We get Christmas songs, Christmas TV shows, Christmas movies, heck, even Christmas cookbooks useful for just a single day of the year, but we seldom get Christmas games. Now, Dead Rising probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you think Christmas, but Dead Rising 4 goes full Die Hard and becomes the bloody and brutal sandbox of Christmas. I mean, who wouldn’t want to unwrap an electrified axe underneath the Christmas tree. Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.
Buyer beware, Dead Rising 4 is Dead Rising, but it’s not as you may know it. Capcom has ploughed headlong into what made Dead Rising 3 different from the originals. There’s no time. There’s no threat really. And a little bit of the wackiness is gone. Instead it’s all about a giant, messy world for you to play around in, free from harm for the most part. You’ll be collecting things, checking boxes off on a list, and mowing through hordes and hordes of zeds.
Protagonist Frank West continues to be the unluckiest (or should that be luckiest?) man in the world, while living in the unluckiest town in the US - Willamette, Colorado. The scene of the original Dead Rising. How can one innocuous little town be the source of two zombie outbreaks. Still, pap snapper Frank is still on call to save the day, wielding customised weapons and generally slaying folks, all against the backdrop of a shopping mall at Christmas. Something, something, heavy handed stab at commercialism in the modern age. Zombies = consumers. Much clever. Dead Rising 4, meet The Division, you’ll both get along great together.
The festive theme is ultimately what makes Dead Rising 4. The jingling bells of the pause menu, the tinsel wrapped weapons, the Christmas decorations adorning every store. Willamette Mall forms the basis of DR4 and it’s an absolute treat to explore with secrets aplenty, heaps of shortcuts and a smaller scale that excels in comparison to Dead Rising 3’s sprawling world. It makes Dead Rising 4 a special treat to play at this time of year, but it also pigeonholes it into an experience which most will only be interested in for four weeks max. I don’t know many people who drive around blaring out Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas on a sunny July afternoon.
One aspect I’m not sure I’m a fan of is the total absence of a timer. That ticking clock was always an element of pressure that would spur you on, forcing you make tough choices and potentially face dire consequences. Stripped of that, Dead Rising 4 is totally devoid of both tension and challenge. Most people probably won’t even die playing this. It’s all easy street, and the more powerful you become, the easier it gets. Capcom has been moving steadily away from this (it was almost totally absent in DR3), but it changes Dead Rising from a survival-esque experience to a typical open-world, Ubisoft type affair.
As well as this, everything has been simplified and streamlined to some degree. You can craft instantly from anywhere. Every citizen that needs rescuing just needs the zombies around them killed; then they just run off and are saved automatically, no escorting required.
I unfortunately haven’t had a chance to give the online co-operative multiplayer a go for this as Dead Rising 4 is currently online available on the Windows Store and, er, it doesn’t look as if anyone’s really playing it. Ultimately, Dead Rising 4 is the epitome of big, dumb fun. It's as wide as ocean yet as deep as a puddle, yet curiously it's self-deprecatory tone and over-the-top violence means it's a game that rarely gets boring. It's less fine wine, more Bacardi Breezer, and you know exactly whether that makes it the game for you this holiday.