Dead Rising (Xbox 360)

In recent times, one could not hear the phrase “survival horror” without thinking of Resident Evil or Silent Hill, amongst other titles. With the release of Dead Rising for the Xbox 360, Capcom has once again redefined the genre it is so often credited with inventing. Although the game has its shortcomings, it ultimately presents an enjoyable and memorable experience that any horror movie buff or zombie fanatic is sure to love.


Players assume the role of Frank West, a photographer in search of the next big scoop, who has hired a helicopter pilot to guide him into the city of Willamette, where a bizarre phenomenon has shattered the fragile tranquility. Zombies run rampant and have cornered the remaining survivors in the mall. When one foolish refugee decides to open the blockaded main doorway to save her dog, zombies pour in, transforming the last bastion of hope into a grisly nightmare. Frank is charged with protecting himself and anyone else he can, while trying to uncover the secrets behind the undead invasion.

The controls are easy to learn, and generally very responsive, although advanced maneuvers may take some practice to perfect. New players may find that they accidentally drop items they want to keep or accidentally fire a weapon from time to time, but this unfortunate habit is an easy one to break. As the player accumulates PP (Prestige Points, the equivalent of experience) by taking out zombies, photographing emotional moments and successfully escorting survivors to the designated safe area, his health, strength and other characteristics will increase. Perhaps the most rewarding “level up” bonus, however, is the addition of new moves to Frank’s repertoire. Initially, a very limited selection of attacks and survival techniques will be at the player’s disposal. With each new acquisition, there is a distinct feeling of “Oh, I want to see what this will do to the zombies!” Although several skills are far from efficient, they keep the game fresh and break up the monotony of plowing through hundreds of zombies with the same weapons.

Although the box itself claims that “anything and everything is a weapon,” the player will quickly realize that their choices for arming Frank are quite limited. Additionally, many of the weapons simply aren’t effective or satisfying. During the first trip through the game, players will most likely want to experiment with all the options put at their disposal. However, repeated trips through in search of the best ending will see the player making specific choices on weaponry and equipment and foregoing the once-novel opportunities in favor of the most reliable tools.

It is important to note that Dead Rising is more focused on survival than eliminating every zombie one encounters. A constantly running timer triggers in-game events, and if one does not proceed along with the plot’s schedule, they will be left behind, missing out on content that will help them understand what’s going on, and losing valuable experience points as survivors are consumed by the zombies. Boss encounters can be exasperating, but are easily overcome when the player watches for obvious patterns and reacts accordingly, and offer a breath of fresh air from the repetitive combat with zombies.

Save points are littered throughout the mall, and are of great importance. Successfully navigating from one side of the mall to the other and saving multiple survivors in one trip can be a difficult trip, and forgetting to save proves to be extremely frustrating. A pleasant surprise built into Dead Rising is the “New Game+” feature, which allows the player to begin over at any time with all the skills and level bonuses that had been accumulated up to the last save, even if the game has not fully been completed yet. For those that might be saying, “But, I want to have multiple saved files without them being overwritten, or have a friend of mine play without interfering with my personal progress,” that problem is solved as easily as creating another profile on your Xbox 360 and signing into it before play.

The most glaring issue with Dead Rising is the atrocious A.I. One might contest that “they’re zombies, they’re not supposed to think,” but that does little to explain the behavior of the survivors and other NPC’s. Expect multiple attempts to save particular survivors simply because they have trouble climbing ledges, get caught on corners or otherwise left behind and devoured. Additionally, some enemies lack the ability to look up or down, meaning that firing down into a crowd or onto an individual target may sometimes be met with no resistance or counterattack whatsoever.


Dead Rising is visually stunning. There has obviously been a great deal of attention paid to the multitude of textures applied to Frank West’s surroundings in the fair town of Willamette, Colorado. During the day time, at least, colors are vibrant and one may find themself straying from the plotted course to investigate unexplored areas simply for the aesthetic appeal. When night falls, the darkness that envelops the environment can be quite unnerving, and it heightens the tension of darting through roving troupes of zombies by concealing many of your dim-witted foes, who also become more ferocious during late night hours.

Each main character has a unique appearance to distinguish them amongst the shambling hordes of zombies. Were it not for a life bar above any friendly NPC, it would be a trivial matter to lose track of them in a large group. Literally hundreds of zombies can be on screen at once in larger areas, with no noticeable slowdown whatsoever. Gore litters the floors and blood sprays liberally; plowing through an unsuspecting throng of zombies with a lawnmower or carving your way through a crowd with a chainsaw offers the player the opportunity to revel in carnage not seen in many other titles.

Cutscenes are frequent, assuming one follows the clues throughout the story, and present levels of detail and suspense that can occasionally outshine the gameplay itself (without spoiling too much, clowns have not been portrayed in such a sinister manner since Steven King’s “It”).

The only real flaw with Dead Rising’s graphics is the necessity of a HDTV. If you are without one, be prepared to squint at your screen in order to read most of the text, as the normal resolution can render important text indecipherable unless one puts their face right up against the screen.


The sound effects and music are nothing to write home about. A soundtrack containing no memorable songs, the incessant moaning of zombies and the looping samples used to guide players towards survivors (crying, screaming, etc.) quickly become tiresome. It could be argued that the unrelenting groaning of the undead adds to the experience, but it ultimately becomes an annoyance. The voice acting isn’t phenomenal, and generally varies on a cutscene to cutscene basis; sometimes it will be perfect for the emotion of the characters, while other scenes will leave the player wondering if the voice actors had any idea what was supposed to be going on.

Replay Value

For those who want the most out of their games, Dead Rising offers a plethora of easter eggs and unlockables, as well as multiple modes of play. After completing the standard 72 hour mode, additional modes are unlocked, including 5-day, 7-day, and an unlimited survival challenge, amongst others. If Dead Rising has the kind of gameplay you hunger for, you’ll find plenty available.

Bottom Line:

Dead Rising is a solid release certainly worthy of a rental. The gameplay is significant different than what I had originally anticipated it to be, and that difference may be the deciding factor to any gamer interested in picking it up; I had predicted it would play closer to a classic beat-em-up. Dead Rising can be enjoyed as a weekend diversion to fool around with zombies and a fairly expansive selection of weapons, or taken to an extremely complex level by breaking down the most efficient routes and equipment layouts for extended playing sessions, warranting a look from players of all skill levels and interests.

Related Links:

Official Website for Dead Rising

-Brian Winget