Frank West is back.
Dead Rising 4 on Xbox One
Dead Rising 4 brings the fan favorite character Frank West back for another zombie-killing adventure, but things are a little different this time around. The new game changes quite a few things from past entries, with the biggest being the removal of the timer feature that was a big part of the other games. It does manage to rekindle a lot of the quirkiness and charm present in the first two games of the series, but after a while the repetitiveness of the game starts to drag on a little.
Frank West himself is one of the things that has changed the most, as he’s now a 52 year-old professor teaching photography and journalism. He’s also been given a new look and voice actor to fit his age more. The game starts off with some kind of nightmare of Frank’s, where he’s haunted by the specters of his self-confident past self. The dream seems to bother him slightly, but evidently doesn’t do much to his actual character, considering he’s still the same gruff and rude reporter we know and love.
One of Frank’s students, Vick Chu, tricks him into investigating rumors of military bases and secret testing facilities back in the town of the first outbreak, Willamette, Colorado. After things go awry the pair have to escape from the military, they have a falling out, and Frank becomes a wanted criminal. He goes undercover and is contacted by the leader of the government agency known as the ZDC (Zombie Defense and Control), roping him back into returning to investigate a new outbreak in Willamette.
The story sees Frank not only traveling to the new Willamette Memorial Megaplex Mall, but also the actual town of Willamette. It’s broken up into six different Episodes , with each generally focusing on a different part of the town. The story is actually presented in a fairly interesting way that has Frank unraveling a central mystery about some kind of monster seen throughout Willamette. Frank himself is as much of an asshole as we’ve come to expect, an he even points out that fact quite frequently.
Still, he manages to be a fairly humorous and relatable character for most of the story, although there are times where his jokes and quips feel like their bordering on the edge of too ridiculous, and fall flat. There are quite a few references and callbacks to the first game, with Frank reminiscing about his time in Willamette and other characters referencing past events as well.
There’s also a strange mixture of tones to the story across its 14 hours or so, as sometimes it’s utterly ridiculous in the vein of the past titles, while at other times it tries to be serious and focus more on its character relationships. This can lead to a tonal clash that feels confusing and jarring at some points. In addition, the game wraps up quite quickly after its climax and lacks a satisfying conclusion, even if the ending sequence is memorable because of the overwhelming odds it puts you up against.
The first Episode sees Frank running around the new mall after his helicopter crash lands, and it’s a pretty expansive area. This is by far the most interesting area of the game filled with tons of shops to explore, and interesting sights to see. There’s an Amazon Food Court and even an entire Japanese themed area that features Street Fighter and other Capcom merchandise.
The mall really reminded me of the time I’d spent with the first Dead Rising and how fun it was to run around and explore, finding new and creative ways to kill zombies. You can even hear some of the old mall music tunes used in the original game, lending themselves to a nostalgic experience. The outside areas of the town are much less interesting than the mall, feeling like any generic country town you’d see in any other game.
The core gameplay remains mostly the same with you being able to pick up different weapons to use against zombies. You can’t throw weapons anymore, however, as they’ve been separated into three different categories; melee, guns, and throwable items. Each category has its own inventory and you can equip one of each at any time, using the d-pad to switch between them. You can hold a certain number of food items again, using them to restore your health. Of course there’s also a number of weird and wacky outfits to wear that you can find in shops and houses.
The combo system from Dead Rising 3 also makes a return with 55 different blueprints you can collect, and these teach you how to craft weapons and vehicles of death. Finding new blueprints and experimenting with combo weapons is fun, and some are as absolutely ridiculous as we’ve seen before. My personal favorite was a nutcracker head integrated with machine guns that plays “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” as you shoot it. There are also powerful Exosuits Frank can equip scattered throughout the world, instantly upping his power and abilities to ridiculous levels.
Controls feel a bit clunky, something not unheard of with Dead Rising, but work well enough. It’s still a blast to mow down hordes of zombies with your ramshackle arsenal, but some of the later boss battles can get a bit frustrating. Driving mechanics on the other hand are awful, as vehicles handle terribly. There’s also weird items in the world that feel like you should be able to drive over but can’t, and vehicles are surprisingly bouncy.