September 08, 2006

XBOX 360 Game Review- Dead Rising

The XBOX 360 has been out for a full year and in that time owners of the console, and gamers everywhere, have seen many great games. Some of those games were released right after the console, while others game a bit later in 2006. "Dead Rising" was released in August of 2006 and is still as popular as ever. It may have lost a little steam since its release date, as that was months ago; but it is still plenty of fun. Since Christmas is right around the corner, many XBOX 360 games are being viewed as great Christmas gifts and "Dead Rising" is certainly one of them. However, to understand why it is a great gift, you have to understand why it is a great game.

Zombie games have always been quite popular. Its just the idea of killing reanimated corpses that brings a smile to a gamer's face. Not all zombie horror games have been hits though, and only a few of them have broken through as "great" zombie games. One of those franchises is "Resident Evil". "Resident Evil" had more of a dark and gloomy atmosphere with a very creepy tone, but "Dead Rising" has taken an entirely different approach to the zombie horror genre. Instead of exploring a dark city in which Zombies are few and far between, you will be in a mall that is jam packed with thousands of zombies. The mall you're in happens to be fully operational and accessible; the lights are on, the stores are open, and there are living people scattered throughout the mall. Aside from the overwhelming amount of zombies, the mall has a rather friendly atmosphere.

Okay, you now know the basic setting of the game, heres the story: You play the role of Frank West, a photojournalist who does primarily freelance work. You (Frank) have received some inside information about something strange happening in Willamette, Colorado. Being a photojournalist, you don't hesitate and immediately get a helicopter to fly you to the small town. From far up in the sky, it seems like an an ordinary town. However, with closer inspection you notice that military units are blocking off all roads into the town. Upon even further inspection, there appears to be many riots throughout the town; but strangely, there are no military units inside the town helping out. After seeing this carnage, and what looks to be "cannibalism" among the town folk, you instruct the pilot to take you to the local shopping mall; which is gigantic. After sharing a few words with the pilot, you learn that you only have 72 hours to get the scoop and get back to the rooftop for extraction. During the storyline of the game you will discover many different things and meet many different people, but your primary goal remains the same. Find the truth.

Unfortunately, that 72 hour time frame is not just for dramatic effect, it is actually part of the game play. The entire game is based on that 72 hour time frame, so everything you do matters and wastes time. Your main objective is to discover the truth about what has happened to the town, and that will be mapped out in a number of different case files. However, each mission will start at a certain time on a specific day. The case file will specify what you need to do and where you need to do it; so you don't have to worry about getting confused. But, there will be times when you have to wait to start the next mission. Therefore, you can complete a few side missions while you wait. Obviously, you don't have to complete any side missions if you don't want to; but just waiting for the main mission to start is boring. Luckily, there are bonuses for completing side missions, such as prestige points, which are basically experience points (explained later).

The problem with these sides missions is that there usually isn't much time to complete them. Sometimes it can take a long time to reach certain areas of the mall. Then by the time you do reach that area, you have to go back to the main mission because too much time has passed. You won't be able to do all the side missions (which mainly deal with rescuing survivors), but you should be able to complete a large number of them.

The concept of "time" in "Dead Rising" isn't necessarily bad, its just that things can get a little bit hectic when you're battling through hundreds of zombies, saving survivors, trying to uncover the truth, etc. all in a designated time frame. Since the save feature is just dreadfully horrible, this makes the whole time business even worse. You can't save on the fly; you have to locate a bathroom or place to rest in order to save. The problem is that the bathrooms and "rest areas" are spread out to far and getting to one when you are short on time is a big pain in the neck. The good news is that even with this "time frame" and "save" issue, the game is still incredibly fun and entertaining.

You (Frank) are a photojournalist, not a highly trained special forces soldier; so what does that mean for combat? Well, nothing. Although you may start off weak and with no special moves, that won't be the case for long. As stated earlier, you will receive prestige points for completing side missions, such as rescuing survivors, taking out a crazed clown, killing psychopaths, etc. Not only that, but you will also get points for killing zombies in "awesome" ways. Plus, when you reach a certain amount of zombie kills, you will get points (such as 500 or 1000 zombies killed). Taking pictures with your camera can also get you a substantial amount of points. "How many points" will depend on the type of picture you took, and sometimes how many zombies you captured in one picture. After accumulating these points, there will be times when you unlock a new special move (such as the zombie throw or round-house kick) or your attributes will increase (such as health, throwing distance, and/or speed). These new moves and attributes help you to take down zombies faster and survive even longer.

While you are traveling through the mall, you'll notice that zombies are usually going to be standing shoulder to shoulder in most areas. So, you will need to do a lot of killing in order to reach your destination. Although, since there are so many zombies in the mall, it is literally impossible to kill them all. Even if you manage to clear out an entire area, when you leave, the area will be populated with zombies once more. Instead of just killing every zombie you see (which would waste way too much time), you have to pick your battles and be more evasive then confrontational. However, when battle is the only option, thats when the fun really begins.

Combat is definitely the best part about this game. Aside from the special moves you can get, which is only a small part of the combat, there is a whole bunch of weapons and different items you can use throughout your 72-hour survival story. If you see it, you can use it; thats pretty much the philosophy of this game. Almost everything and anything is usable as a weapon. Shovels, 2x4's, bats, swords, umbrellas, golf-clubs, lead pipes, jack hammers, lawn mowers, hedge clippers, sledge hammers, mannequins (and all their body parts), benches, trash cans, soccer balls, shotguns, pistols, hangars, guitars, gum-ball machines, frying pans, stools, and so much more can be used to pummel and "re-kill" zombies.

Each item and weapon has a certain amount of uses. So once you over-use a weapon, it is dropped out of your inventory. Some of the larger weapons, like chainsaws must be held and can not simply be put in your "pocket" for later use. Food items are useful because they restore your health. You can even combine food and drink items to create unique drinks that will give "special" effects: such as invulnerability or increased speed. These drinks are usually created through the use of a blender or microwave. You should always try to carry some sort of food or drink with you, because you never know when you might run low on health.

The video and audio of "Dead Rising" is really impressive. The graphics aren't "out-of-this-world" or anything like that, but they are still quite excellent. It seems a lot of time and patience went into the details and textures of the environment; especially when it comes to the different stores you will come across. Although you will notice similarities between the zombies appearances, the game does an excellent job of spreading the zombies out and making them very diverse. One thing that usually doesn't get a lot of attention is the audio of the game. However, the audio in "Dead Rising" is perfect. Whether it be slashing an enemy with a samurai sword or beating him to death with a lead pipe, each sound effect is 100% realistic. Overall, the graphics and audio department get an A+.

"Dead Rising" is truly one of those great games that will be remembered for a long time. If you have not been impressed by this review, then try the game out yourself, for free. If you have an XBOX live account, log on and download it from the XBOX live marketplace on your XBOX 360. Once you have the game downloaded, try it out for yourself and you will see how awesome the game really is. "Dead Rising" brings new life into the zombie-horror genre, and gamers could not be happy with its unique quality. Its just a great game, period.