Why wouldn’t you want to make it more convenient to slaughter the undead?
Dead Rising 4’s weapon juggling changes the game
Of all the trailers of E3 2016, the one that I consider most pitch-perfect is probably the one belonging to Dead Rising 4. There was something absolutely joyous about its no-bullshit tone; Frank West gurns into his phone (a Windows device, probably the least realistic premise to grace Dead Rising yet) and smashes zombies in ludicrous-looking footage. It’s pretty much everything I wanted.
“This choice of control mapping sounded like blasphemy when it was first explained to me, but it actually makes it easy for Frank to switch between using a ranged weapon, melee weapon or thrown weapon with ease. It’s a significant improvement.”
I admit I’m a bit of a fan of Dead Rising. While the series has definitely meandered from its original time-constrained and more difficult initial premise I don’t think the series has ever delivered a bad experience (the bizarre Wii port of the first game notwithstanding), and Dead Rising 3 was in my eyes the stand-out launch title of the generation. It’s been three years, and I’m absolutely ready for more.
Hands on with Dead Rising 4 at E3 is limited to a scant ten minutes, and Capcom doesn’t mess around in what they give you to play with. Dead Rising obviously traditionally starts small with, say, a baseball bat or a sledgehammer before building to a crescendo of ridiculous combination weapons. But this Dead Rising 4 demo starts big.
You’re spawned in with grenades, a ranged weapon and a hefty battle axe. These are an important starting point, as Dead Rising 4 splits weapons into three categories outright, with the game mapping each type to one of the face buttons.
This choice of control mapping sounded like blasphemy when it was first explained to me, but it actually makes it easy for Frank to switch between using a ranged weapon, melee weapon or thrown weapon with ease. It’s a significant improvement over Dead Rising’s previous one-weapon-only approach. The only caveat is that in its current form switching which weapons are in each slot is a little clunky, though hopefully that’s something that’ll be fixed over time.
The new weapon setup has me intrigued as it feels far more fluid when switching mid-action, making it easier for Frank to switch without ceding too much ground to the undead. On top of that, while it absolutely isn’t what Dead Rising is about this system might also lend itself to some form of combo-building.
The weapons all exist to be deployed on the zombies that have returned to terrorize the town of Willamette, the setting of the original Dead Rising title. It’s sixteen years later but not much has changed in terms of the resilience of zombies; these are enemies that alone aren’t threatening at all, but swarm in large groups and thus try to overpower you. Dead Rising 3 was at the time the most impressive entry in the series in terms of sheer numbers, but even this early build of the fourth entry surpasses it with an absolute horde of zombies on-screen at any given time.
Blasting through zombies is as fun as ever, though the demo doesn’t really give much of an idea of the structure of the game. There’s a ten-minute timer on the demo, but it’s completely unclear as to how much of an impact the passage of in-game time will have on this entry. Similarly, the demo was fairly devoid of narrative clues as to what’s going on in Frank’s latest outing.
The demo is topped off with the appearance of the mech exosuit which made an appearance in the game’s first trailer. The suit is different from most items in that it actually enables Frank to do more. He hits harder, for instance, but he can also do things like rip parking meters out of the ground and use them as massive melee weapons. Enough of these dumb transformative items in the game could prove a compelling feature.
While Dead Rising has always had a 70s zombie movie ‘serious’ undercurrent, it’s also always appeared to gleefully understand its status as a B-movie. This seems to go along with that. The exosuit, Frank’s newfound obsession with selfies and the addition of even more mad combination weapons all seem to happily support that. What isn’t clear is how much the game will advance Dead Rising’s broader story. I always found the balance of tone between ridiculous and serious quite interesting, and my main hope for Dead Rising 4 is that it doesn’t descend into solely being a ridiculous parody of what the first game achieved.
A Dead Rising game is never going to screenshot quite as well as a more linear game, but I left my brief ten-minute jaunt with the game quite impressed in how it looked and played, especially with the huge population of zombies on-screen at any given time. This demo offered a glance into the fundamentals: an engine that can push loads of zombies at once, and combat to slay them. Both are good. My question for Capcom Vancouver now is: what do you build around that framework? I really hope it’s good.
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