It kills me that Dead Rising 3 never made it over to PS4, because there was no way I was buying an Xbox One just for that game. However, Dead Rising 4 found its way to PS4. While I’ve heard it is pretty much loathed by most fans of the series, I had a great time with it. And the hot news is, it’s the “Frank’s Big Package” edition, which means all the downloadable content is included…sort of. In a total BS move, the bonus games are not included on the disc; you have to download them anyway. And doing so maxed out the hard drive space on my PS4!
The good news is the costume changes are included. Frank West, our hunky reporter hero from the original game, is back with his camera. What made this even better for me was that as soon as I found a mirror where you can change outfits, I put on this little wrestler Speedo—which transforms Frank into a hairy muscle stud with a Mohawk. And when I say hairy, I mean it looks like he glued a toupee onto his chest. Delicious.
However, I then had to be really carefully about anything I dared to pick up after that. For example, at one point I was desperate for a weapon, so I grabbed the first thing I saw: a reindeer head. Turns out it wasn’t a weapon—it was a fricking costume change! I was stuck running around in a reindeer head until the next time I was able to find a mirror and change back into my wrestling Speedo. If only I had been wearing this outfit in an early cutscene in which a sexy detective intends to show Frank a pic of a perp on his cellphone, and Frank takes the phone only to find the detective has accidentally brought up a private photo…
The Dead Rising franchise has always thrown us a gay bone. Like in Dead Rising 3.
And Dead Rising 2…
Hell, the subtitle of this game is “Frank’s Big Package.” Perhaps that’s why you can find homages to the gayness of Dead Rising on YouTube.
Dead Rising 4 is much more story driven with none of those annoying as fuck time limit missions. As you go through the game, there’s a main plot that steers you, but you can run off and do all kinds of side missions without having to worry about a deadline to complete the main mission. This makes it easier to see and do everything if you so wish, although some of the sidequests become repetitive—and some of those are actually timed. I failed every one that I tried to complete because they required going to fetch something for a survivor on the other side of town, then doing some sort of task before returning to the survivor with the object, all the while fighting off loads of zombies.
The game starts you off in another mall, which is the hub of the entire town. There’s a whole lot to do in the mall, and you’re partnered with someone early on. But pretty soon you’re on your own and able to explore. As you follow your main mission, you can branch off to save survivors from hordes of zombies to gain PP points to level up (you’ll usually hear a ruckus and the survivor screaming for help, plus you get an “event nearby” notice on screen). Even just going into unexplored stores scores you some points, so there is a benefit to simply touring the entire map.
And of course you have your camera. The most annoying thing about the camera is that it turns on when you push on the right thumbstick. You know how that goes—right in the middle of your most panicked, button mashing battles, BAM. You’re in camera mode. Taking photos is as lame as ever. Sure you can stand in a safe location and continuously take the same photo of tons of zombie for loads of PP points, but it gets boring. I guess that’s why they tried to make it seem more entertaining by adding “selfie” mode. UGH.
This game also forces you to take photos to “investigate” certain areas. Don’t worry, it’s always in safe rooms with no zombies. The camera now has several modes, so as you go around the room, you’ll get messages that you have to switch modes to see the clue. Once it’s highlighted, you can take a picture of it, which brings you one step closer to completing the investigation. Usually there are about 4 hot spots you have to photograph to complete an investigation. Yawn. You can also use the camera for night vision in dark areas, plus there are pointless collectibles you can photograph in the form of zombie-shaped graffiti; they’re hidden all over nooks and crannies of the vast landscape throughout the game.
One mode on the camera also “unlocks” certain keypads to get through doors, another lame addition. AND, the camera can help you find secret rooms, called panic rooms, which you can only open if you have already found the key. Problem is, these keys are never anywhere near the panic room area, so you’ll be backtracking all over the place if you want to get into them. They do hold some goodies, but I found only one during the entire first play of the game and I made it through just fine. They are easier to find when you already have the key, because that marks the location of the panic room on your map. The way the game played out for me, I always ended up finding a key after I had already been in the area of the panic room, so I simply never bothered going back to open it. It was once I completed the game and had the option to replay cases that I found and pillaged a majority of those damn panic rooms. Really, it takes one time playing through the game to totally understand all the technical aspects, after which you can replay with your leveled up stats, making it easier to kick ass, which in turn makes it easier to explore and find shit.
