Errant Signal: Dead Rising 4

By Shamus Posted Friday Dec 23, 2016

Filed under: Video Games 48 comments

Chris is a fan of the Dead Rising series. He actually bought me a copy of DR3 a while backThanks buddy! and I got to see what the series is all about. Now he’s played Dead Rising 4, and we discover the series has changed quite a bit this time around…

Link (YouTube)

Like Chris says at the start, Dead Rising is a polarizing game. Either you find it off-putting, or it gives you a kind of gameplay and tension that you just can’t get anywhere else. I know the zombie genre is played out at this point, but Dead Rising pre-dates the zombie craze and – until now – has been very much focused on doing its own thing.

Mechanically it’s kind of old-school Japanese survival horror, but thematically, it’s… uh? I dunno. Honestly, I was never able to figure out what the game was trying to be. Between the crafting, the unforgiving timer, the super-serious plot elementsFight to get a dose of anti-zombie serum to stop your young daughter from turning., gonzo world, goofy dress-up mechanics, and vague scattershot commentary on consumerism, I never had any idea what I was supposed to be feeling at any given moment. Is this supposed to be funny? Sad? Ironic?

I’m one of the people who dislikes the series. The timer is a complete killjoy for me. I hate this kind of time pressure. It’s not the good kind of tension you get from a “race against time” type story. Instead, it’s a sort of nagging nuisance, like knowing you can’t settle in an enjoy this game because you have to leave for work in twenty minutes. Everything about it seems engineered to inhibit my ability to have fun.

The game is also critic-proof, which means I can’t even enjoy tearing it apart for analysis. The game is such a mess of tones and ideas that you can’t zero in, figure out what the designers were trying to do, and see if they achieved it. No matter how stupid the story is, how frustrating the gameplay, how broken the mechanics, or how incoherent the themes, someone can always excuse it with, “No Shamus, you just don’t get it. They made that bit stupid on purpose. See, it’s actually satire.” Kojima has been getting away with this for decades. All criticism can be deflected with the “It’s satire!” defense.

But now it looks like this latest Dead Rising has been designed to make the series more “mainstream”. I know I just spent four paragraphs dumping on the game, but this sounds like a terrible idea. They’re abandoning the things that gave the series its personality. That’s like adding quicksave and quickload to Dark Souls. It doesn’t make me any more likely to play it, but it will probably alienate existing fans.

I hate to see something unique taken away, even if it’s something I don’t personally enjoy.



[1] Thanks buddy!

[2] Fight to get a dose of anti-zombie serum to stop your young daughter from turning.

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48 thoughts on “Errant Signal: Dead Rising 4

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The original dead rising is a tricky game,because it was a roguelike before those were a thing.This is why many had no idea whether they would like the game or not,and had the trouble with the tight timer and such things.But now,when you know that these types of games arent meant to be played perfectly on your first go,people can enjoy the original in a way it was meant to be played.And sadly,when people finally can slot this into a neat little niche,the series has moved away from there.Not to say that the sequels are bad,just that they shifted away from the uniqueness of the original.

    1. That’s the impression I got from Chris’ video, since it fulfilled a lot of the roguelike checkboxes, whether intentionally or not. :P

    2. John says:

      As I understand it the save/progression/new game+ system in the original Dead Rising is similar in many ways to that of Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, also by Capcom, from 2002. Based on their respective Wikipedia descriptions, the version in Dead Rising sounds less irritating. Somebody at Capcom was really into this sort of thing back in the early and mid-2000s.

      I have never played Dragon Quarter and at this point it’s quite unlikely that I ever will. But I always thought that it sounded interesting, if only because it seemed so different from the earlier Breath of Fire games. I own the first two for GBA and they are supremely generic JRPGs.

    3. Starker says:

      Only if by roguelike you mean a game like Rogue that doesn’t look or play anything like Rogue. Because there were tons of games like Rogue that looked and played at least a little bit like Rogue before that.

      Roguewannabe? Rogueimposter? Roguefake?

      Seriously, at this point, with the games that are called roguelikes, it’s a bit like calling Bayonetta a doomlike because it has weapons and you defeat enemies.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yes yes,roguelike =/= roguelite,blablabla.But as long as most people understand what is meant by roguelike,it will be used as a term to define the genre.And I know you too understand what is meant by roguelike.Its not going to change just because some people go around saying “well,its nothing like the original rogue”.Just how diablo clone did not turn into action rpg* simply because “it was nothing like diablo”.

