Frank West is back. The legendary photojournalist has covered wars and slaughtered thousands of zombies across the country. But now, he's back where it all started: Willamette, Colorado. Hey, at least it's Christmas! The ludicriously unlucky town has been hit with yet another undead outbreak, and it's up to Frank to discover the reason behind the infection.
Watch the latest trailer:
As with other games in the series, Dead Rising 4 will take place in a large, seamless open world filled with shops, weapons and survivors for you to encounter. Except, now the entire mall and surrounding town are decorated with endless fairy lights to celebrate the festive season. This will no doubt be reflected in the locations and weapons you find, leading to an assortment of wonderfully wacky situations.
While Capcom is striving to keep the franchise as silly as possible, the developer has made a few subtle changes to the established formula. The timer system that once restricted the main story and sidequests is no more, meaning you're free to kill zombies forever. This may please some players, but also removes some of the urgency we loved about past games.
Coming December 6, 2016 on Xbox One and Windows 10.
Frank West has returned just in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, wherever the photojournalist goes, the zombie apocalypse follows. I’m beginning to think he should just put the camera down and stop causing undead trouble. Not just yet, though, as Dead Rising 4 looks to continue the series tradition of delivering outrageously bonkers zombie-slaying fun with the most bizarre weapons and costumes around. However, it also looks like it’s bringing some of the series' less popular tropes with it, too.
In a 10-minute demo at E3 2016, Capcom doesn’t waste any time. I’m equipped with incendiary grenades, a firework-firing crossbow and an electrified battle axe from the off. The buttons have been re-mapped from previous games: instead of having to switch weapon-to-weapon, there are now three dedicated buttons for each type of attack (melee, range and grenade). It makes for a much more fluid system for dealing with the undead hordes and can also create some sleak combos.
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However, the switching between the different weapons can feel a little delayed, and needs to be a little smoother in order for Frank to feel like a proper badass. There’s also an issue of clunky melee at times. After swinging the battle axe once, you have to wait around half a second to swing it again, and often have to hit, walk forward and then hit again. It disrupts the sense of combo that you get in great action titles and would be nice if Frank could hit and move at once.
Another change is the way the game keeps score. Previously tracking how many zombies you slay – it still does, but the number is now much smaller in the lower left of the UI – Dead Rising 4 now puts a greater emphasis on your hit combo, but like other action games. After achieving a certain number of hits, you’ll be able to pull of a special attack. Lightning battle axe in hand, a press of Y and B rains down an electrical storm reminiscent of Thor raising his hammer to the sky. It looks incredibly cool as the crowd of zombies around West shudder before falling to the deck.
While on the topic of zombies, the streets are full to the brim with the flesh eaters. I asked a developer while playing if there was an exact number the game could render at any one time – he said no, but it does run into the thousands. However, with so much going on at once on-screen, that of course brings back a long-standing issue: framerate.
Dead Rising 4 is still some ways from launch, so to criticise the framerate screeching to a halt in the more intense moments of the game is a little harsh, but the series does have history. I’d much prefer less zombie fodder on screen if it meant a smoother performance. Sometimes less is more. However, where this isn’t the case is in the weapons.
Frank’s unbiased slaying of everything in his path is kept interesting by the sheer variety of tools at his disposal.
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Along my trip to investigate what happened to the soldiers in this area, I pick up an ice sword which freezes enemies on impact, an exo suit which is capable of splitting enemies in two (as you may have seen in the trailers), and other brutal toys. The crafting system of 3 will be back again, but in such a short demo Capcom thought it best to give us the keys to castle.
Getting to the objective location, Frank is required to take a picture of a group of dead soldiers strung up against a wall. It’s at this point I get what I didn’t expect – a jump scare, though it’s entirely accidental. Pressing the right stick will raise Frank’s trusty camera, and you then have to line up the shot in order to complete the investigation, pressing RT to take the snap. I inadvertently lean on RB, and Frank leaps in front of the camera for a selfie, scaring the daylights out of me with his giant forehead.
Upon discovering Frank has joined generation Y and its fascination for selfies, I sprint outside and start taking Christmas snaps with all my new brain-eating buddies. It’s a great new feature that will probably entertain me for far longer than it should. One snap included Frank in the foreground, a zombie mid-lunge over his shoulder, and a helicopter raining down fire on a crowd in the background. David Bailey eat your heart out.
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As the demo winds to a close I’m driving through the zombie crowd in a dune buggy equipped with a chaingun/rocket launcher combo. That pretty much sums up Dead Rising in a nutshell: the zombie apocalypse is here, so why not?
If you like Dead Rising, you’ll love what’s on offer here. You’ll already be familiar with the longstanding flaws of the series. The framerate issue will hopefully be less aggressive than it is in this demo, but with the series having a history of troubles, I’m going to remain sceptical.
The improved button layout definitely makes combat more fun, but Frank needs to be able to make full use of his arsenal and dish out combos a little more effectively in order to add a touch of flow to melee.
Christmas is going to be a great one this year. Probably not for Frank, though. But hey, at least he’ll have a great photo album of bloody selfies.