Dead Rising 4 brings back photojournalist Frank West as its protagonist. We haven’t seen him since Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, a few game cameos, and a cardboard cutout in Dead Rising 3. Dead Rising 4 was previously released on December 6, 2016 for the Xbox One, and was released on Steam on March 14, 2017.
One year has passed since the events of Dead Rising 3, and it’s been sixteen years since the events of the first game. Frank is now a journalism professor who has taken the young student Vick Chu under his wing. He’s still over-confident and self-motivated, and has a lot of quips and commentary throughout the game. Their friendly teacher and student relationship does not last long. Brad Park, from the Dead Rising 3: The Last Agent DLC is now leader of the Zombie Defense and Control agency, and requests Frank’s help to track down his former student.
The controls are straightforward and you are given a variety of melee weapons and firearms fairly early on. Frank is able to combine vehicles and weapons on-the-go without using a workbench. For a man in his 50s, he plays much like the younger Nick Ramos of Dead Rising 3, just with a different voice actor and motivations. Dead Rising 3 was known for being poorly optimized for PC. The FPS was capped at 30, which led to game crashes for several users. Game files had to be modified in order for the game to run smoothly. Fortunately, Dead Rising 4 solved this issue and allows you to play quickly without fiddling.
Capcom Vancouver promised more action and a fun experience with Dead Rising 4. Features such as psychopaths for maniacs and the time limits were removed in order to promote action and zombie slaying. There was an increased amount of gore from the previous Dead Rising installments. By the time you finished slashing through hordes of zombies, Frank was usually covered in a fresh coat of undead blood.
For a game that put emphasis on an open-world Willamette, I found the city the most disappointing part. It was almost too similar to Los Perdidos in Dead Rising 3. The only difference seemed to be the addition of survivor shelters, holiday decorations, and snow. Christmas and zombie slaying sounds like a brilliant idea, but there wasn’t much holiday cheer around this fictional Colorado city.
Though there were reused assets, there were also some new additions. There are now more vehicle models and weapons to choose from. Each weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses, and finding blueprints to create combos continues to be fun. Many of the new combo weapons take advantage of the Christmas theme, creating colorful explosions or electrifying melee attacks. Moving around in the new EXO Suits was a fun experience, but at times, I felt a bit overpowered.
The graphics are a little lacking. Though Frank looks much younger and fitter than his past appearances, his companions can look a bit off. Brad and Vick sometimes appear too cartoony in their cutscenes. While Brad has not changed much since his first appearance in Dead Rising 3, Vick was too similar to Annie. Vick, a hoodie-clad scenester girl, was well-known by both survivors and antagonists. She seemed tough on the outside, but she was really a big softy on the inside. I went into Dead Rising 4 hoping that we would focus on Frank’s story, but it was another game of chasing after a girl in a different city. The rest of the characters aren’t very interesting and seem more like stereotypes often encountered in zombie apocalypse scenarios, but this may have been intentional, such as Dr. Russell Barnaby, an intelligent Scientist obsessed with his cat and Tom Pickton, a formerly friendly farmer, but now an aggressive survivor doing whatever it takes to protect his people. The plot isn’t as important as the action, but the previous installments felt a bit more immersive. There are only seven levels (or Cases) total (including the prologue), so the plot really feels like an afterthought.
Most of the environment can be interacted with. I ran into several glitchy moments when attempting to climb up vehicles. Frank would often get stuck in corners, sink into the vehicle roof, and I would have to constantly jump and move around in order to get unstuck. It became frustrating when groups of zombies would crowd around the vehicles. There is a large amount of running, jumping, and climbing in Dead Rising 4, so it becomes an annoying experience.
The biggest change of Dead Rising 4 is the camera system. Frank is still a photojournalist working for his Pulitzer Prize. When Frank isn’t taking selfies or taking photos of clues, he can take advantage of the new camera modes. Frank’s modified camera not only comes with a normal photo capturing mode, but also has Night Vision and a Spectrum Analyzer. The Spectrum Analyzer allows Frank to easily find passcodes and unlock computers and doors. These new modes make the puzzle-solving and investigation elements of the game almost too easy. Unfortunately, this is not an optional feature and these modes are vital to progressing through the story.
Overall, Dead Rising 4 felt too easy and the story was predictable and uninteresting. If you’re a fan of the Dead Rising series, this is more of the same, but with EXO Suits. New players might enjoy the mindless zombie slaying gameplay. I felt disappointed with the newest addition to the Dead Rising series. Dead Rising 4 was a disappointing Dead Rising 3: Off the Record starring Frank West, rather than a brand-new gaming experience.