If you've ever dreamed of slaughtering thousands of zombies in a mall using everything from potted plants and plastic sabres, to hockey sticks and assault rifles, you might want to give all the blokes at Capcom a pat on the back, because Dead Rising is all that and a hell of a lot more. It's got thousands of mindless zombies to maim, dismember, and even spit on (I kid you not), 100s of useable items, over-the-top gore, quite possibly the coolest secret weapon of all time (so that's what happened to MegaMan!), and even a hilarious nod to Shaun of the Dead once you hit level 50. Now that's not to say that there aren't a few seriously frustrating issues with the game, most of which stem from its unique, albeit frantic time management system, combined with the inability to save in multiple slots. There's also a damn annoying roll move, but that aside, Dead Rising is an enjoyable 20+ hour experience that is easily the most unique title to hit the Xbox 360.
Frank West isn't your average journalist; no, he's far from it. Whereas most journalists - myself included - would never purposely land a helicopter on top of a mall surrounded by flesh eating zombies, Frank would. I also wouldn't enter said mall surrounded by flesh eating zombies and run around drinking wine, taking pictures of the scenery, and beating the undead over the head with ketchup bottles and other condiments. Frank on the other hand, would. In fact, as far as Frank is concerned, he'll do just about anything to get the story of a lifetime; and it just so happens that Frank's story-of-a-lifetime is, well, actually a pretty damn good story all things considered.
After a brief tutorial introducing players to the camera system, Frank's helicopter lands atop the Willamette Mall where we learn that our heroic photo journalist has a mere 72 hours (about eight hours real-time) to figure out what the heck is happening before his pilot returns to pick his sorry ass up. As the story unfolds, you'll learn the truth behind the infestation, who the survivors really are, and why Carlito looks and acts exactly like Louis from Resident Evil 4. Well, you won't find that out, but someone had to say it.
Without giving too much away, the main 72 hour mode is really only the first section of the game. After unlocking overtime mode by completing all the cases and answering a certain phone call at 10 a.m. on the final day, you'll get a chance to witness the game's true ending, which substantially beefs up the hour count to at least 12 your first time through, and that doesn't include all the experience farming you'll most likely do before you even bother attempting the game's dozen or so story missions.
'The mission structure itself is the most unique aspect of Dead Rising, and at times, the most frustrating.'
The mission structure itself is the most unique aspect of Dead Rising, and at times, the most frustrating. Each section of the main story is broken down into cases, and during each day there are a set number of said cases to complete. Further to that, all of the case files happen at specific times of the day, requiring you to manage your time effectively - something I am inherently bad at. By tapping the d-pad, Frank can bring up his watch which shows the time (duh) and also what case files are currently active. Every case file has a deadline indicated by the colour of the bar behind the case name. If it's blue, you're sailing; if it's yellow, you might want to pick up the pace; and if it's red, well, you've got about five minutes to complete the case, if that.
As unique as the case system is, it can be equally as maddening. Because each case file begins at a set time, if you take your time on one file you might not have enough time to complete the file right after it. I can think of two occasions where this became an issue - the first being fairly early on when you're required to get a certain someone medicine from the supermarket in North Plaza. It's easy to get caught up in the carnage, as it should be, and completely forget that the ensuing case files depend on how quickly you can get from point A to point B. Later in the game, there's another scenario where this happens (make sure to get the maintenance key from the underground tunnels before you do anything in the game). I literally had to start the game all over again. There's no option to restart a mission and because you can only save one profile, there's no going back if you get yourself in a jam. It's as if the developers purposely don't want you to complete the game until you've got the lay out of the mall memorized - including the locations of all of the hidden weapons and items (check the blue awning in Paradise Plaza for the sub machine gun), the times in which every case file occurs, and until Frank has reached at least level 20.
Speaking of levels, unfortunately for Frank (and you), he begins the game at level 1, with no special moves, only three bars of health, and a move speed about as fast as those mechs from Chromehounds. In order to gain levels, Frank has to earn experience points by killing zombies, defeating any of the 10 psychopaths located throughout the mall, or taking photos.
Your first introduction to the camera begins in your helicopter on route to the Willamette Mall in a neat little mini game of sorts, explaining the ins and outs of taking a good shot. Pressing the left trigger brings up the camera view where you can zoom in and out and take a photo. Don't worry though; Capcom's made this system pretty simple so you don't have to worry about focusing or changing the aperture settings manually - a wise decision given the zombie horde that's after you.
After you've taken the shot, you're graded on a few categories: The number of faces in the photo and what type of shot it is, be it a brutality shot of a survivor being torn apart, a dramatic shot, like when the two survivors on the roof at the beginning of the game reunite - netting Frank a solid 10,000 pp - or an erotic shot like when you take a pic of Jessie's, ahem, assets. The better the photo, the more experience Frank earns, ultimately increasing his level.
However, if you happen to die, you can save your stats and restart the game from scratch, which I suspect most players will do a number of times in order to farm enough experience points to reach a high level before attempting to complete the main storyline. I got Frank to level 23 before even bothering to attempt any of day 2's cases.