The inventory system is controlled with quick keys on the d-pads: melee weapons, firing weapons, throwing weapons, and health. Press a direction to cycle through items in that particular category, hold it down to bring up an inventory wheel of all the items at once (very few slots until you start leveling up), which allows you to drop what you don’t want or make combo weapons. However, this is all done in real time, so you will be attacked if there are enemies in the area. Combo weapons are always built in real time, and there is no workbench. You first have to find the right blueprints to create specific weapons. The cool thing is, once you have the blueprint, if you already have one piece of a combo and come across the other, you don’t have to pick it up. You’re prompted to build the combo immediately if you want.
As always, melee is usually a better option than firing weapons—which also attract more zombies. And as the game progresses, you’re introduced to something new: the futuristic Exo suit. Found in trunks in corners around the town, the Exo suit makes you much more powerful for a short period of time, and gives you the ability to pick up certain bigger objects you normally can’t (arcade games, parking meters, etc.) to use as super weapons. You’re not totally invincible, but it sure feels like it. There are some sections of the game where you HAVE to wear the suit to fight bosses, and there are areas equipped with towers that recharge it for you so it won’t run out of power. However, it’s often hard to FIND the exact location of the trunk holding the Exo suit. There were so many times when I’d see all these great Exo marked objects I wanted to grab a hold of to kill hordes of zombies, but I couldn’t find the fricking suit.
You’ll need that Exp suit, too. The usual zombies aren’t your only enemies. There are several varieties of super zombies—stronger, faster, smarter. There are gangs of looters that shoot at you. And there are military men that shoot at you. There also happen to be cars all over the place that you can get into to mow those fuckers down instead of fighting them like a man. Cars have health bars, but they last a while. Just make sure to get out of them once they are dead, because they blow up, taking any nearby zombies with them! There are also military vehicles that have a separate door you can enter to use the turret gun on top. The catch is, you can’t move the vehicle while using the gun, and it doesn’t swivel all that much, so it’s ridiculously limited in where it can aim. However, you can toggle between the R1 and R2 triggers to move from the turret to the driver’s seat without having to get out of the vehicle.
Vehicles do come in handy once you get leave the mall and run around town for a majority of the game. You can return to the mall at any time to do side missions in there, and it has “fast travel” portals to get you around town, but good luck figuring that out. The portals are in maze-like underground hallways at the mall and maze-like sewers in town, so chances are you’ll never find your way to them in the first place let alone back to them if you need to retrace your steps. I tried finding one once, and although it was clearly marked on the map, I was running around in circles up and down levels of the mall in the same area trying to locate it, but I just kept running into solid walls, all the while being continuously attacked by zombies. In the end, it was easier to just stay in town and either run around the main road or hop in a car to get to the other side of the map.
But back to enemies. Fact is many of the crazies are completely avoidable if you simply skip side missions called “Investigate the rumor.” These quests take you to mini boss battles. It’s a good way to level up…and to get your ass kicked because you’re not yet leveled up. Personally, I saved most of these fights for my second play through when I was already leveled up. Sadly, there aren’t even that many of them compared to the endless maniacs in some of the other installments of the series.
Other side missions include simply getting to an area to shoot down a satellite on a building (easy way to gain points to level up), or the previously mentioned rescuing of survivors surrounded by hordes of zombies. Clear out all zombies in the area and the survivor gives you a bonus item then runs back to a safe house. Good news is you can’t hurt the survivor as you slash away at zombies. Bad news is that saving them is glitchy. One time I couldn’t get a guy on a truck to stop calling for help even after all the zombies were dead, and then when I left the area and came back he was gone, but I didn’t get credit for saving him! Another time, I was instructed to clear all the baddies out of a hotel to save a survivor taking cover in a room, but even after killing every baddie blip on the map, and even discovering a secret room in the hotel hiding more baddies (thanks to a Google search), it still wasn’t registering that I’d killed all the baddies, so I didn’t get credit for saving the dude. And while the general routine is that you kill all the zombies and then the survivor runs off to the safe house, a couple of times I’d kill all the zombies, the survivor would thank me, I’d go about my business, and a minute later I’d come upon the survivor fighting a losing battle with a bunch of zombies…because there was a fricking life bar over his or her head! Apparently I was supposed to fricking escort the survivor somewhere, but no one told me!
Sending survivors back to the safe house levels up the kinds of supplies available FOR SALE at the safe house. However, safe houses have to be earned. As you explore, you’ll be notified by one of your partners that a building filled with survivors is under attack. You need to go to it and clear out every zombie inside to make it safe. Only then will you have access to all the sellers inside offering items in different categories. Truth is, other than maps of the areas, I never bought a damn thing from them. The same shit can be found all over the place for free, including inside the very rooms next to which the sellers are standing!
