Is Dead Rising a zombie game, or a GTA-esque, sandbox-style beat ‘em up with wall-to-wall undead, or a mash up of dozens of different gameplay styles that are more than the sum of their parts? You would do the game right to call it pretty much all of the above. But one thing that Dead Rising isn't is a mere open-world zombie-killing simulator. That's apparent in its highly structured storyline which remains wonderfully true to every single serious-toned zombie flick that George Romero ever deemed fit to attach his name to: You are Frank West, a freelance photojournalist looking for the scoop to end all scoops. And boy, do you get it after being dropped in the middle of Anytown, USA - if Anytown, USA happened to be crawling with zombies. Now you've got 72 in-game hours to uncover the truth and reconvene with helicopter to get the hell outta Dodge.
Beyond the 72-hour goal, your objective is multi-fold and pretty hardcore. You can casually just wade into the undead-filled mall for some kicks and simply whale away with whatever weapons you can find. There are hundreds, from traditional mayhem-makers like chainsaws and pistols to less conventional weaponry like plasma TVs with stabby corners, hedge clippers that chop zeds in two at the torso, and pointy electric guitars that deliver slabs of head-busting heavy metal. When you're ready to track down the disease instead of harassing the symptoms, you can follow what the game calls "Case Files," a string of time-constrained events that you must meet in order to "solve" the mystery of the zombie outbreak within the 72 hours.
If it were just Case Files you were straddled with, you'd be living like a king. And Dead Rising certainly doesn't want you living like a king - it's much too hardcore for that. On top of the time-sensitive story events (everything happens in quasi-realtime on an in-game clock), you'll also juggle "Scoop" scenarios (important events that can reveal more story bits and more survivor rescues, but can be ignored), as well as simple survivor requests. You'll find yourself saddled with a crapload of tasks from random zombie stabbing to escorting survivors to collecting bombs to erotic photojournalism. That's not a typo. The entirety turns into a multi-tasking nightmare that you'll either revel in or grow increasingly stressed out by - it really just depends on what type of gamer you are. And the stress multiplies once you realize that each of these different requests is delivered under specific time constraints. Miss the window and better luck next time, Mr. West.
All of this is compounded by Dead Rising's "how hard do you like it?" save system. In short, you only have one save slot per MU or hard-drive, which can be pretty infuriating if you're aiming for a meticulous run through. But guess what? Dead Rising isn't about a perfect run-through on your first time - you'll have to level up, save your status and start the game over in order to see absolutely everything the game has to offer or have the virtual chutzpah to make it to the game's "true ending" (there are several in all).
It's this severe push for gamers to be determined and persistent enough to explore every nook and cranny in Dead Rising that makes it either a splendid, geeky Pandora's Box full of unrelenting challenge and rewards or controller-smashingly difficult because of its hardcore mentality. If you've got the urge to save the world from a zombie invasion and won't let things like a wonderfully skewed difficulty level or some stressful multi-tasking stop you - Capcom's got your Valentine in Dead Rising.