First Experience with Dead Rising 4

Note:  There are spoilers in this article.


Though Dead Rising 4 was released in December 2016, I was unable to play it until mid-March.  I had to wait until it was made available for my favorite gaming hub, the Steam Network, before I could download it.  Unlike Resident Evil 7, my resolve to stay spoiler-free until I could experience the game for myself was successful.

Like Resident Evil 7, I was certain that Dead Rising 4 would not run on my computer.  I chose to test it anyway and was pleasantly surprised when it booted up – although the load time for the starting screen took a while.  The only nitpicks I initially had were that shadows appear as distorted, blocky shapes, and there was a bit of a lag in the gameplay.  But that’s nothing that ruined the experience for me.  All I care about is that a game runs without crashing.

After the ending of Dead Rising 3 seemed to guarantee that there would be no more zombie outbreaks and that the story was over, the fourth game added another layer to the overall narrative.  In a lot of ways, Dead Rising 4 goes back to the roots of the series – it features photojournalist Frank West as the lead protagonist, takes place in the town of Willamette after a zombie outbreak has started, and has an intriguing mystery at its core.  It even lends some more depth to Dr. Barnaby, one of the antagonists in the original game who was responsible for starting the zombie epidemic in the first place.

One of the things I liked best about Dead Rising 4 is that, unlike its predecessors, there were no time constraints.  Instead of rushing through the game to solve the mystery before the clock ran out, I took my time exploring and killing zombies to my heart’s content.  I also love that the game brought back the option to dress the main character in a variety of wacky outfits, as well as create combo weapons and vehicles.  To take it one step further, Frank has access to a piece of military tech called an Exo-suit that can amplify his speed and strength.  In this outing, he throws cars at zombies to off them if he wants.  So far, I haven’t made much use of the Exo-suits apart when the game makes it a mission objective to put one on.  It is something to explore further.

While I encountered more than a few game glitches – my PC is old – nothing ruined the overall experience.  The one that really got annoying was when I undertook a mission to take out all the zombies present inside a pool hall.  Toward the end of the fight, the camera panned up to show a shot of some second story windows before a handful of the more aggressive zombies crashed through them; the camera angle remained fixed on the windows all through the ensuing fight and its aftermath.  While I worked out a way to kill the remaining creatures regardless, I was unable to exit the building since I couldn’t face the door.  Fortunately, this problem was corrected by loading the checkpoint given to me at the conclusion of the fight.

Apart from that glitch and the general lag in the gameplay, the other bugs I encountered regularly were seeing one or two zombies embedded inside a wall or walking into a room that is completely black.  I couldn’t see anything even with night vision enabled inside these black rooms.  While I enjoyed the game even with these glitches, I hope a newer, better computer will help eliminate them.

Overall, I liked the story developed for Dead Rising 4, but I also feel there are ways in which it could be better.  For starters, the character of Vick, one of Frank’s journalism students, didn’t live up to her potential.  In the opening chapter, I got the sense that she had a personal stake against the military group called Obscuris that was secretly creating and experimenting on zombies.  Had Obscuris taken someone Vick cared about for their experiments?  I was disappointed when this idea didn’t play out; Vick was simply a budding journalist out to write a prize-winning story.

I was also a bit disappointed with Calder, the “uber-zombie” hinted at during the first half of the game.  I remember feeling a sense of dread as I chased him through a train yard filled with mangled, heavily dented cars and then into the sewers.  I didn’t know what kind of monster to expect, but a highly intelligent former soldier decked out in an Exo-suit wasn’t quite it.  What made it weirder was when Frank caught up with Calder, the latter was, for some unknown reason, hell-bent on destroying the research that created him.

I felt that Calder and his motives could have been fleshed out better.  And if I had written the story, I would have had it so Vick and Calder were blood-related.  That would have made for quite the dramatic climax.

The ending to the main game still had its share of drama.  The final scene had Frank pulled from the rescue chopper by a horde of zombies and supposedly killed.  However, there has been news of an expansion pack called Frank Rising that will continue the story and have Frank striving to find a cure for zombie-ism before he fully joins the ranks of the undead.

I don’t know if there are any revelations that would allow for another game in the series.  Unless the company behind the Dead Rising franchise can come up with an intriguing, believable story for a fifth game, this may truly be the end of the road.  Whatever the future holds, I’ve definitely enjoyed the ride so far!

