler-style melee controls popularized by the earlier games and the vastly improved gunplay of 3. Again, youíre placed into a series of environments that give you all you need to survive the ordeal. From hardware stores to pharmacies, Willamette is full of items that are capable of sustaining or extinguishing human life. In its current state, most of it should be extinguished. Between the ravenous hordes, the insane survivors, and the murderous Obscuris operatives, diplomacy and compassion arenít terribly valuable traits here.

Combo weapons and vehicles have been a staple of the series since Dead Rising 2, so itís only natural that they return for Dead Rising 4. Itís a robust enough system, and the carryover ability from 3 to craft them on the fly is still very convenient. Not every combo weapon is a winner, but theyíre all at least useful, if not essential when youíre in a fix. The flavor of the day is obviously Christmas, and the developers went all out to establish Dead Rising 4 as the Die Hard of video games.

Obscuris, being a purveyor of murder technology, has come into possession of a series of expensive-looking Exo Suits. That being said, they donít seem particularly keen on outfitting their grunts with them and are content to simply leave them under the protection of a handful of guards. Wiping them out and putting on the suit will give Frank a limited amount of time in which to do as much damage as humanly possible. Exo Suits grant the ability to wield incredibly heavy weapons, whether theyíre massive flamethrowers or posts you rip out of the concrete. Itís a neat option, but an overly transient one.

Considering this game once again stars Frank West, of course photography figures into the gameplay. While he can use his skills to take random pictures and earn some PP, this mechanic is expanded a bit in Dead Rising 4. His student has tinkered a bit with the camera, adding a couple of enhanced vision modes. From night vision to forensic detection, the camera is more vital to Frankís quest than ever before. This is a double-edged sword, however. While the cameraís use in uncovering secrets is laudable, the investigation sequences that slow the pacing to a halt are rather dull.

Itís nice that the PlayStation 4 finally gets a version of Dead Rising 4 just in time for the holiday season, but it canít escape the original releaseís failure to make a significant impact on its genre or even its franchise. If all you want is more Dead Rising, I can recommend Dead Rising 4: Frankís Big Package without too much hesitation. However, if you want more from Dead Rising, youíll probably be left wanting.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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