Joining the ranks of remastered titles being sold once again is Dead Rising, Dead Rising 2, and Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. Each game can be purchased separately (currently going for $19.99), or as part of a triple pack (currently going for $59.49). This is the first time the original Dead Rising has appeared on a PlayStation platform, having launched only for Xbox 360 ten years ago in 2006. While the sequels Dead Rising 2 and Off the Record appeared in 2010 and 2011 respectively, all three show their age.
As a release in 2016, each game is rough. Loading times appear when transitioning to new areas and bookend cutscenes. In the first these can take some time before you get to play again, and while loading times in the sequels are faster, they appear often enough to be annoying.
No additional work has gone into the graphics than to sharpen the textures for 1080p resolution. Character models still clip through solid objects, and lip syncing isn’t quite there. The best part of all three games are their performance, as the game never faltered even when presenting large crowds of zombies for me to kill.
Each game has its own narrative. In the original, Frank West is a photo-journalist who makes his way to Willamette, Colorado where he ends up in a mall with other survivors. He begins looking into the origin of the outbreak, and unravels a conspiracy that hits all the standard dramatic beats of secrets, betrayals, friends getting infected, and government meddling.
Dead Rising 2 changes things by integrating zombie outbreaks into the public. Society has adapted to living with zombies as a fact of life and have medicine for keeping infection at bay, game shows that use zombies as fodder for entertainment, and shelters for civilians to use to wait out any outbreak. It changes our protagonist to Chuck Greene, a participant in the zombie game show Terror is Reality in order to provide for his infected daughter.
The game attempts to make us care for Chuck via his daughter and his deceased wife who was lost in an outbreak in Las Vegas. However his indifference towards everything shown by his unmoving face and monotone delivery, makes him a boring character. Capcom apparently also knew this, replacing Chuck with Frank West in a remake of Dead Rising 2 named Off the Record.
In this version, Frank West essentially replaces Chuck, replicating the same exact introduction, just this time with Frank West as the protaganist. It even makes Frank infected so that you still have to find Zombrex to stave off turning into a zombie. The story veers from Chuck’s in certain areas, mainly due to the removal of the daughter, but is largely the same.
Each game has an arcade aspect, in that you are pushed to perform actions that yield high amounts of prestige points, which feeds into the experience system. You do so by completing quests, rescuing survivors, and in Dead Rising and Off the Record, taking photos that meet certain requirements. The photo aspect of the original and the remake of its sequel still plays very well. Attempting to wait for just the right moment to take a high-score picture is fun, as is experimenting with what specific actions net you more PP than others.
Prestige Points essentially is a stand-in for an experience system, as you level up to gain more health, inventory space, and special moves by gaining large amounts of PP. You can use various objects located throughout the map to kill zombies in interesting ways, whether it be with a sledgehammer or by shoving scissors into their head. Different kills yield different amounts of PP.
In Dead Rising 2 you are also able to combine items into special weapons, which adds another layer below the arcade combat. Now instead of simply swinging a katana you can hook up chainsaws to a wheelchair. Its all in dumb fun though there aren’t as many combinations as I would have liked.
Quests you are given are pretty basic, moving from point A to point B, or rescuing a survivor and dragging them back to the safe house. The latter can be pretty frustrating, especially when the NPC you are trying to save gets stuck in a crowd of zombies like an idiot. This happens less so in Dead Rising 2, but is still a problem.
Dead Rising 2 is more refined, with better animations for climbing over things, running through zombie crowds, and swinging weapons to hit multiple enemies. I felt more in control of my character and was not fighting my controller to survive.
You don’t only fight zombies, but human enemies as well, which can be frustrating. In Dead Rising when you are struck you will be put into a flinching animation that keeps you from moving for a short time period. However this also means you will be taking damage instead of running out of the way.
This leads to awkward fights where instead of using the melee weapons I would sit behind a wall, wait for the enemy to stop whatever attack it was doing, and then move out to take a few shots before running away. The game just doesn’t keep me interested when I’m not fighting crowds of undead, and even that gets boring pretty quickly.
Each game now has multiple save slots, although still relies on the outdated hard save system. If you don’t save often or make a point to do so, you very well may die later on and have to redo a good chunk of progression. It’s a waste of my time to have to go through thirty minutes just because I didn’t use the in-game restroom to save before being thrown into a boss battle. In Dead Rising 2, however, the game will have characters point out good times to rest, aka save your progress, which was a nice touch. It is still surprising the game just doesn’t auto-save when you enter a new area, given the load times.
I don’t like that in Dead Rising 2 you are tied to the safe house because of your daughter’s condition. At least in Dead Rising you were free to roam the mall for as long as you wanted with the overall timer counting down. In the sequel you always have to make sure you have Zombrex before the 24 hour time limit is up and you can’t wander too far from the safe house when that time draws near. This is why Off the Record played a little better for me, because not only did it bring back the camera feature, but also eliminated the need to return to the safe house for Zombrex.
While I enjoy the arcade flavor of gameplay with high score chases and B-movie acting, all three Dead Rising games are not suited for the current generation. Zombies are played out, well beyond their shelf life and now devoid of any interesting storytelling. Beyond the zombie genre, the loading times and hard save system can’t help but show this series’ age. Some off-the-wall characters keep things engaging, as does the curiosity of seeing what weapons are most effective against crowds, but overall they are best left as fond memories than contemporary experiences.