Despite my enthusiasm for Dead Rising 4, the game got pushed to the side for about a week in favor of Mass Effect: Andromeda – more on that in my next blog.


Dead Rising: Not Your Typical Zombie Game

The video game franchises of Fallout and Resident Evil are among my all-time favorites, but they are far from the only series I absolutely love.  I would say that what I enjoy most about story-driven video games is that they offer a departure from everyday conventional life.  My adventures have ranged from uniting a dozen different alien races to combat a common threat (the Mass Effect trilogy), battling dragons, giants, and other fantasy medieval beasts while trying to prevent the end of the world (Skyrim), and finding that manipulating the fabric of time comes with a steep price (Life is Strange).

Yet there are very few video games that offer an escape from reality to the extent that the Dead Rising series does.

My first experience with this series was with the first Dead Rising for the WII system.  While that version is “watered down” and doesn’t have the same amount of content as its Xbox 360 counterpart, it is still a very enjoyable game. The basic scenario is that photojournalist Frank West gets a tip that strange events taking place in a small Colorado town called Willamette.  He has a friend transport him inside the town by helicopter to avoid the military barricades on the ground.  When some army copters show up to chase him and his pilot out, Frank jumps onto the roof of Willamette’s shopping mall rather than lose the chance for a possible award-winning story.

Upon making it down to one of the main entrances for the mall, Frank discovers a group of survivors building a barricade to keep a horde of zombies from getting in. This plan quickly fails when one batty old woman spots her beloved poodle outside and opens the doors in an attempt to rescue her pet.  How she managed this with the other survivors failing to stop her is anyone’s guess.  Frank is one of the few people to escape the zombie swarm and make it to the mall’s security office before the door is welded shut by a surviving guard.


My favorite ensemble for Frank in
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

The remainder of the game entails Frank using an air duct to get back out into the mall to rescue stray survivors, battle zombies and the occasional psychopath (more on that later), and uncover the truth of what started the epidemic, or strange events, plaguing Willamette. And that’s where the real fun begins.

The primary thing that sets Dead Rising apart from other zombie apocalypse games is that the game’s emphasis is on making the overall experience more comedic than horrific.  Aside from the clothing to change into and food needed to replenish health, any object that can be picked up by Frank can be used as a weapon, however unconventional.  This includes — but is not limited to – guns, wooden benches, sledgehammers, trash cans, cash registers, mannequins, hangers, and a stack of CDs.

Another element that adds to the overall fun factor is that Frank can swap his own clothes for one of the many outfits available throughout the mall. The player even has the option to have him wear a woman’s dress or a banana hammock while running around killing zombies.

The third staple of the game and of the series in general, is that the player must also face off against certain people labeled psychopaths. For the most part, this means either people who are using the outbreak as an excuse to engage in criminal activity or ordinary civilians who don’t cope well with the end of the world as they know it.  Most of them also add to the humor element present in the game.  My personal favorite is the supermarket manager encountered early on.

While Frank escapes Willamette in the best possible ending out of multiple conclusions, the military fails to keep the epidemic from spilling out into the world. And that’s where the setup for the second game comes in. Dead Rising 2 takes place in the fictitious Fortune City, an area consisting largely of casinos and shopping centers.  Fortune City also capitalizes on the epidemic by making zombie killing a spectator sport in a gladiator-type arena.  A new outbreak occurs when someone deliberately sets loose the zombies to be used in the fights from confinement.

The most interesting thing about Dead Rising 2 is that there are two separate versions of it, each existing as its own game.  This one introduces a down-on-his-luck motocross rider named Chuck Greene as the hero.  The other, a spinoff subtitled Off the Record, sees the return of Frank as the lead protagonist.  There are so many differences between the two that each tells a story unique to Chuck or Frank.  One thing that remains the same is that each protagonist strives to expose the mastermind behind the outbreak and bring him or her to justice.

Dead Rising 2 retains all the elements that made its predecessor so humorous, but also embellishes on them. There are three times as many objects to use as a weapon than those present in the first game. And two objects can now be combined to create a more carnage-inducing, often wacky means of killing zombies, with the exception of the beer hat.

