Last December presented somewhat of a terrible experience for yours truly. I had to suffer the indignity of observing one of my favourite franchises commit figurative “bed-soiling”, resulting in a damaged legacy for the foreseeable future. I am referring, of course, to Dead Rising 4.
For a game supposedly heading back to its roots, Dead Rising 4 was practically unrecognisable when compared to every other game in the series. Whilst that was good in some cases (DR 4 offered the best gameplay engine and combat of the whole series), something was missing. There was no charm, no soul; mowing down hordes of the undead now felt like a chore, despite the increased scale and gore. It lacked the excitement or threat that other games possessed. And don’t get me started on those glitches!
But six months have passed since that horrendous incident, and Dead Rising 4 has received a number of content updates to help bolster the overall package. The question is: does the new content do enough to help improve Dead Rising 4’s admittedly generous score of 7/10, or is this still the broken mess we know and tried to forget about back in December? Armed with a Season Pass and a copy of the game, the investigation begun. Frank West would be so proud.
Since the release date and now, Capcom Vancouver have dropped two big DLC updates, Frank Rising and Super Ultra Dead Rising 4 Mini Golf, along with two new difficulty modes, some new combo weapons and a couple of glitch fixes. It sounds like a substantial amount of content, no doubt, but its quality is another story.
The difficulty modes are just lazy additions shoehorned in to try and appeal to fan backlash about how trivial the game was. No new enemy types or attack patterns, enemies just do more damage. Big whoop. Old Dead Rising games were challenging but mostly fair. You knew how and why you died. On Blackest Friday difficulty, just grazing a couple of zombies can take half your health, let alone one of them lunging at you. It’s an overcorrection too far in the other direction, from easy to an exercise in frustration.
The big DLC contents do, if nothing else, add new types of gameplay to the mix. Frank Rising sees Frank rise from the dead as a powerful zombie equipped with new abilities and an overwhelming urge to consume flesh. I hear it’s part of a balanced diet. Of course, he’s given part of a cure which leads to him not being the same dribbling and decaying meat as the rest of the horde, and off he goes to try and obtain the rest.
As far as ideas go, having Frank become a playable super zombie is solid, on paper at least. In reality, it’s an insipid piece of DLC that starts off boring and maintains that throughout. It doesn’t make much sense either, with this cure practically zooming out of leftfield like The Flash or a world destroying meteor.
Instead of classic Dead Rising gameplay, which forced variety in your weapon choices, you have the same 3 abilities throughout the DLC; a lunge, a scream and a bile bomb. Capcom Vancouver basically raided the Left 4 Dead special infected abilities and chucked them at Frank. The structure of the DLC is also poor, with Frank having to complete a set number of objectives within a time limit.
This time limit addition was supposed to be the feature that made Frank Rising feel like Dead Rising games of old. Frankly, it was actual pants. Soiled ones at that. It felt like an arbitrary obstacle to create artificial challenge. The time system in old Dead Rising games worked because it was practically impossible to complete everything in one playthrough. Time always wins and decisions had to be made on who you’d rescue and who you’d let perish whilst also keeping on top of the main case and the psychopaths. Here, you have to complete everything in order to get the best ending. Time can and will be beaten, making the struggle less meaningful overall.
But really, it’s hard to take Dead Rising 4’s claim of “returning to its roots” quite so seriously when the second piece of DLC was Super Ultra Dead Rising 4 Mini Golf. What’s worse is that it’s shockingly fun, more so than it has any right to be. Forget the story or the combo weapons or Frank West becoming a chuffing zombie; hit the links with a couple of friends instead! It’s the mode we never knew we wanted until we got it!
The mode itself is quite rudimentary, operating as a stripped down yet gorier version of Everybody’s Golf, complete with the three click power bar. One to start, one to determine power and one for accuracy. Multiple routes and powerups that screw over your opponents give the mode some strategy, whilst customisable characters and clubs add an extra layer depth to what easily could have been a throwaway bit of DLC.
Still, it’s a damning indictment when a mini golf mini game is the best part of a zombie killing action game. Perhaps Capcom Vancouver are better off making golf games, instead of dragging Dead Rising’s decaying legacy through the proverbial excrement.
Do you disagree with our revisited impressions, or do you also believe these decaying remains should be put down? Sound off in the comments!
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Despite the new content and the bells and whistles of the new difficulty modes, Dead Rising 4 is still the same broken mess of a game we tried to bury back in December. No amount of mini golf will change that.