Dead Rising – A Weirdly Cathartic Experience

Sweet sweet release

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At the end of 2006 I was coming off my first deployment in the Navy and wasn’t caught up in the newest games. Being a fan of the zombie genre, I had heard that Capcom had released Dead Rising for the Xbox 360. At the time Capcom consistently crafted quality experiences and I was interested in a game that heavily resembled George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. A mall full of zombies just waiting to be dispatched was an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up.

What separates the Dead Rising from other entries in the genre is that it never takes itself seriously. While there are moments of horror and drama littered throughout, it never takes itself too seriously and it shows in the gameplay. In Dead Rising, almost everything is a weapon. The first moments of the game force the player to use various weapons in the environment to dispatch the zombie horde.

I spent way too much time in the starting area my first playthrough because I wanted to see how many zombies I could clear out before the story forced me to move. To my surprise however, there was no forced custscene. You could literally stay in that area until you died or the 72 hours ended. Because Dead Rising carries over your progress when a playthrough ends, you could attack the campaign however you wanted. So if you want to just destroy zombies and explore the mall you could. Just be cognizant that mindlessly wandering may lead you to a psychopath, who act as mini-boss fights during the game.

Destroying the horde can be mindless fun. While the 72 hour timeline of the main campaign feels like it would restrict the player, it actually does little in the way of limiting the flow of action in the game. Which is great, because killing all these zombies can feel somewhat cathartic. Dead Rising was my go to game whenever I wanted to relieve some stress, they aren’t challenging enemies and it’s a great feeling when you eliminate an entire group of them cluttering an area. It almost feels like a mini-accomplishment

I was recently playing through Dead Rising 4 and found myself doing the exact same thing I did in 2006. The newer entries into the series added crafted weapons and vehicles, which was an excellent addition and allows for greater creativity for zombie slaying. I got into a combo vehicle and just started driving through the streets of Willamette. The number of zombies in Dead Rising 4 is staggering but instead of being intimidating, they were obstacles that needed to be cleared. Some people have stress balls and yoga, I have Dead Rising, go figure.

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This is a series that was never going to be a critical darling. The gameplay is simple and at times the whole series can lack challenge. Removing the time constraint in the fourth entry made the game the most approachable in the series. I was overlevelled in every encounter because I would get lost in all of the chaos. Adding an Exo-suit that allows you to throw out ice tornados is just icing on the cake. The developers understood what made Dead Rising popular and dialed the ridiculousness up to 11 because its what separates them from the competition.

Sometimes a simple premise can lead to a satisfying experience.

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