In my opinion, the psychopaths encountered in the second game are even more comical than those in the original. My personal favorite is Carl Schiff, the postal worker who is determined to deliver the mail even in light of the outbreak.  His dialogue is dependent on if one is playing as Chuck or Frank, but both encounters are equally entertaining.

Dead Rising 3 brings the overall story full circle by tying up loose ends from the first and second games. The protagonist this time is a young mechanic named Nick Ramos who finds himself at the center of yet another outbreak.  Nick discovers that he may hold the key to eradicating the zombie epidemic once and for all.

Like Frank and Chuck before him, Nick can change into any outfit present in the game. While Dead Rising 3 ups the fun factor by eliminating the need to create combo weapons at workbenches and introducing combo vehicles, it lacks humor in one area.  I know I’m not alone based on reviews I’ve read find Dead Rising 3 psychopaths more off-putting than entertaining.  There are fewer of them in this game, and most are made to represent one of the seven deadly sins.  Suffice to say, the one for gluttony is particularly nasty.

The other downside, as with the first two games, is that the player is racing the clock. To get the best possible ending, the mystery behind the outbreak must be solved within a set amount of time.  As much as I love the series, the games don’t allow for much wandering to your heart’s content without getting a “game over.”  And with the ending of the third game having such finality about it, this seemed to be it for the franchise.

I recently heard news of a fourth game due out in December 2016, and I couldn’t be more excited. From what I’ve read, Dead Rising 4 will breathe new life into the series, no pun intended.  Frank is set to return as the main character, and the franchise is literally going back to its roots.  The action will take place in a rebuilt shopping mall in Willamette, introduce a new breed of zombies unrelated to the ones featured in the original trilogy, and will for once ditch the timer.  The notion of having all the time in the world to explore the environment while solving the mystery at the core of the story has me anxious to begin playing this game.

As long as it retains or surpasses the hilariousness that the franchise is most famous for, all the better.

Mental images: zombies and coffee

Good, strong writing is found all in the presentation.  Consider the images that come to your mind when you read the following sentence: She was a zombie in need of more K-Cups.

So, what does that refer to?

Right now, you may be floundering and drowning in a sea of possibilities.  You need context to anchor your thoughts.  What should you be thinking of?

Figuratively, that sentence could describe a human female who cannot function without that first morning cup of coffee.  Literally, it could mean that a reanimated female creature drinks coffee and is running low on the packets.

Either way, the writer has set up the scene with specific, descriptive words about setting and circumstance.  Human or supernatural, your female character is of a certain social status to prefer the disposable, single-serve packets used in a Keurig brewer.

Let’s not forget the implied tension.  What if either one of them runs out of the single-serve packets?

Certainly, the story subject matter material is crucial to the events that happen next.  However, without any specific framework, your mind still generated images, thoughts, or presumptions about what that sentence means.  The presentation of that one sentence was strong, just strong enough to engage the reader and yet give freedom to create his or her own specific image.  After all, what does the female look like: blonde or brunette, or is her hair matted and covered in mud?  Is her skin dark or light, green or blue?

You want to choose the right nouns , words that create dancing images in the readers mind to solve the puzzle of the author’s intent.  If done well, the descriptions keep the story moving forward and the reader interested and engaged.  Are you intrigued?

If you’ve read this far, then you are and I did my job.  This is how inviting your writing should be.  What kind of images do you want to create for your readers?

How do you do this, find colorful language words to express nuances?  Start with a basic word and look to thesaurus or dictionary.  Typing the word “zombie,” an online thesaurus gives synonyms and antonyms for “odd person,” “ghost,” and “machine.”  Various dictionaries define a zombie as, among other things, a supernatural spirit inhabiting a dead body; a snake god; a tired, apathetic human; a spicy rum drink; and a computer virus.  Think of what other magic you’ll find typing in a different word.

Consider colloquial slang.  At some point zombie came to mean a lethargic person.  The word “shorty” now refers to clothing, cookies and an often-derogatory term for women.  What words can you mesh into new meanings?

You can also create your own connection.  It’s easier to take liberties in fiction and fantasy by the nature of creating a new world with your own rules, but nonfiction benefits from it.  That’s how I wrote the zombie sentence, with a human in mind.  It’s much more exciting than writing The tired woman had no more coffee. It also creates images that are more vibrant.

After writing it, I wondered, what if she was waking up in a post-apocalyptic world?

What does a sleepy zombie look like to you?