Dead Rising 4 Review

Played on Windows
Also available on Xbox One, Ps4

Dead Rising 4 is a deeply flawed game. I’m a fan of the series, playing all four games before this including Off the Record. I actually liked Dead Rising 3 even though it’s a divisive game, so I was excited to play Dead Rising 4.

The Story of Dead Rising 4 is Frank West returns to Willamette, the city the first game was based in. Frank seems upset about this, but I feel like his entire reaction is out of place. He should be screaming bloody murder about being tricked into returning to the site of probably his worst day ever. Of course, there’s an outbreak and Frank has to figure out what happened.

Frank has become a shadow of himself. In the first game, he had a story to tell, in Off the Record he’s investigating the second outbreak, in this game he seems uninterested in this story. However, he seems sillier. Almost every statement he makes is a joke. Gone is the journalist we know as Frank West and in his place is a joke machine that spits out one-liners. The first few scenes are played relatively serious, but from that point, the serious Frank West is gone, and in his place is just someone to laugh at.

The story overall doesn’t make a lot of sense, there are three points that are really broken in my opinion. The first is after the prologue, Frank is publicly denounced as a terrorist. This isn’t anything really new for the series, this was done in Dead Rising 2 and it’s retelling Off the Record. The difference here is after it’s done, there are about six weeks, and no one ever references it again. Frank goes into hiding as Hank East (ugh) and then is immediately pulled into the case. Even in the city of Willamette when people meet Frank, no one mentions “Aren’t you the terrorist?” People just treat it as if it didn’t happen.

The second problem is the treatment of the outbreak. In the previous games, there’s an idea of “Zombrex” where people take it to save themselves if they got bitten. For some reason, this game decided to say all humans were immune now from the zombie disease, probably because of the two movies in the middle of the series I haven’t seen. It feels like that’s something they should have retconned away. But this is Dead Rising, it feels like it’s trying to make it a surprise that there will be more zombies in the series.

So here’s a spoiler… There are Zombies. The game makes a new super outbreak and there are now zombies. That’s not even surprising. The problem I really have is there’s a point in the game about ten hours in when the game told me “If you get bit, there’s nothing you can do about it, you’re going to become a zombie.” Except for the last ten hours that I played and the next 8, I was bitten, attacked, slashed, drooled on, and bathed in the miasma of the zombies. That line was laughable.

The final big issue I have with the game is the ending. I will try to keep this to a limited spoiler. I don’t like a key piece of the ending of the game. The only thing I dislike more is that the ending is negated by the DLC. It feels like the ending did something unpopular, the DLC retconned it. So either the DLC was planned and this was an attempt to make it feel necessary, or the DLC is trying to fix a story problem they had. Either way, I’m not thrilled.

So with those three issues with the story out of the way, there are still other minor issues I have with the game. The story is hard to feel invested in. There are 7 cases including the prologue, and I’ll forgive the prologue for feeling incomplete because it sets up the game. However, with the exception of the final case, the cases feel disjointed. Frank sees something and it doesn’t even feel like an act break, and then, “Case closed”. But the case isn’t very well defined in the first place.

In addition, with Frank no longer being serious or the story being strong, the game feels broken. Dead Rising has always been funny because you dress your guy up like some idiot and then the character acts out a serious story with the head of a Servbot or dressed as a lady and no one reacts. You can also try to make Frank look presentable. The idea of bringing crazy weapons is only really interesting when you’re working on serious problems. This is something that Dead Rising 3 got close to losing but I think it was saved. However here, the story doesn’t feel important enough to make this as humorous as it has in the past.

As for the gameplay of the game, this is the most fluid of all the Dead Rising. It’s on par with Dead Rising 3, and I have to be honest, there’s a lot to like here in that department. Just as in Dead Rising 3, you no longer have to build combo weapons in rooms, you can build it in the field. However, I liked the feeling at the end of Dead Rising 3, where you combine anything with anything and made something. In this game, you always have a base item and a typed item. So you can combine a computer with any gun and make a Holey Terror, which is a black hole gun. It’s close to Dead rising 3, but you are forced to constantly hunt out the base item.

On the other hand, the camera has returned. And it’s a cool feature, you take shots and earn PP (the experience of the game). If you’re playing Frank West, you’re going to take pictures, and I won’t complain about that. But I will bring up the fact that you can take Selfies now. You know… I … Whatever.