        *Rpg is also one of those nebulous genres that encompasses practically everything under the sun.

        1. Starker says:

          But that’s exactly the problem — I have no idea what was meant by roguelike in this case. As long as the games have a common set of features like permadeath, procedurally generated levels and randomized loot, it at least makes some sense, but at this point people call games with any one of these features roguelikes.

          When someone says a game is a roguelike, my first guess would be something like Nethack or Desktop Dungeons. When someone says a game is a roguelite, I would think of games like Binding of Isaac, Spelunky or FTL. I would not think of a game like Dead Rising in either of the cases. Even the roguelites have some sort of randomization to go along with the permadeath and they are designed to be played over and over and over again, broadening your choices with each run and making little incremental bits of permanent progress.

          1. Nick-B says:

            I have to agree with you here. I’m not at all a fan of rogue-likes (desktop dungeon, etc) but a pretty decent fan of rogue-lites (FTL and Isaac), and I cannot comprehend how dead rising can be in either of these categories. To me, a prime element to a rogue-anything game has to be randomness of the game seed. It has to have the ability to generate an entire game world, with items randomly chosen. If you don’t pray to RN-Jesus for good luck, then it’s not a rogue-anything.

            Dead rising thus fails here. The map is identical each time, the item placements are identical, the objectives and civlian placement is identical. If anything, the game more closely relates to dark souls. A deep, complex game that won’t explain everything to you, but lets you continue in the game despite failing to discover the ideal path.

            As someone who is starting to like dark souls (but I still cannot stand the length of time it takes to invest in a single run to discover I messed up and won’t get far or that special one-time deal item), I guess I need to go back and revisit dead rising. I hated some mechanics of it originally, such as the timer (still don’t like it), the insane requirement to find new weapons, and the general all-over-the-place tone of the game. I want to take it seriously, but hard to do so when it INVITES you to run around in a mega man costume firing off nerf balls into zombie groups. The boss fights were ridiculous difficult fights with enemies that look normal, but take way too many hits to down. And if you don’t cheese it by picking up – say – the small hand chainsaws and holding a half dozen magazines that boost it without saying they do, then you’re playing it wrong. But good luck finding that out on your own.

          2. Jeff says:

            I strongly agree. It’s ridiculous how people stretch genre labels. Do they not think their current favorite game is worthy of note without needing to borrow credibility?

            It’d be like calling Borderlands a Diablo-clone simply because you kill a lot of things for randomly generated loot using a selection of different pre-made characters with a skill tree.

            It ignores the far more important distinctions – such as Diablo-clones not being first person shooters – for the less important ones.

  2. MichaelGC says:

    So I guess the big thing about the Ship of Theseus is that, despite many individual changes, it remains indistinguishable overall from the original. Most of the YouTube comments will be about this, I suspect…

    Very enjoyable if rather melancholy vid, though! I’m just being supernitpicky, o’ course. ;D

  3. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I played Dead Rising way back when it first came out.

    The timer really did kill it for me. It never felt like a strategic decision that had to be made; I beat the game (good ending and all) without ever having to learn what most of the items did, or photograph anything, or learn the mall very well. So what the timer really did was just eliminate that content from my playthrough. It pushed me to the most efficient path at the expense of the more interesting ones. I never came back for any of the subsequent games.

    Maybe the game should have gone for a more half-and-half approach: times when the player would be left alone until he set the plot in motion again, followed by timer segments. The player could learn about the mall and the items at his leisure, then use that knowledge when the timer started.

    1. Viktor says:

      The key is that you’re expected to lose the first few playthroughs. Once you fail the main quest, you can either New Game+ or just run around exploring until the chopper shows up. And once you’ve played through a few times, it’s easy to ‘waste’ time, since you’re powerful enough and know where all the ultra-good items are, so you can beat the main quest in a fraction of the usual time. There should really only ever be one or two playthroughs where you’re really rushing everywhere.

      That said, the game doesn’t really guide you to this conclusion, and the only game at all like it at the time was Majora’s Mask, so I’m not surprised a lot of people don’t like it. Hell, I’m not even sure I like it, but it was an incredible tech demo and I like that the studio did something so new. That’s always nice to see in this industry.

  4. Leocruta says:

    The only dead rising I’ve played is the second one. I didn’t really like it, and the timer was indeed a big part of that. From a casual investigation (it was on sale), it seemed to be a rather non-serious zombie survival game, where you go on a rampage with ridiculous weapons. Discovering the somewhat unforgiving timer irritated me, and just made me ignore it. I ended up fooling around for about an in-game day, trying out some custom weapons, before getting bored, shutting it down, and never touching it again.

