Over the last week I’ve been going back to the Dead Rising 2 Off The Record remaster and having an absolute blast. When I was 15 I first got my Xbox 360 and Dead Rising with it, it was unlike any other game I’d played. This made me think to myself, what happened to the Dead Rising series?
Dead Rising 1 is a huge game with a ton of content, brilliant writing and unique gameplay. You are Frank West, a journalist that has heard rumours of an outbreak in Willamette Colorado. Equipped with a camera Frank has 3 days to uncover the truth of the outbreak and tell the rest of the World what the government is hiding. Frank West arrives in Willamette mall where a few survivors have managed to safely barricade themselves in until one of the survivors breaks it all down to rescue her precious poodle ( I mean who wouldn’t it’s a dog!). Frank and any remaining survivors make it back to a safe room where you can save the game, take a break and drop off any survivors you find on your adventure. Now when the game was released the timer of 3 days was a mixed bag with some, some thought it was unique and interesting to have such timers play out and see it all lead to different endings and outcomes, some hated it due to not having the freedom just goofing around with no costs. I loved it, it just fitted in nicely and made it very tense. One missed timer and it was all gone and usually, you’d get a different ending depending on where you failed. That wasn’t the end of the adventure though, you could still mess around, rescue survivors, battle psychopaths and earn XP to level up ready for your next play-through. It was said the developers kept this in purposely so that you’d have to have multiple playthroughs to get the full experience. I always felt Dead Rising was so unique letting us run around a mall freely with such an array of shops to chose from that included items to experiment with, you want to stick a coat hanger in a zombie? Go for it, you want to mow over zombies with a lawnmower? Do it! Frank could also take photo’s and depending on the genre and choice of the photo you could earn quite a lot of XP, especially during special moments. It truly felt like such an immersive zombie game experience and I love zombie games.
Fast forward and the success of the first game being an exclusive, Capcom decided to release Dead Rising 2 on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with improved gameplay, more zombies on screen and a much bigger setting. Dead Rising 2 introduced Chuck Greene, while he wasn’t as lovable as good old Frank West, his story was tragic but the developers still managed to keep the humour fans had come to love and blend it with other moments of horror, drama and sadness. Dead Rising 2 is set a few years into the future where the zombie virus is now controlled and infected people must take Zombrex every 24 hours on the dot to avoid turning. Chuck Greene’s daughter Katey who is also infected must have Zombrex everyday. During an outbreak Zombrex is harder to find and Cure the zombie protection organisation is under suspicion throughout for letting them all out to eat everyone but as you delve further into the story, not all is what it seems. With the introduction of money this time you could buy Zombrex at a looters shop, seek it out in the World and even earn it off people. Again the time limit was reintroduced, survivor systems and psychopaths but Chuck had a different ability than Frank, Chuck could combine items to make some pretty ludicrous and fun weapons.
Capcom Vancouver known at the time as Blue Castle had managed to create a fantastic sequel from the ground up and it was a hit with gamers and critics. Most of the features from 1 like rescuing survivors and racking up zombie kill counts were still a blast. Two DLC’s released for the game, one setting up the 2nd title with a little introduction, a second DLC added Frank West in Case West where you both track down who is letting zombies out and mutating them and then finally Dead Rising 2 Off The Record released, this time it was about what if Frank West was the star of Dead Rising 2. It was said that Capcom ordered a directors cut during DR2’s development and it later became Off The Record. It was received pretty well but people asked, why didn’t they just add it as DLC. It was great Frank being back but there wasn’t a huge amount of changes to warrant a separate game they said I disagree, I enjoyed seeing the new theme park area and new additions and the co-op mode. Let’s face it though, having Frank West in another full-fledged game isn’t a bad thing… Until later on, that is.
The Xbox One releases and while Capcom wanted to continue the series on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the game was too big to fit on it so they upgraded it all and it became an exclusive yet again on the Xbox Platform. When I learnt this I was quite disappointed, I chose the PlayStation 4 this generation but luckily Dead Rising 3 did eventually release on PC so I did get a chance to play it. Players take control of mechanic Nick Ramos in the year 2021, breaking free from the classic mall settings players can now experience an open-world city. Nick is told by classic character Isabella from the first games that he and others were experimented on growing up and he is, in fact, immune to the virus, he learns this after being bitten and his wound self-heals. Nick must stop the military from killing innocent people and find who is responsible an on-going pattern in the series story-line. Dead Rising 3 had a more serious and darker tone this time, the humour was still there a bit but Capcom wanted the experience to mature as it went, you could still have a good laugh with zombie killing but to me, it never felt the same as the first two. The zombie-killing never felt that unique anymore, the shops didn’t hold a ton of items in the new setting. It felt more like it wasn’t the once fantastic game I’d grown to love. There was a lot of content, new technology made it incredibly huge but it never felt the same. I enjoyed my time with it but it isn’t one of the classics that I will keep returning too. It has it’s moments where the timer is still in place so you’ve still got that sense of urgency, the story is fairly interesting if not short and you can now combo things more than once and even create a nuke by combing bombs together, it was good but as I said, something just took that magic away for me. Some people loved it because it modernised the series and got rid of some of the systems from previous titles, but I think those systems and even the dodgy AI of the previous games, made the games great.
