14 Aug 2016

Dead Rising: Ten Years On...


When I was 11-years-old, I went through a phase of zombie horror enthusiasm. It must have been a result of repeatedly watching Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead about fifty times that year, before moving onto the grittier ones such as Romero's Living Dead series and Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. Sure to say, I was hooked. Zombies were scary, and it was equally terrifying to see human behaviour in those situations. Then, during the early years of the Xbox 360, Capcom released Dead Rising in August of 2006, a survival horror beat 'em up, featuring a shopping mall filled with zombies.

Paying homage to the likes of Romero's Dawn of the Dead, that game quickly became my new obsession. It offered the player this open-world sandbox experience, while also having this dooming sense of urgency in the controversial timer system. To 11-year-old me, it was mindblowing that the game could be so many different things at once. Being able to use anything as a weapon, from baseball bats and garden shovels, to toy laser swords and shopping carts, was a novelty I never grew tired of. The story was simple, but still layered. I loved the characters too - "I've Covered Wars Y'know" is the most likely thing I'd have tattooed. I remember at the time, about 800 AI zombies could be onscreen at once, which was amazing technology in 2006.

I believe Dead Rising inspired many future games too. Valve's Left 4 Dead 2 features a shopping mall level, along with many different references to the game. Frank West appears as a playable character in the Lost Planet and Marvel vs. Capcom games. There's also a long-running joke with the "Zombie Genocider" achievement, which saw many iterations across different games.


It was great fun, but it didn't come without its frustrations. The survivor AI was a mess. I remember trying to escort them to safety usually had me reloading a save countless times due to the AI trapping themselves in a horde and getting killed. The in-game text was hilariously small, and couldn't even be read on SD-TVs (those relics were still around in 2006). But one of my greatest grievances with this game came in the form of a survival mode disguised as an infinity mode. Players hated the timed story mode, so Capcom also added a never-ending "infinity mode", so they were free to explore the mall and kill zombies without being stressed by the timer. The problem being that this mode was actually more annoying. There was a hunger bar that slowly ticked down, forcing you to find food (that didn't respawn) around the game world. There were also tougher human enemies that would pop up at certain times that you had to kill, and you couldn't save.

Omitting such a needed game mode in favour of survival mode was something a lot of people didn't agree with, myself included. Worst of all, this mode was tied to two achievements, 5 and 7 day survival. Without the ability to save, this meant one would have to be playing the game for 14 hours straight, not including load times. I actually did this when I was about 14, during one long winter break, but damn, what a terrible thing for  the completionists that actually have a life.


Dead Rising was flawed, but it's the game that defined my teenage years. I think I played pretty much constantly from 2006 to about 2010. I also really enjoyed Dead Rising 2 and 3, but the same spark wasn't there as it was in the first game. Next month, Dead Rising gets remastered for the PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4. I'll be playing the PC version, which should have 1080p at 60fps performances. I can't wait to revisit this part of my adolescence.

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