Wednesday, September 06, 2006

VG REVIEW: Dead Rising

Capcom, for Xbox 360
rated M for Mature (blood and gore, in­tense violence, language, partial nudity, use of alcohol), $59.99.

Thanks to "Dead Rising," I now know exactly what to do in the event that an enormous zombie horde comes knocking at my door. I'll just hit them with my soccer ball.

Or a bowling ball. Or a food court umbrella. Or a chain saw, shotgun, cash register, sledgehammer, hockey stick, coat hanger, two-by-four or anything else I can get my hands on.

That's the central premise behind "Dead Rising," where you play aspiring photojournalist Frank West, who inadvertently finds himself trapped for 72 hours in a mall that's overrun with the undead.

Luckily the No. 1 rule of zombies applies here, namely that they're rather stupid and slow. Their strength lies in numbers, not in cunning.

That gives Frank (and you) time to comb through the various stores in the mall, where just about anything he can find can become a weapon.

There are other things you can grab in the mall that add to the experience as well. Food and drink at the various stands will improve your health, reading books raises your skills and you can change into a variety of costumes, some comical, some chic.

But a lot of your time at the mall won't be spent just hacking at zombies and trying on T-shirts. Success in the game also means locating and rescuing the few survivors that are trapped in various parts of the mall.

Often that means going up against the various unhinged psychopaths that lie in wait for you. Apparently, the dead coming back to life and eating flesh does bad things to the average mind. Just ask the chain saw-wielding clown.

Of course, because your character happens to be a photographer, taking good pictures of the carnage is important as well. Getting dramatic or bloody photos will garner you prestige points, which in turn increase your strength, health and whatnot.

The most intriguing thing about "Dead Rising," however, is its structure and save system. Unfortunately, this also is the most frustrating thing about the game, and what ultimately prevents it from becoming a classic.

Because the game takes place within such a limited period of time, replay is essential in order to unlock all of the different items, characters and endings available. It's easy, for example, to miss the central plot line concerning how the zombie attack came to be.

Capcom, however, makes replaying the game a veritable necessity through its restrictive save system. Other games, for example, offer different "slots" to save your game so you don't have to overwrite previous saves; "Dead Rising" only has one, forcing you to make tough decisions about saving your game when your health is low.

Save points also are few and far between, located only in mall bathrooms or in the security room. Worse still, though, is that when you do die in the game, you are given a rather unwelcome choice: start your game over all the way from the beginning with all of your upgraded stats intact or load up your last save, even if it had been an hour ago.

It's a shame that Capcom inflated the game with such an artificial difficulty level, but it's still a different enough and, yes, amusing enough game for me to recommend.

It is hoped such problems will be taken care of in the inevitable sequel. I'll keep my soccer ball at the ready just in case.

Note: Apparently this game was tested only on HDTVs, and folks with standard televisions have been complaining they can't read the text in the game. Buyer beware.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006


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