  5. Christopher says:

    While I’m annoyed when developers water out something niche that I enjoy, I always appreciate when they mainstream up something niche that I couldn’t get into. I’m never gonna play the Witcher 1, but Witcher 3 is looking positively likely. It’s kinda the same with Dead Rising 4, because the timer, escort missions and constant restarts what was sounded so frustrating I didn’t wanna play in the first place. So while it’s somewhat tempting to go “they totally sold out and ruined someone’s special thing” I’m more interested in how I might actually get some fun out of it myself now.

    I wonder if this stuff makes DR4 the best-selling game in the franchise or the least-selling. I don’t think Thief 4 did all that well, but the Bioware games haven’t gotten less popular as they got less old PC RPG. I guess it depends on how many of the fans actually enjoyed that timer and how many just enjoyed wacky third person zombie melee killing.

    1. Leocruta says:

      You would play the witcher 3 but not 1? Why? The only major difference is the combat, but once I got used to it, I actually prefer 1’s.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Youve just answered your question.You have to get used to the combat.Thats not an easy thing to do.And heck,there were plenty of stuff in 3 that got patched out later simply because they were annoying.For example,not being able to use stuff from the inventory during the combat.

        1. Christopher says:

          And on a more fundamental level: Witcher 1 is a mouseclicky pc-only rpg. Witcher 3 is an open-world action rpg on consoles, too. I play a lot of the latter and none of the former.

          In a somewhat similar fashion, Inquisition is the only Dragon Age game I finished.

          1. Leocruta says:

            I really recommend trying some of those mouseclicky pc-only rpgs. See if you can find the original Baldur’s gate 2 somewhere.

            1. Pyrrhic Gades says:

              Baulder’s Gate II was just Diablo on the Xbox, but with weight management instead of Tetris management for the inventory.

              1. Leocruta says:

                I’ve never heard of Baulder’s gate, is it any good? I’m kinda hesitant about managing a loot lottery game with an xbox controller.

                1. Pyrrhic Gades says:

                  Sorry for the late reply.

                  Don’t recall any loot lottery system in Balders… infact I didn’t even know that there was any randomness back when I played Diablo II.

                  I never really got far in Baulders Gate II (or as it’s full title is called “Balder’s Gate: Dark Alliance II) on account of only ever really playing that game Co-Op, and having to restart the game a bunch of times in order to try out the different classes. So it’s been on the back burner for over 6 years…. come to think of it, I never really managed to get too far past Blood Raven in Diablo II, on account of playing that game only on Internet Cafes.

                  Besides the inventory system and it being on the Xbox, there is a Jump button and you can channel your own stamina into healing you. Although I might be confusing Balders Gate with Jade Empire on that front.

                  Mostly the comparison with Diablo II is that their both done in the same perspective, and the weapons’ fire-rates are similar.

        2. Leocruta says:

          There are a lot of amazing games that require some getting used to, and I generally see it as worth the effort. Granted, I wouldn’t call the witcher 1 an amazing game, but neither is the combat particularly cumbersome as long as you can restrain yourself from mashing the mouse button. I found it didn’t take that long to get the timing down, and focusing on the group style made most encounters simple enough.

          I’m a little amused they made items usable from the inventory. I had no idea they’d done that, and I’m having trouble thinking of anything I’d like to use that isn’t already equipped. I did notice they made crafting resources weightless, which was convenient, and improved the horrible movement, which was almost a necessity, but I was still enjoying the game even without those improvements.

          What killed it for me was discovering Iorveth wasn’t it it. I wasn’t really interested in the story, but the gameplay was decent, many of the contracts were interesting, and it was satisfying to meet old characters and seeing how my actions from previous games affected this one. As time went on, I realized that there really wasn’t much of that last one.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Sure,there are plenty of old games that are amazing once you get used to their quirks.Like the original fallouts*drink*,planescape:torrment,arcanum,system shocks,or baldurs gates(as youve mentioned).The thing is,all those games are amazing despite their wonky interfaces.And while I always recommend those games to people who havent played them,I also warn them in advance of those old quirks that might be too much for many to swallow.

