In our opinion the most annoying, least fun to fight enemies in any game cheap enough to have them are the pint-size scurrying creatures that run along the ground below your gunsights and leap up at your face. Rubbish, aren’t they? Actually, maybe it’s a tie between those and the little flying enemies that are incredibly hard to target and do a disproportionate amount of damage. Take your pick. The vicious buggers have ruined many a level of otherwise decent games. We hate them both.
Dead Rising is absolutely riddled with them; an inexplicable plague of deadly poodles and parrots that have absolutely nothing to do with the story and are completely unsatisfying to kill, because as soon as you take one out, another of its horrible little mates will materialise from the ether. What purpose could they possibly serve? Why do they even exist in a game that’s meant to be about fighting zombies in a shopping mall?
Ah yes. It’s because there aren’t actually all that many zombies to fight. Almost everything that’s wrong with Dead Rising on Wii can be traced to the game engine’s inability to generate a sufficient density of undead horde. Instead of being harried around the mall, smashing through windows and taking any available route to avoid being surrounded by the milling throng, you’re funneled down narrow paths that force you past small groups of zombies, appearing in the same place every time.
Much of the mall is closed off with impassable red ropes. You can’t climb things or smash through windows. You’ve got no choice but to walk through a confined area where you know a bunch of five or 10 zombies will fade in when you’re a few meters away. One shotgun blast will clear them all out, if you can be bothered, or you could just weave your way through their slow, grasping hands.
And that’s where the poodles and parrots come in. Other than the occasional boss they’re the only enemies that pose any sort of threat. The dogs will even do sidesteps when you point a gun at them, like guards in GoldenEye. They’re so damned hard to hit and so infinite in their respawning capacity, we were soon reduced to running past them rather than making an effort to take them on. We spent an unreasonable proportion of our time in the game pursued by a chorus of yaps and squawks.
The original Xbox 360 version was a race against the clock, with a tight time limit that made it impossible to see the entire thing on a single play-through. Plenty of gamers were turned off by the difficulty level but the Wii version is much more forgiving. The missions are much the same but you simply select one from a menu every time you return to the safehouse. After rescuing some survivors you’re graded based on time taken and the number of casualties, then you can move on to the next set of missions.
There’s a limited selection of items knocking around the mall, which you can pick up and whack zombies with in the unlikely event you run out of bullets. Some items are pretty funny – the petrol-powered auger drill that skewers zombies and spins them till their limbs fly off is a highlight. Still, the appeal of a lawnmower frenzy is tempered by sparse zombie population and the way they fade out within seconds, leaving behind Resident Evil 4-style ammo boxes.
Bikes and skateboards allow for faster travel in open areas, but there are few places where they’re really useful. Most of the indoor scenes are small and confined to just one or two paths, plus those infernal poodles are able to keep pace with you. As soon as you stop, you get bitten. The lack of freedom or incentive to explore reduces Dead Rising to little more than a simple shoot-’em-up and not a particularly competent one at that. Targeting headshots on mostly stationary zombies is extremely easy with the Wii remote, so you can easily clear an entire screenful of them in next to no time (as long as you’re not being harassed by animals). After depopulating an area it’s not uncommon to see zombies reappearing, as if shooting them only served to delete them from the digital world for a brief period.
Forget that it’s a pale imitation of a decent 360 game. This just isn’t up to much in its own right, technical limitations or otherwise.
Feb 24, 2009