The life of the photojournalist lasts, always traveling around the world for days and days, looking for a single absurd moment to capture in the camera to be able to give it to the whole world in exchange for fame and maybe money. Hard, yes, but never as long as that of the legendary Frank West, who faced a shopping center overflowing with zombies in order to document the event and unravel the mystery behind the mad epidemic.
But now our Frank has retired and the job of taking “dangerous” photographs is now taught in college behind a chair, where boredom is deadly. However, it will be one of his students, Vicky, to push him (with a trivial excuse) back in search of the definitive scoop. The protagonist will once again return to Willamette to find out if the government really is behind the cruel experiments of the Obscuris in an abandoned missile base, where people are turned into zombies. At the age of fifty-two and just around Christmas, Frank falls for it with all his shoes, and with him also his trusty camera.
Released last December exclusively for one year on Xbox One and for three months on the Windows Store, Dead Rising 4 is coming to Steam these days and for many PC gamers the fun is probably just starting now. In this second Frank West adventure, Capcom seems to have wanted to reconnect to the plot of the first chapter, as if to give a real follow-up to what has been the best episode so far, while trying to relaunch the series which, especially with the third iteration, it seemed to lose its bite.
Ready to go back to Willamette? Your friends are waiting for you.
In addition to the protagonist, references to the past are continuous between one case and another, scattered among the events and hidden among the dialogues, but also in the same game mechanics that give the player the possibility to use the camera again, proposing the crazy gameplay which made us love the series. As you can imagine, then, after all, the goal of discovering the origin of the mystery interests us very little. First, there are hordes of hapless zombies to slaughter.
On a technical level, we cannot complain. Accompanied by Christmas-style music that does not disturb, but rather makes the action even more comical, the game engine renders hundreds of enemies on the screen without uncertainties or inaccuracies, with chaotic situations almost like in a Musou and with a level of detail rather remarkable.
Bursts of bullets, dirty clothes, explosions and blood alternate in a whirlwind of effects. If you really want to nitpick, the color palette is always a little dull and sometimes tending to gray, probably influenced by the military setting. Without being fussy, if you liked the previous titles, this one will not disappoint you. Too bad that in March the Christmas theme no longer has such an effect.
The plot is actually the first weak point of the game, since the incipit consists only in a quarrel between professor and student, through a cutscene and very hasty exchange of words to get you back to the action as soon as possible. Even if characterized by the usual verve that cannot be more American, which recalls the zombie movies of series B, the dialogues are bland and often empty, also victims of an Italian dubbing with little emphasis and that improves only slightly if played in English.
Frank’s charisma is still very much alive, but he cannot keep the whole shack standing alone, not helped by secondary protagonists without depth. However, the narrative cannot be rejected in its entirety, basically there is a glue between one carnage and another, capable of justifying some sequences and the presence of the equipment.
Let’s take the exo-tute for example, one of the novelties of this chapter, which would make no sense to exist except in a military research base. What we would really like to see in a series like Dead Rising, which makes creative humor on American cult cults a workhorse, is some healthy satire and social criticism. Just as in any GTA, clichés of costume are taken back to be ridiculed, this fourth chapter could, for example, have exploited the leverage of the Christmas holidays to easily play on unbridled consumerism or the exhibitionism of bright decorations.
From the past of Dead Rising are lost and found fundamental elements, including the absence of the time limit to complete the adventure, one of those mechanics that have contributed to the success of the brand. We waited until the end to make a thoughtful and not gut-wrenched judgment on the choice, only to conclude that yes, you definitely lose a slice of the fun.
Capcom Vancouver’s decision does not pay off, probably the reasoning was to want to allow you to experience a more traditional adventure from start to finish, favoring exploration rather than increasing the pace in completing the game. It loses the overall approach of the player, who tends to approach it more as a role-playing hack’n’slash than a fast-paced action game, a mold that differentiated the series from all the others.
With an exo-suit, it’s a whole other story.
Instead, the element that makes its return is the camera, which has finally returned by virtue of Frank’s aim of documenting the insane enterprise. And so, more crazy than ever selfies with macabre backgrounds, but not only: the camera in question can be used both as a night viewer to see in the dark, and as an investigation camera that allows us to highlight details otherwise invisible to the naked eye. , useful for solving simple puzzles and progressing through the game.
Can’t find a code to open a door? Just look for where the last fingerprints of whoever inserted it have landed. We are not in a Batman Arkham but the mechanics add thickness. Finally, each photo recognizes the “dangerousness” of what you frame and gives you a judgment, so one of the tasks will be to capture the most sensational shot.
Where Dead Rising 4 certainly does not fail is in the gameplay, still very fresh and satisfying. Also this time the usable weapons are dozens and dozens, all crazy and incredibly fun to use. The Christmas theme, exploited from the period of the first release, inspired their creation, as well as that of the costumes.
It is therefore normal to put your hand to a crossbow loaded with candy canes, perhaps after making room with a Santa Claus-flamethrower or a gatling loaded with Christmas tree balls. However, there is nothing to stop you from cutting the zombies in half with a chainsaw or blowing their heads off with the classic baseball bat. There are also many types of vehicles, which as per tradition allow you to reap victims at full speed and make the combo counter skyrocket.
And don’t you take a selfie with your childhood friends?
It is not over here, because as already mentioned in Dead Rising 4 the exo-suits make their entry, which give a devastating strength and firepower, at least up to the battery life, not even we were in Fallout 4. These are also upgradeable through upgrades that you will find around the map, to extend their use or power. In short, there is a lot of meat in the fire and fans will not be disappointed by the wide choice.
Which is to the advantage of longevity, as we have replayed Dead Rising 4 several times ourselves to find and test all the weapons. If you wear a giant reindeer head in the meantime, fun and laughter are guaranteed.
The main problem is to be found in the level design of the whole title. From start to finish the difficulty curve certainly has peaks in the most agitated and important phases, but remains flat in the rest of the cases due to a too high pace in the finding of upgrades and treatments for Frank’s health. Furthermore, there is no forcing in looking for the strategy of using the weapon that best suits the situation, given that we will often trivially find equipment just before a complicated scenario.
This makes Dead Rising 4 often a fearless march in search of the next horde of zombies to slaughter without thinking too much. Too bad, because the solutions are many, but it seems that Capcom Vancouver did not want to dare in design. If he really didn’t want to include the general time limit, he could have reduced it to subsections, so as to give even more variety and complicate things for the player.
Lots of enemies and on-screen effects.
Dead Rising 4 is therefore a title not for those who want a deep and complex action game, but that will appeal to lovers of the genre and will exalt them thanks to the macabre humor that arises in mowing down hundreds of zombies with the strangest and most improbable of weapons. It does not offer a very high level of challenge, but probably not even this is of interest to those who love the saga, who will find their character of greater depth and still have fun trying all the combinations of weapons, run after run. Even if the first chapter remains the best, especially for innovation, Frank’s new adventure makes us forget the blunders of the following chapters and represents a worthy successor.