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Dead Rising 4 is the ultimate zombie-slaying power fantasy. But that’s not necessarily a good thing.
The goofy open-world action series has close ties with the Xbox brand. The original Dead Rising was an Xbox 360 exclusive, and Dead Rising 3 was one of the launch games for Xbox One. Each entry gives players the freedom to kill the undead as they see fit — and to look good while doing it.
For Dead Rising 4 (out December 6 on Xbox One and PC), developer Capcom Vancouver brought back two key pieces from the first game: hero Frank West and the fictional town of Willamette, Colorado. One of Frank’s journalism students lures him back to where the outbreak began, and together, they have to stop a more dangerous version of the zombie virus. As Frank, you’ll travel all over the town to piece the story together while also crafting bizarre weapons to defend yourself.
Dead Rising 4 is at its best when it comes to the sheer number of ways you can slaughter your foes. I lost track of time in the first big area, the Willamette Memorial Megaplex mall, because I kept running into all the different shops and finding new ways of cutting down the horde.
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But the experimentation lost its appeal as the body count racked up into the tens of thousands. It became too tedious.
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What you’ll like
Finding your favorite weapons
Part of the fun in Dead Rising 4 is seeing all the crazy weapons Capcom created. While you start off with normal things like chairs or knives, you’ll soon find blueprints for combo weapons, which teach you how to combine two objects into something more powerful. My favorites are the silly but highly effective Blambow, a crossbow that uses fireworks as arrows, and the Nut Blaster, a machine gun hidden inside a large Nutcracker mask that actually plays the theme song from The Nutcracker ballet.
With 47 different combo weapons and eight combo vehicles, you can spend a lot of time finding out what each one is like. And as in past games, Dead Rising 4 contains a lot of references to other Capcom franchises. I was excited when I discovered that the Blanka costumes I was seeing around town were also a part of the combo system.
Known as Roaring Thunder, this weapon dresses Frank in a rubber Blanka mask and a pair of green claws. He can electrocute his enemies with the same hunched-over attack that Blanka uses in Street Fighter. It’s a great addition.
Diving head first into the horde
After you learn the basics of combat at the mall, you’re free to roam around the town. That’s where Dead Rising 4’s gameplay really shines. Throngs of zombies fill the different streets and bridges, sometimes numbering in the thousands. Seeing so many of them packed together felt a lot like going to a pool on a really hot day — I just couldn’t wait to jump in.
I sometimes forgot where I was supposed to go next in the story because I was too busy slicing my way through a herd and causing as much damage as possible.
Multiplayer is a great alternative
I didn’t expect much from the online multiplayer mode, but it’s surprisingly enjoyable if you’re looking for a challenge. Up to four players can team up and try to survive a couple of in-game days in the mall. Each day has missions that your group needs to complete in a limited amount of time, about 15 minutes or so. The episodes gradually become harder and harder as they introduce the different zombie and human enemies from the main game.
But the most important difference from Frank’s adventure is that your weapons break more easily, forcing you to constantly scrounge for random items just so you have something to fight back with. Since you don’t have a lot of time to plan ahead, the multiplayer mode also tests how well you know the basic ingredients behind your blueprints. I created combo weapons whenever I could, even if they were ones I didn’t like or just didn’t use much in the single-player offering.
That sense of urgency is a refreshing change from the lackadaisical pacing in Frank’s story. I’d love to see Capcom Vancouver expand on this mode in the future.