Even without side missions, there is plenty of variety in the tasks you must complete to finish the main story, and you’re forced to run all over the dang town to get from one destination to the other. You’ll find some areas of the map aren’t accessible right away and only get “unlocked” as part of the story in a later part of the game. Not knowing that could drive you crazy if you’re trying to hunt down all the extras, like the newspapers, cellphones, and podcasts that add some nonessential backstory about what went on in the town. The locations of these items are marked on the map…whether or not you’re able to get into that area yet.
Of course, when it comes down to it, nothing is more satisfying than killing loads of zombies, especially when you have kick ass weapons, explosives, or a car. And the more you kill, the quicker you can level up, which makes a huge difference. You can build your firing weapon capability and some other things, but most crucial is building your health, stamina, and melee fighting capabilities. And you’ll need them for some of the more challenging boss battles, especially if you want to investigate the rumors. Even so, boss battles aren’t even that challenging. Heck, there was one bitch of a knight boss with a couple of knight minions who was really hard to beat at first. However, we were in a Medieval area of the mall that had this waterless moat filled with zombies, and I discovered that if I jumped down into the moat, the boss and her minions would follow me. I simply jumped right back out and they ended up battling the zombies! I just watched and laughed as the boss’s health bar went down. When she was near dead, I just shot the bitch and reaped all the rewards.
Maybe that’s why the game got its revenge on me. In this damn age of never really knowing when it’s safe to quit the game because of autosave, not long after I battled the knight, I had to battle a shitload of army guys, including one with a Gatling gun. I got past that area, unlocked a door and entered a new area, got a new objective and notice that I’d reached a checkpoint, so I quit the game…and found out the next time I booted the game that it started me back before the military battle. Damn autosave.
Overall, the game is really short, especially if you don’t do many sidequests (or quit at the wrong point and have to replay shit too often). When you reach the final door before the last battle, the game warns you that going through will mean you can no longer explore. It’s your chance to free roam and do anything you may have missed, however, it kind of makes no sense. See, someone stole your camera and you’re supposed to be giving chase. Not only that, but you’re in the sewers and you’re about to enter a door back into the mall. So in essence, you could backtrack and return to the mall another way to continue to explore it. In doing so, why wouldn’t you run into that very person? I know, because this isn’t real life. While this is also a good opportunity to go level up in as many ways as possible before the final boss, here’s the catch. Once again, this door is in the bowels of the sewers after weaving your way through a headache of a maze, so the thought of trying to leave the area, find your way back into town, go explore all over the place, then remember how to get back to that door to complete the game is reason enough to just throw in the towel and face the boss, prepared or not.
But first, a chase! Yes, you have to chase the damn person with the camera through a mall filled with zombies, and if you don’t catch up in time, you die and have to start all over. This section is just a matter of memorizing the best path to take that has the least amount of zombies, because you have no time to stop and fight them off, and the escapee is lobbing stun bombs at you that slow you down.
As for the final boss, you get an unlimited Exo suit and some Exo weapons, and while the battle cycles like four times through the same scenario (fight, dodge his attacks, he jumps on a sign to regenerate somewhat while you kill zombies he unleashes on you), it is pretty damn easy, with health and weapons all over the place. Maybe that’s why I liked this game so much…
Because the game was so short, I jumped right back into it to experience everything I’d missed. Like I said, being pretty well leveled up made it a breeze and gave me the chance to “enjoy the scenery.” I seriously saw more of the game in less time on the second go.
And then…I tried the DLC called “Frank Rising.” Ugh. What a waste of my PS4’s precious hard drive space. It’s an entirely time-based game in which Frank is a zombie in the same setting, slowly getting better, but in need of finding a permanent cure in 90 minutes before the entire place is blown up.
First off, it’s kind of bullshit that you’re a zombie yet you get attacked by zombies! Meanwhile, you have to eat to survive, so you can feast on zombies, or for a heartier meal, humans. But you can’t use weapons to defend yourself against enemies. You slowly gain special abilities you can use, and can gain even more if you chase after these ridiculous clouds of magic bees floating around. Know what happens when you start running off to chase after bees? You eat up your fricking time. Know what happens if you run out of time? YOU RUN OUT OF TIME. So say you play the damn game for an hour and run out of time. That’s it. Game over. If you want to reach the end of the game, you have to play it all over again from the beginning. Know what happened when I ran out of time after playing the game for an hour? I came to the end of this blog, because I never got to see the end of the game because fuck “Frank Rising”. I’m not playing that shit all over again.