I spent the whole weekend playing Dead Rising on the 360. It is a great game, something truly new in many ways.
The basic idea is to make a videogame out of Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead – so much so, in fact, that they’ve had to state it on the box and in the intro that the work has not been sancitoned in any way by the holders of the Dead licence. (Although I think Romero would dig the game.) You’re a photographer who goes into a quarantined town to find a scoop, finds out everyone’s a zombie, proceeds to take photographs, takes up position in an undead-overrun mall, tries to survive. Every button in the survival horror cliche book is pressed, to great effect.
Yet the game has absolutely nothing (well, besides zombies) to do with Resident Evil or other survival horror games. It combines sandbox approach with old-school performance gaming in a very satisfactory manner.
Initially it feels bewildering – you don’t know how stuff works and you have very little time to figure it out. Indeed, I’m pretty sure everyone’s first stabs at the game end up in the main storyline expiring, forcing them to start from the beginning. It happened to me twice.
But this repetition is actually good. The game gets better once you level up your character (Frank) and learn your way around the Willamette mall. Re-runs are fast, boss encounters a breeze, and you’re mostly thinking about things in the large scale, prioritizing tasks and figuring out which survivors you can escort to safety. It rewards expert play.
Because you only have one save slot and you simply don’t have enough time to do every task you’re aware of (it’s designed to be impossible), the game keeps you on edge. Likewise, lone zombies are absolutely helpless before even the beginning-level Frank, and survival is more a task of looking at the bigger picture, seeing where you could pick a path through the masses (hundreds!) of zombies on-screen.
Many people liked the demo a great deal but were put off by the full game’s demanding approach. I recommend you to play it at length, starting over at least once, before making up your mind. I can’t really compare Dead Rising to anything; it’s a boldly designed game, executed to perfection – with the exception of the dreadful typeface issue.