You can even take pictures with the horde. #selfietime

The one thing that Dead Rising 4 brings is more side missions. The main mission is a little short but you’ll need some levels to beat it, as well as a few blueprints. The game has 7 cases, 107 skills to unlock (mostly through levels), 55 blueprints, 83 “mysteries” (which are just collectibles), 138 trials (milestones), and a ton of panic rooms and dodads to collect.

The thing is none of these feel rewarding, there’s just hundreds of items to collect, and while the blueprints help you, and the first panic room feels nice, the seventeenth feels like “oh another one”. The other items like the newspapers feel really pointless after a while. Here’s another collectible just like all the rest that has a blurb of text.

There are 4 major shelters that you level up by assisting survivors. But the game doesn’t give you specific survivors. You find “radiant quests” style gameplay. There’s a person who spawns at a specific spot, with a random name and look, and you can save them. That gets you 1 point out of 15 to level up the local shelter, and some PP boost for leveling. After you max out a shelter, you can ignore them or just farm them for that precious PP for leveling.

It’s very genericized. But leveling is also flawed. By the third case, I was already level 62, because I walked into every shop and tried to play everything. There’s a lot to do and it just feels like a treadmill that gets you tons of experience, but none of it feels that interesting. Eventually, I stopped exploring because I was over leveled, and honestly didn’t feel that it was necessary.

Combat with the zombies is problematic. They’re just waves of humans to mow down. The only real challenge is keeping them off your back. There are “evil” human survivors, but after one or two encounters they’re just as easy to take out quickly. Then there are “fresh zombies” and eventually “Evolved zombies”. Fresh Zombies just take more damage, and Evolved Zombies are only difficult because they evade very often. None of these feel particularly rewarding. If you want to rack up kills, just get a car and mow them all down.

Eventually, you’ll get bored of fighting all the enemies. You’ll use cars (Which take a ton of damage) or run around crowds of zombies instead of fighting the undead, and fighting zombies is supposed to be the fun of the game. It’s just not that interesting this time around.

There are massive amounts of zombies but overall the majority feel stale. Any Zombie near Frank is pretty aggressive, lunging at him and trying to bite him. However, the large crowds that you can see seem to stand there. It’s a tradeoff and I understand it, I just wish there was a little more life to the large groups of zombies.

Good crowd Density, most of them do nothing.

There’s also no time limit, and I feel like that isn’t the problem here. The time limit is interesting in this series and I’d welcome it back, but at the same time even with a time limit, most of this game would feel flawed. They expanded the time limit in Dead Rising 3, and I think some people hated the downtime between cases but the thing is Dead Rising 3 was fun. Dead Rising 4 has flaws and the time limit is easy to point at but I don’t know if I really hate the lack of the time limit. It gave me time to explore and I usually enjoy that in an open world. It’s just that there’s nothing to explore that feels worthwhile.

Then there’s the Psychopaths, who are called maniacs. They’re…. terrible. There’s one that I found interesting (a pirate who took over the boat) but he only appears later in the game. I got on the boat early, and I would have loved to see him but apparently, he was on a very long smoke break until the second or third case. Why? Where did he go?

Most of these maniacs are poorly typed, uninteresting, and generic. Oh, he looks like a pirate, but he dies as fast as a normal person. He doesn’t have a major attack scheme. And Capcom updated it after launch to give them special weapons, but they don’t feel interesting to fight. There’s no introduction or ending. They don’t really have their own story, they just are “Special looking bad guy”. This would have been great to add to the game, but they replaced the psychopaths which were the real monsters of the game. I wish we could have both in the next one.

The best problem with the Maniacs can be found after the “Scare king”. You go into a barn and there’s fire all around and you fight scarecrow looking guys. Then you fight the “Scare king” which is just another scarecrow looking guy who had a special gun. When you kill him the radio rings and says “That was the drama teacher of the local middle school”. And Frank goes “Uh oh”. That’s it… what?

The thing is that the entire game feels soulless. You just do stuff to do stuff, you complete missions because that’s how you “complete the game”. It’s just mindless gameplay, and to me, that’s the real flaw of the game. Nothing feels important.

There is multiplayer in the game. And rather than have you play in the same world as doing the story in co-op, you play another character and just do what amounts to almost horde mode. There are missions you have to complete and the time system gets added back in, so it’s a return to the original idea.