Ahhh, Dead Rising 4, Frank West was back, remodelled and a new voice actor, while the voice actor didn’t do bad as such, it confused me as to why they didn’t get the original one back after he loved the role so much. Dead Rising 4 returns to Willamette on the grand reopening, and zombies have turned up again and Frank must try to stop it… again and find how who is responsible and take them down. There are things with Dead Rising 4’s development that get my goat, I think the developers were misguided by people who had no idea about the Dead Rising series, Capcom Japan and the higher up decision-makers had cancelled multiple projects and given DR4 a small budget which didn’t help. Things that were loved about the series the Timer? Gone, Survivors? All you need to do is fight a few zombies and boom, rescued. Psychopaths? Gone replaced with a new system of the odd maniac with no interesting story behind them, no bizarre and humorous cut-scenes just an absolute shell of what they use to be. Gone were improvising little silly weapons from shops, now we had mech suits, superweapons, any charm that the previous titles had were gone. The lead on the project had stated that this Dead Rising 4 is for the fans, it takes us back to a classic, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s said that in play-demos fans had asked for all this and I find it hard to believe that it’s true, perhaps the timer removal would have been requested but this game was just dumbed down and it was horrendous sadly. This was due to a the tiny budget, only a year and a half’s development and 40% of staff leaving due to the terrible direction and infighting with other Capcom companies. Many of the original Dead Rising developers left due to them removing what made the games special. In the next few years sadly the once-great Capcom Vancouver had been shut down and it seems perhaps the future of Dead Rising went with it. It’s truly sad, they were for a long time passionate and creative, something went wrong with Dead Rising 4, rushed development, misguided leadership, the passion just seemed to be gone and I think in the end what went wrong with the series is, it just became a chance to capitalise on the past success with the first bunch of titles but someone higher up thought, let’s reboot it when it didn’t need doing.
Capcom was going in a negative direction for a time, luckily lately it seems to hold titles back and them taking time with there developments is proving great. With Resident Evil remakes being a success, the latest games in the series also bringing back fans after it started to falter at 5 and 6. Devil May Cry 5 came out and returned to its former glory and I hope that in the future Dead Rising can bring back that charm, hilarity, and much more and be the true come-back it needed. You go back to the remastered Dead Rising games on PlayStation 4, PC and Xbox One and it still holds up and I still think it feels unique and fun. Blue Castle/ Capcom Vancouver did an incredible job, sadly it went wrong for them somewhere. I hope Capcom bring Dead Rising back and study what made the previous games a hit, I really don’t want this series to be another shambling corpse that we never see rise up again. A lot of folks seem to think zombie games are going stale but I really don’t, I think the possibilities are endless, will we see another one? Well, it turns out Dead Rising 5 was in-fact announced in 2018.
Capcom Vancouver was apparently developing the series and we even had rumours like the lead character would be Chuck Greene again, the game was developed in Unreal Engine 4 which while it had trouble with huge open-worlds they wanted a smaller linear world like the first few with tons of zombies on screens but limitations proved challenging. It is said that Capcom Vancouver wanted an RPG like system with item modifications, traps, and a ton more. It was also rumoured with the Unreal Engine 4 players would be able to combine any items they find and the engine would procedurally blend them together and create some amazing weapons. This time Chuck Greene was in Mexico with his daughter trying to find Zombrex but the Mexican cartel had made a stockpile and made Chuck Greene do missions around the semi-open World to earn the zombrex for Katey. Players would play as both Chuck or his daughter Katey, Chuck was a tough brawler and Katey would have powers that could control the zombies. Sadly none of this ever came to light and the design lead eventually left which was just the first spanner in the works. This time though Capcom Japan had approved the design, the developers were working comfortably and in the early stages, it looked as if this could be a success. An ex Ubisoft staff member joined and the item combo system was then simplified to make it so players would easily create necessary items for the situation rather than just ones at random. Another addition was climbing the environment which divided the development team, some liked the idea of it becoming a bit like Assassins Creed but others didn’t want you to escape from the zombies. Eventually, the game went through re-works, direction changes which frustrated developers and made it difficult, also with not much experience using Unreal Engine 4, it was the toughest challenge yet. Directors wanted examples taken from Uncharted 4, Batman Arkham Knight, GTA 5 and developers were angry and confused due to having those games being completely different to Dead Rising’s structure and not needing to use separate engines. At one point Dead Rising 5 became a Souls-like action game with a lock-on feature and stamina controlled combat. It was an utter mess that led to its demise. Capcom Japan didn’t agree with Vancouver’s directions, they didn’t feel it was financially viable and it was too far away from what Dead Rising stood for. Ultimately it caused many issues within the studios and lead to cancellation and the end of Capcom Vancouver.
While Dead Rising 5 felt completely lost and unsure of itself, I still want the Dead Rising series to come back somehow but now it seems more unlikely than ever. I believe if they just go back to the routes of keeping it simple, no over the top systems like mechs, bring back the timer, multiple endings, the wonderful charm that they contained just being a crazy zombie killing game with quite decent story-lines, they might be able to pull it off. The problem is they started to derail when they tried new avenues of direction, it didn’t work. All they need to do is look at the classics and use them as scaffolding in my opinion. The remasters were great fun, it was fantastic seeing them make a return, I just wish they were able to recapture them but perhaps in 2020, there are just too many other open-world games that make it feel less special and Capcom want something unique and they perhaps don’t feel like the series can bring anything to the table anymore. I hope Dead Rising makes a comeback but I’m not sure it ever will. I hope with the recent remakes of Resident Evil 2, a reboot of Devil May Cry 5 that perhaps Dead Rising will get its chance.