Many a classic film has used well-known landmarks as backdrops for its celluloid diorama. Moviemakers love this because a shot of England’s Big Ben or Egypt’s Pyramids instantly connects us with something of that country’s beauty and culture. So when the guys at Capcom developed their new video game Dead Rising, they decided to center the action around an American cultural landmark—the shopping mall.
Freelance photojournalist Frank West has gotten a big tip about a little town in Colorado called Willamette. All communication has been cut off from the sleepy burg and the military has placed it under quarantine (which probably should have been Frank’s first red flag). But patient reason doesn’t win a Pulitzer, so Frank hires a helicopter and flies in for the story of a lifetime.
He finds a town gone crazy. Gangs of staggering men and women are attacking school buses and blowing up gas stations. Frank snaps his photos, but his reporter’s heart lusts for more. So he has the pilot drop him off on the roof of the local mall and gives instructions to come back and retrieve him in 72 hours. That should be plenty of time to … die.
Your Money’s No Good Here
Now the “fun” begins. It seems that the whole population of Willamette has been turned into flesh-eating zombies—flocking back to where their instincts tell them they belong. And it’s your job to help Frank figure out how this all happened (if not for humanity’s sake, then at least for a great scoop).
The central game action is a set of eight “cases” (a clue-gathering string of events) that Frank jumps into as soon as he meets up with the first group of survivors. This complicated core story is hardwired into the timeline and can end up with any of six conclusions based on the choices you make (including infecting the world with parasitic zombie insects). And while pursuing these main objectives, you take side missions to rescue survivors, snap photos for your story, rummage through stores, look for food and alcohol, and wade through this vast mall, crammed full of oozing, stumble-footed, dead people.
A Food Court to Die For
As you would expect, Dead Rising is a gory mess. Gallons of blood and grisly slop are splashed onto the floors and walls from every creature you kick, decapitate, shoot, grind, pummel, electrocute and slice through. And to be honest, that’s the main action of this game. There are thousands, no, tens of thousands of zombies in and around this mall. And everything you can possibly imagine a mall holding (in over 100 retail shops) is at hand to use as a weapon. Baseball bats, lead pipes, guns, bowling balls, plastic light sabers, sledgehammers (nasty), lawnmowers (really nasty) and teddy bears are but a few of the gazillions of possibilities. In fact, it’s clear that the game’s creators hope that you’ll search for as many bizarre items as possible and find disgusting ways to rip up these “people” as a sort of black comedy.
But wait, there are also psychopath humans out there who will attack you at every turn. And they can be worse than the zombies. A chain saw-wielding killer clown and raging raincoat-clad cult kooks are but a sampling of those who will also need killing. With all this butchering going on, you’d think dialogue wouldn’t be necessary, but conversations are plentiful and peppered with such words as “d–n,” “b–ch” and “s—.” Our photographer friend Frank sports some coarse language, too, with “what the h—?” hissing through his clenched teeth on a number of occasions.
Shop Till You Drop
The rotten cherry on top of this sundae of stomach-turning spew is that Dead Rising is very difficult to put down. Part of the reason for this is the ticking clock feature. Not only are you challenged to accomplish the main objective and beat the 72-hour clock, but each rescue mission has its own countdown. In fact, there are more timed challenges thrown your way than are humanly possible to accomplish. And you feel like you just gotta squeeze one more in.
Along with that, the game’s save mechanic keeps you glued to your controller. Saving points (bathrooms and lounge areas) are few and far between. Which means that when the swarming brain-eaters finally overcome your hero (and believe me, they will) you’ll lose a big chunk of your progress (and level-ups). Or you can opt to keep your leveled-up abilities (strength, speed and endurance) and go all the way back to the beginning of the game.
So, not only will you be looking for new ways to puree zombies, find clues and beat the clock, you’ll be doing it over and over and over again until you feel like you’re becoming a zombie (brain-dead and without a shopping cart in sight). Doesn’t that just scream fun for the whole family?
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.