            Heck,I almost never finished the original fallout myself precisely because of how bad that interface was.The first time,I simply didnt want to bother with it after shady sands.Its only the second time I went into it that I finished it,and immediately progressed through fallout 2.And that was when the game was mere 3 years old,not 19.

            So yeah,plenty of good games have some quirks that are simply not worth the hassle.

            1. Leocruta says:

              Heh, you left out Darklands and Dwarf fortress.
              More seriously, I’m honestly surprised you count fallout and system shock 2 among those with interfaces that must be overcome. I certainly wouldn’t have, and the idea that fallout’s could make you quit it is eye-opening. Apparently I have a higher tolerance for these things than I was aware of. Unfortunate.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                I left out tons of games.For example,the original xcom.Though that ones biggest sin is that it gets bogged down with constant calculations of time units,but is overall pretty functional.Heck,even without the manual,I got into it easier than into fallout,despite it being older.

                The original system shocks biggest sin is the lack of mouse support(which was added in the gog version,I think).But,even with improvements,ss2 still has some problems,which I think were discussed in the comments when Shamus wrote about it.

                As for fallouts,the biggest problem is the small text descriptions that can fly by without you noticing a key detail,and you being unable to do anything(like go to the menu,or reload)during the loooooong combat phases.Though there are some other smaller problems with the ui and ai.And of course,lets not forget that god damned initial cave in f2.

                1. Leocruta says:

                  I know you left out many games. I was amused because your list was remarkably similar to the one I was considering adding to my comment, before deciding I could provide examples later, if necessary. Happily, you did that for me.

                  I’ve tried to get into the original xcom, and I did manage to figure out most of the ui on my own, but I feel like I’m still missing some things, so I’ll be reading the manual before my next attempt.

                  The cave in Fallout 2 is a sort of trial by fire for your character. It’s to make sure you build a character that can handle the wasteland, meaning you won’t have to restart later because you lack any combat skills or something. Kinda like the wolves at the beginning of arcanum. Of course, even though I understand the reasons for it’s inclusion, doesn’t mean I don’t find it exasperating.

      2. Retsam says:

        Not having played either, but I was under the impression that Witcher 1 was a bit more crude, what with the “romance cards” and all, and that stuff was slightly moderated in the sequels.

        1. Leocruta says:

          Well, they got rid of the cards, but upped the nudity, so… maybe? (I’ve also never understood the problem with the cards.)

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Theyre juvenile,which clashes with the adult tone of the story.

            As for the nudity,the only thing I mind about it is how one sided it is.If geralt had a penis,I would be 100% ok with it.But him being literally dickless,while the female are at full display(2)or almost full display(3)is a bit sexist.

            1. Leocruta says:

              It’s certainly pandering to a specific audience. I wouldn’t call that sexist.
              The cards are somewhat juvenile though.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Pandering to straight males and gay females in a game where the rest of the stuff is pretty much for all ages and genders is sexist.Especially because of how deliberate it is to never even show geralts naked ass(unless you do some fiddling with how the camera works).Again,it wouldnt be a problem if they picked either full censorship for all,or no censorship for anyone.

                1. Leocruta says:

                  Can’t that argument be applied to other aspects of games, though? Like “Everything in this game could appeal to a pacifist, except for the gratuitous violence”. In such a scenario, I doubt many would say the game is discriminating against pacifists, they are simply not the intended audience.

                  To be clear, I do think they shouldn’t have bothered censoring geralt. (I’m against all forms of censorship). I just don’t think it’s sexist.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Like “Everything in this game could appeal to a pacifist, except for the gratuitous violence”. In such a scenario, I doubt many would say the game is discriminating against pacifists, they are simply not the intended audience.

                    Not in witcher,but a similar complaint can be made against human revolution,in how it awards way more experience if you do the pacifist route.So yes,you can criticize some video games by that metric as well.However,pacifism vs violence is just a difference in play style,its not translatable to going ons in the real world.Sexism is.And witcher 3 was not made just for straight men and gay women,except for how the sex scenes are presented.

                    1. Leocruta says:

                      Ah, I see. The lack of sex scenes for those not attracted to females could be construed as discrimination. I’ll concede the point, it is unfair treatment based on (in most cases) gender. I am curious now though: would you call a game marketed towards one gender, and which doesn’t accommodate the other, sexist?

                      This is fun. Civil discourse about a topic as sensitive as sexism is a rare thing.

