Dead Rising as a franchise has been changing more and more with each instalment, and many of these changes have been controversial. Those with more modern palates probably enjoy the steps that Dead Rising 3 and Dead Rising 4 are taking to make their games more accessible. Others will probably enjoy the devilishly tense and challenging original game, and to a lesser extent the second one. Some, like me, are bizarrely insouciant to the changes that each game brings to the franchise. To me, Dead Rising is about a massive open world, lots of objects to interact with and hordes of relentless zombies. Others will argue that a timer is integral to the experience, but this is a controversial discussion point in the community that I daren’t touch upon today.
What I am here to talk about instead is Capcom’s presumed efforts to celebrate the franchise’s tenth anniversary. The celebration? Capcom has chucked Dead Rising, Dead Rising 2 and Dead Rising 2: Off The Record on the current generation of consoles and PCs. If the term chucked sounds loaded it’s because it is. These games have been moved over to the new generation of consoles in a manner more akin to a “port” than a proper remaster. Each game is available separately or can be purchased in a package at a discount. But where some remasters are proper remasters and others are quite literally ports, there’s not a whole lot of enhancements in these games beyond a boosted framerate and increased resolution.While I hate to make reference to other games in a review given how time sensitive such a discussion point is, it’s quite obvious that games like Dead Rising, which are ten years old, haven’t aged anywhere near as gracefully as the similarly aged BioShock games. Each game plays rather differently and each game has its own idiosyncrasies. Whereas with the BioShock Collection it was easy to recommend the entire package – it’s less of a straightforward story with the Dead Rising games. Thankfully, they’re available in a package or separately, but whether you’ll grab all three is hard to say.
The original Dead Rising is easily the least forgiving in the franchise. It’s designed differently and is meant to be played differently. Looking at it from a shallow perspective, it’s old. It’s plodding. It’s archaic. But it’s more or less a rogue like. Go into the wide open world, level up your character, take that same character through everything once again. The open world nature of Dead Rising means that despite this repetition, the improvement of your character provides a newer experience.But while the gameplay systems are glaringly obtuse but fun once you learn them, it’s still hidden under a hideously dated layer of paint. Some aspects still stand up today, like, the style of gameplay. Others are horrendous especially when compared to other games in the series. Survivors you rescue rarely can find their own way through the hordes of the undead without extensive help which leads to many frustrating losses that feel out of the players control. Without going into extensive detail – Dead Rising is the kind of game for those that crave the old school, unforgiving, sometimes even janky style of game design.
Dead Rising 2 moved development from Japan to Canada with key members from the original team overseeing the project. It takes things away from Frank West, and instead sets the game in an entire Vegas inspired city rather than a shopping mall. You play as Chuck, and while you have to save yourself from the zombie threat as well as other survivors, you’ll also have to get medication back to your daughter on regular intervals. While this sounds pretty frustrating, Dead Rising 2 does a great job at refining the issues that the original game had. Combining items to create your own weapons is an ingenious way to build on the freedom players have to pick up whatever items they want. Dead Rising 2 does wonders in remedying the issues the original Dead Rising had – it’s a more forgiving yet still challenging experience and the AI of the survivors you must save is much smarter.Dead Rising 2 was a great improvement on the original but fans who enjoyed the everyman appeal of Frank West were disappointed by his absence. Capcom quickly remedied this with Dead Rising 2: Off The Record. A complete retelling of the Dead Rising 2 story, it essentially lets players experience Dead Rising 2 but as Frank West. The story is completely retooled to provide surprises to those who finished the second game, but the experience is still largely quite similar. Fans of Chuck will probably hate how he’s implemented in Off The Record, though this entire game is largely a “what-if” scenario and completely ignored in Dead Rising 3. Off The Record creates a dilemma though. Dead Rising 2 is the main game story wise, but Off The Record takes the already deep Dead Rising 2 gameplay and deepens it. Both games are great, but I prefer Off The Record as it feels like a more complete sequel to Dead Rising.
All of these games have not been remastered, but rather ported to the new consoles with only minimal enhancements. Thankfully, they run at a full 1080p which is almost double the resolution that these games ran at when they were first released. The games target to render at a 60 frames per second as well, but there were many instances in all three of the games where there was some pretty obvious slowdown. Given how much is going on in all of the games, it’s hard to fault these games, but those who want a completely fluid experience without any slowdown are better off playing on PC. The console versions perform above and beyond their original releases, however, so there are still obvious improvements and reasons to grab these over replaying the originals.The Dead Rising games are built to be almost infinitely replayable. As such all three of these games represent tremendous value for money. But it’s pretty subjective as to how you’d get the most out of these games. Each game takes roughly twelve or so hours to finish properly, but those wanting to save everyone and explore everything each game has to offer can expect to get roughly thirty to forty hours out of each game. If you’re someone who is addicted to levelling your character and seeing them overcome previously challenging situations with ease, you’ll love the Dead Rising games. Otherwise, it’s best to adjust your value proposition to about twelve or so hours per game.
And while buying all three as a package does feel like a complete experience, it’s a bit disappointing to note the lack of the prologue and epilogue to Dead Rising 2, Case Zero and Case West. Case Zero was a prologue put out before Dead Rising 2, and to be fair doesn’t make much sense to include here. But Case West was a great little bridge between Dead Rising 2 and Dead Rising 3 and it’s really sad to see it not included in the Dead Rising 2 package. It’s not a huge deal breaker, mind you, but it’s something that was worth mentioning.
The trio of Dead Rising remasters are much harder to indiscriminately recommend to any players. Each of the games has their own pros and cons and as such would struggle to find a broader audience. Dead Rising one is perseveringly unforgiving but at the same time what the more hardcore of fans would consider most indicative of the “true” Dead Rising experience. Dead Rising 2 remedies many of the problems that the original Dead Rising had without dumbing down the challenge or the depth of design, but is missing some things that were fantastic in the original. Off The Record remedies all of these problems, but is a strictly “what-if” scenario that has no bearing on the greater Dead Rising canon.
But all the games are still fun to some extent. They bring together large open worlds with what feels like limitless inventory and combat systems with the most enjoyable enemy to play around with – zombies. And while it’s still somewhat impressive just how much can happen in a single game of Dead Rising – be aware that these remasters are really just the bare minimum although still better designed than the more streamlined Dead Rising 3. And for some, that’s enough reason to jump back into Willamette or Fortune City.
The Xbox One version of this game was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.