Game: Dead Rising 4
Release Date: December 6th 2016
Platform: Xbox One
Developer/Publisher: Capcom Vancouver
Dead Rising 4 is a true sequel that brings back fan favorite Frank West (with new voice actor Victor Nissolo) with both a campaign story and multiplayer that blows away its predecessors. It starts in the future 2021, fifteen years after the original outbreak, and Willemette, Colorado is no longer the slow town that everyone remembers it to be. Frank gets tricked into thinking he's going to play mini-golf (because why not) with a student Vick Chow. He quickly gets roped into returning to Willemette, discovering it's not all sunshine and rainbows, and needs to escape as a wanted man before being forced to return with the aid of an unlikely ally. Frank discovers what's really behind the outbreak, how to stop it, and we're treated to a Hollywood-esque style ending befitting to Frank West.
Not even five minutes into the game it becomes clear that Capcom took a different approach to the franchise. Offering a much more linear story with optional side missions, the gameplay is much more organized than the first three. Side missions are tied into the main story, and Dead Rising 4 feels like one, big game rather than a collection of mini games. This time around there are weapons caches hidden throughout the world which contain exo-suits. It's a new power mod that transforms Frank into a mini Ironman Hulkbuster. He receives increased, strength, speed, stamina and can wield much more devastating weapons. Of course, by devastating, I mean giant and blood spilling. You can kick cars to send them flying across the roadway, or simply rip a parking meter out of the ground and do your best Hank Aaron impression. Be warned, because enemies wield exo-suits as well.
The best feature of Dead Rising 4 is the removal of the time limit restriction. To be honest, I never liked it in the first three games as it held back the true open world nature. Who wants an open world game with a limit? With Frank's return, you are free to do whatever you want in Willemette. Whether you want to find all the blueprints or newspapers first, or simply go mission to mission, there's nothing holding Frank back. It does return at a later point in the game, but its integration is a bit different and it really doesn't play a part in the game as it's only the final 5 minutes of the game's final mission. This also helps the immersion of the game as it's the first time in the series that exploration is actually encouraged for something other than collectibles. The first three games saw side missions that were useless as far as advancement went and were hindered by the progression system. This absence of a timer really ties everything together and encourages you to explore the world like never before.
The newly added vendors actually make doing side missions first a benefit for the main story. Just like Dead Rising 3, there are safehouses which contain different vendors. Clearing one out will automatically give you five vendors rescued; Weapons, locations, food, clothes, vehicles. As you rescue more civilians throughout the world, they will return to that area's safe house and provide more items. Upgrading your safehouse by rescueing civilians let's you purchase more powerful items to be used as Frank's heart desires.
Photography returns to the game, and this time around grizzled Frank West has some fun with zombies and selfies. Although Frank has definitely changed since Dead Rising 2, he's still the grizzled old photo-journalist he used to be. You'll need to investigate scenes for clues using different camera lens filters to help piece together what creature is behind the terror at Willemette. The first three games suffered from a lack of depth as the individual parts of the game weren't truly tied together. Frank's return eliminates all that with each activity lending a piece of information toward why Frank was betrayed or what's behind the outbreak. Dead Rising 4, with all of the new additions and changes, is the most complete game of the franchise so far.
Traditional campaign co-op was scrapped for its own multiplayer mode in Dead Rising 4. The co-op has its own story that takes place over four episodes and is essentially a mini campaign. Each episode is a day and needs to be unlocked in sequence. You have all game day to complete the necessary missions before it ends at 9PM and you need to get to your safehouse by midnight. There is a 1x bonus added to everyone's score for each of the 4 members who makes it back in time. The kicker is that each gameday hour is one real time minute. This means that you have a max of three minutes to return to the safehouse, and about 12 minutes to complete all of the required missions including a boss fight.
Episode one requires one mission, episode two requires two, and so on through episode four. If you beat episode two with only completing one mission, you'll need to play it again to beat the second in order to unlock Episode three. The co-op also featues its own progression system separate from the main story. Only your earned scrap (money) carries over between modes, and there are items that can only be unlocked in multiplayer. They are usable in single player mode once unlocked, but multiplayer is necessary for the initial use. The co-op also expands on the exo-suit ability by providing gold tier weapons. Gold bars found lying around the mall combined with certain weapons provide the most damage and durability in the game.
The entire mode takes place throughout the new Willemette Memorial mall and takes about four hours to complete. Your progress is saved so you can return to where you left off as well. You also can't cheat your way through. If you complete only episode one and get invited into an episode 4 match, you don't automatically unlock episodes two and three. You still need to complete the necessary requirements. One thing you'll notice is Frank West is not one of the playable characters you can choose from in co-op. Capcom's reasoning, of course, is because you'd simply have four Frank Wests running around and miss out on the personalities of the other characters. Let's be honest, they're right.
There isn't much wrong with Dead Rising 4. There are your usual minor frame rate stutters and a floating zombie here and there, but it's so far and few between that it doesn't really impact anything. It combines the crafting of survival type games with the story telling of a great action RPG. It's a true sequel that deals with the maturation of its protagonist, teacher vs. pupil story arc and a collaborative open world progression system that all ties into a HOLY SHIT! ending only Frank West can truly portray.
Dead Rising 4 took all the best parts of its predecessors and added a more sandbox type, open world exploration that is encouraged and expands on its story. Even with massive zombie crowds, and a hit streak record of over 1,100 for us, we still didn't have any framerate issues. The way Dead Rising 4 delivers its setup and delivery marks it as the best zombie game available now. It's a fantastic blend of story, humor, exploration and a Hollywood style ending that only Dead Rising can deliver. Pick up Dead Rising 4 soon as you can.