The thing is multiplayer is dead. That is a shame, but the multiplayer itself isn’t that interesting. You can play solo at least, but I played four “days” worth, about a couple hours, beating the first two “episodes” and did find someone to play with. It’s just that nothing was that interesting. They’re special blueprints just for multiplayer, special skills, and special trials, but it mostly suffers the same problem as the main game. Trying to find items to combo is quite a bit harder in multiplayer, sadly.

There’s also a free add-on called Capcom Heroes. I have to say I found this to be a fun add-on but I didn’t stick with it that long. I did like the way Capcom remembers its legacy. But ultimately it wasn’t impressive enough to keep me playing a second time through. However, if the game was better, or more engaging, Capcom Heroes would be fun, and I might even recommend it for someone who is more of a Capcom fan than a Dead Rising fan.

Aww yeah, X is going to tear it up.

That’s a great look, and I love the “Dead rising remake of all the characters” but in that mode, that’s all you recieve. You can be as Frank West or those characters. Still, it’s some of the best free DLC I could imagine for the game.

Then… there are the glitches. Now I normally give some leeway on games, bad performance happens, I don’t have the best rig anymore, however, Dead Rising 4 pushed me over the limit. I had many soft locks during the game, which required me to restart the game and sometimes the computer. It seems to be related to video cards and such, and low performance may get it more than others, bad framerate is understandable, a game freezing isn’t. If your game locks up rather than having a bad framerate that’s a bad sign and it happened often.

“But it’s because of your hardware” And I’d accept a bad framerate if I thought it was my hardware. But it’s not a bad framerate and doesn’t feel like it’s just load. I had freezes with no zombies on the screen, when there were no freezes before that. I had a freeze near the end of a cutscene at the end of the game then after rebooting the game, I had a freeze in the same cutscene at the beginning of the cutscene. Then I rebooted a second time and the cutscene played and I was able to play the game normally. These aren’t typical hardware issues.

Supposedly, if you turn down the graphics to low (which looks hideous) or turn off the sound they minimize the issues, but neither sound like a good solution to me nor would it be provable for something that happens infrequently and might not happen again for a couple hours.

An example of low quality graphics. Hideous.

There are other glitches that were worse. Items fall through the world. Sometimes you see something you want, you walk up to it and it falls through the world as you approach it. Enemies can also do this, even enemies that are required to be killed as part of the game forcing you to reload. The final boss glitched and the enemies that spawn in during the middle of the battle were undamageable, meaning I couldn’t kill them, so the boss didn’t progress to his next attack phase.

Then when I reloaded the final battle, the battle didn’t start. It was another glitch. I had to restart the whole case, go through about five to ten minutes of lead up to it. Then it happened again, I had to restart the final case three times.

There was a point where a “Survivor was saved” mission was locked on my screen as a quest, even after restarting the game. I don’t know if that stopped other quests but I had to go through a case and a half of seeing that in the bottom right for no reason.

Often textures of maps on the wall didn’t load in, and they are ugly when they are the smeared low-quality texture. Once in a while, they would load in late, but often they would remain the smear as I walked past the standing advertisements.

All these glitches are unacceptable in my book. They got worse as the game went on, where the first half of my game I saw maybe a few freezes, I saw more than 3 in a single hour at one point, which included the time to restart the game. The finale of the game was completely marred by fighting them, and overall it was an unacceptable level. I wonder if there was a problem between the QA department and the PC game or if I just have radically different hardware somewhere, but ignoring the freezing there was more than enough other issues that I’m really not ok with it.

At the end of the day, if I ignore the glitches, I still don’t like this game, I find it to be weak, and uninspired. An addition to a series that is the weakest of the series even if it is the latest. I give it a 2 out of five stars. Not a trainwreck, but it is not something I’d recommend.

Then when I add in the glitches, I find it hard to leave the score alone. This game has been out for a year and a half. I have to move the score down. I won’t give it 1 star because it’s playable but it’s so frustrating I can’t leave it at 2. Ultimately I end up with 1.5 stars for this game.


Final Thoughts: It’s a shame that the game doesn’t live up to the series’ potential. Glitches make games harder to play, weak gameplay ruins game. I’d replay Dead Rising 3 twice instead of Dead Rising 4

Stats: 22 hours played, 30/105 achievements won.

Bought as a part of Humble Monthly Bundle May 2018, price was 15 dollars. Bought bundle specifically for Dead Rising 4.

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