Frank West is back in a familiar predicament. In Dead Rising 4 you return to Williamette as Mr. West because there has been a zombie outbreak once again and the responsibility falls to you to find out what exactly is going on. Along the way you meet a cast of characters with some of them wanting to kill you and the others needing your help to survive. Dead Rising 4 feels like a bit of a reboot for the franchise and it is one I am happy I played. I haven’t been the biggest Dead Rising fan in the past so I didn’t really know what to expect with this one going in. What I got was a really fun game where I could mindlessly massacre zombies as I tried to unravel the conspiracy that brought them back.
Dead Rising 4 begins with you getting tricked into covering a story you weren’t interested in. Frank West is a teacher now but one of his students tricked him into going to a covert base that was supposed to be some type of training center but instead is a military base where someone is conducting unethical experiments, both on humans and on zombies. It isn’t long before you have to use your camera to take pictures of the different horrors you find to document what has been taking place. Your student also becomes overzealous at one point which means that you need to not only make a quick escape but you have to fight your way off the base. After all of this plays out and you watch some cinematics you find yourself in a very familiar mall in Williamette. By the time you arrive at the mall Williamette has been overrun with zombies and has been infected for six weeks. I’m not going to go into any more detail than that because I don’t want to ruin any of the story but suffice it to say that if you enjoy killing zombies then this might be the game for you.
As you work your way through the mall (and the rest of the game) there will be a number of different activities to do. From time to time you will come upon an encounter where there is a survivor that is surrounded by zombies and you need to help them out before they get infected. If you can successfully help them out and clear out the zombies that are surrounding them they will reward you and then head to the nearest emergency shelter. You will come across these shelters during your playtime and once you do find one you will need to eradicate the zombies from the center. Once you do that the survivors within the center come out from hiding and this is where you can stock up on items you may need. You can buy different outfits, purchase food which can refill your HP, buy different weapons and more. When you get a little further in the game these emergency shelters also act as a fast travel point so you can get back to the mall whenever you want. When you rescue stranded survivors then they will return to these shelters and help it to level up. One really great change in Dead Rising 4 is that you will not need to escort these survivors to safety like you had to do in the previous games. Once you have rescued them and you have received your reward you can then forget about them. You will want to raise the level of your emergency shelters as much as you can because each time you do the vendors within the shelter will upgrade items you are able to buy. Each shelter can be leveled up to level 5 which each new level requiring more and more survivors to be rescued.
One of the hallmarks for the Dead Rising series is the crazy weapon combinations you can create and Dead Rising 4 is no exception. One of my favorite weapons to use was unquestionably the “Blast from the Past” which was essentially a sledgehammer combined three grenades, one on each side of the head and then one on top. That made melee combat an explosive affair and was a great way to take out multiple zombies simultaneously. If I needed to use a ranged weapon my favorite creation was the “Blambow”. This is essentially a crossbow that fired explosive arrows. If there were enemies in the distance that I wanted to pick off or even a boss with a lot of armor, all I had to do was hit them with one of these arrows and a few moments later they would explode either taking them out or at least damaging them. This was also effective in a large group of zombies where you could hit one of them with the arrow and the other zombies around him would also get taken out in the explosion. In addition to those “standard” weapons you could also weaponize some vehicles with one of my favorites being the “Kill-O-Watt”. When I created this it was a go kart that was electrified. I would drive around the mall zapping zombies as I drove by allowing me to cut a quick swath through large groups.
As you progress in the game you will also come across a number of collectibles that will help fill in gaps of the story. There are upload files for you to find where you can listen to reports of what has taken place as well as different episodes of a podcast from one of the survivors as well as finding newspapers laying around that might solve a mystery or two. There are also “persons of interest” that you will want to take a picture of so you can get a little bit of info about them. You can also purchase maps in the emergency shelter for the different areas in the game that can help you find some of these collectibles. I always appreciate it when developers do that type of thing because I am the type of person that generally enjoys finding collectibles but I also don’t really have the time to search every nook and cranny of a game world. This has always been a great compromise for me because I do still have to find the item but at least I know the general area where I need to look.
As you clear out hordes of zombies you will be earning experience points. When you level up in the game you will earn skill points which you can use to upgrade Frank. There are four main categories with “Brawling,” “Fortitude,” “Shooting” and “Survival”. The “Brawling” category is for more of your melee based attacks and strategies. The “Fortitude” category is for your overall health where you can increase your maximum health, increase your stamina, reduce the amount of damage you take from enemy attacks and more. The “Shooting” category should be fairly self explanatory. It improves your skills with a firearm whether it is being able to aim better, being able to carry more ammo and a variety of other things. Finally there is the “Survival” category that deals with getting you extra inventory slots, being more quiet when you are trying to utilize stealth, improve your scavenging and more. It is a pretty well rounded system which will allow you to go a number of different routes as you prioritize what you want to upgrade first.
The visuals for Dead Rising 4 are quite nice with some nice detail in both the character models and the environment itself. The game’s draw distance is really nice being able to see mountains in the distance clearly if you are outside or down a long hallway at the mall. The audio is also well done with the voice acting for the different characters as well as the soundtrack that you listen to as you go through Williamette. Dead Rising 4 is set during the Christmas season so you’ll hear some Christmas tunes as you are playing, especially if you bring up the map or have to pause the game for any reason.
There is also some multiplayer in Dead Rising 4 where you and your friends can have fun taking on the horde. There is an online four player co-op mode where you can complete missions and conquer the Williamette Memorial Megaplex. The characters in this multiplayer mode are all survivors who you undoubtedly came across in the single player campaign. This multiplayer mode consists of four episodes that will each last two days. These episodes are set in different locations of the mall where you will have different missions to complete. During my time playing this I could immediately see that teamwork makes things much easier as everyone scrambles to get weapons, find food and kill enemies. Once you are done you need to return to a shelter to spend the night. It is a fun multiplayer mode without a doubt but, in my opinion, I would have preferred online co-op in the campaign. That would have raised the bar from what is already a fun campaign to being even more fun running around that world with some friends.
Overall Dead Rising 4 is a really fun game. There isn’t anything mind blowing but it is a solid experience that is filled with thousands of zombies that you need to fight through to unravel a conspiracy. If you are someone that likes to do everything in these types of sandbox games then you will be kept busy for a little while as you track down collectibles, liberate emergency shelters, create different weapons and more. I enjoyed the story that was told and felt like it was kind of a reboot for the series. With that being the case you do not need to have played the other games to enjoy Dead Rising 4. If you are a newcomer to this franchise then you should just as much fun as everyone else. I’ve had some problems with previous entries in this franchise but those problems aren’t in Dead Rising 4 which I was pleasantly surprised to see. My only real complaint is that it would have been nice to have some online campaign co-op. Be sure to give this game a try as you might be surprised with how much fun it is to take on the zombie horde.