Dead Rising 4 is a really polished Dynasty Warriors
I resisted the extreme urge to write the name as "Deadrising" even though that's how all the game logos are stylized. It's like an "uprising" only it's zombies. It's supposed to be one word!
I didn't play Dead Rising 4 when it first came out at the end of 2016, in spite of buying, loving, and completing every other Dead Rising game at launch. I thought Dead Rising 3 was probably the best Xbox One launch game.
Dead Rising 4 had the pleasure of escaping Microsoft exclusivity after a year, and it launched on PS4 last December alongside an Xbox One X patch. I still didn't buy it.
Why bother with this long narrative? Why didn't I buy it? Because it's taken nothing but flak. It's been called boring, reductive, simplified, "not a real Dead Rising game." It's been criticized for the directions its new lead designers took it in. It's become one of the definitive examples of a big budget game that's competent and gets average scores...which is the antithesis of what Dead Rising used to be.
I finally bought the PS4 version of the game on sale a few days ago, and then it sat in my machine for a day and a half because the initial install takes forever, even off of a disc.
Dead Rising 4 is pretty good. And it's very self aware. And I'm enjoying it so far, as a fan of mashy action games like Dynasty Warriors.
I believe Dead Rising 4 is what is technically known as a Rebootquel, which means it's a reboot and a sequel all in one.
That term is kind of silly.
The opening mission of Dead Rising 4 is a nightmare/dream that has the new Frank West, complete with a redone appearance and new actor, fighting ghostly visions of the old Frank West from the first game inside a zombie-filled mall.
The game's opening moments are literally screaming "This is a new thing, but we haven't forgotten the old thing either."
It's weirdly clever...and exactly the sort of strange quirky nuance I've come to expect from the series.
What follows is a sprawling story-driven open world game with combat that's been pushed even further from 3's manic action to something resembling Dynasty Warriors.
And it's a lot of fun.
The writing is great. It has that same weird blend of funny and serious that the other Dead Rising games have used. It's a tone that Far Cry could learn some lessons from. Frank West is now aware of how ridiculous everything is, and his dialogue is used as a sardonic comment on the world of the game and video games in general to great effect. I've been surprised at how often I've laughed at the game, even just in its opening hours.
The inventory system works better. I like that I don't have to manage a pile of health/food items any more, and I like that weapons still break over time, forcing me to mix things up.
And yes, the timer is gone. But the game is no less difficult. Frank takes damage far quicker than the average open world game character, and you're quite vulnerable in the early stages of the game.
AND THE SOUND!
I must also mention the sound design. The sound design in this game is top-tier, grade-A stuff. The haunting horror-themed mall Christmas covers are wonderful. The weapons each have a satisfying crunch to them. The environments have proper reverb and reflection effects. And the surround mix is really fun.
If you're like me and you weren't too sure about this game, I think it's totally worth picking up as long as you don't mind mashing some buttons. Yes, it's a very different game at its core than the past games, but it's still got just enough polish to its execution and enough pieces from, and nods to, the earlier games that it's surprising me around every turn. If it keeps that up, I'll probably like it just as much as the other games in the series.