                    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      You mean games like hunniepop or mystic messenger?Those are fine,because unlike witcher they are targeted towards specific audiences.No game is obligated to accommodate everyone.But,when a game does set out to accommodate a bunch of people,and then gives one group less than the other,the problem arises.Because then the content for the group that is shafted veers towards tokenism.Its not that big of a deal in witcher 3,since sex scenes are mostly optional,but its still noticeable.

                    3. Leocruta says:

                      Excellent. I agree wholeheartedly.

  6. Sam says:

    As someone who’s been playing the Souls franchise since Dark 1, platinuming 1, 3, and Bloodborne, and working on 2, there’s a gut level reaction to Shamus’ suggestion of a quick save/load feature that is intensely rejective of such. Partly because that sounds exactly like what the industry would do if Miyazaki wasn’t the Souls equivalent to Kojima. Either that or turn it into an unendurable slog for anyone not a sadist or masochist.

    1. Christopher says:

      But how would you feel about an instant Retry feature for bosses? Because I could have gone for some of that at times.

      1. Retsam says:

        Yeah, I’d love it if they just put the save points a bit closer to bosses. I might have enjoyed the difficulty of, say, the Capra F’in Demon, if not for the necessity of a highly tedious 2-5 minute walk back between each attempt.

        1. Starker says:

          Nah, Capra Demon is still probably one of the worst bosses in DS because of the artificial difficulty. It’s the cheapest gotcha in the game with the possible exception of the Stray Demon fight, which at least is completely optional.

          It’s not much of an improvement, but you can use the Firelink bonfire so you don’t have to fight through the thieves.

  7. Jokerman says:

    The selfish git in me feels the same way i did when the Tomb Raider reboot was different… it’s now a game ill actually enjoying playing… i might even pick this one up if it finds it’s way to ps4.

    That doesn’t stop me feeling sympathy, as a fan of Splinter Cell, Hitman, Bioware… i know how it feels to have a series you like made into something you couldn’t care for.

    1. Syal says:

      It would be nice if folks went back to making spinoff series for this kind of thing. Fewer folks would be upset if this was Dead Rising And Blade instead of Dead Rising 4.

    2. Utzel says:

      I know what you mean, but good news on the Hitman front: The new Hitman: No Subtitle is awesome and you should check it out. I was sceptical after Absolution and the episodic format did the rest, but my cousin recommended it and it’s finished now.

      Oh, and a Merry Christmas to everyone 😊

      1. Simplex says:

        Also, good news on the Splinter Cell front – Blacklist is pretty good, way more splintercelly than Conviction.

  8. Grampy_bone says:

    Chris sorta makes out the Dead Rising games to be more punishing than they really are.

    Beating the first two games in a single run is very doable. Just ignore most of the rescues and follow the story. It only gets really hard when you try to do a ‘perfect’ run where you rescue everyone and finish the story with the good ending. That’s only for completionists.

    If you’re really having trouble, then you can easily do it in two runs. Each run is only 6 hours real time. First run you ignore the story and just do rescues for EXP, then the second run you ignore rescues and just do the story. The first ‘practice’ run will prep you for everything you will need to know on the ‘real’ second run. Super-optimized no-dead-survivor OCD runs are not necessary to complete or fully enjoy the game.

    Most of the complaints I hear seem to be people who feel entitled to do the perfect run. They don’t like losing *any* survivors; even though they aren’t very important and the game is very completable without them, they just can’t stand being punished for *any* level of failure.

    1. Shamus says:

      By “entitled” you mean “have played other videogames and are expecting this one to work in a similar fashion”?

      I’m sure your advice of “Just ignore most of the rescues and follow the story” is good, but that runs against everything other games have taught us and I don’t think it’s reasonable to simply assume players will default to this behavior. How many people do I need to save to get the good ending? Am I supposed to read the wiki before I start playing?

      Yes, Dead Rising works differently from other games and that’s fine, but that doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t really explain this to you.

      “This game is hard!”

      “No! It’s easy once you know how.”

      “Okay, so what’s the process for learning how?”

      “You learn the hard way.”

      1. GloatingSwine says:

        I don’t think it’s about a thing being hard or easy.

        The original Dead Rising was a game where you might possibly not win. Not in the way people are used to experiencing that in a game where they see a game over screen and get to try again until they do win, but in a way where the game rolls on without caring whether they “won”.

        I think you can see some elements of the changes in Dead Rising in the development Rutskarn charted of the Elder Scrolls series, particularly of Morrowind through to Skyrim, where Morrowind didn’t much care what the player did with the world (and would, indeed, let you “lose” the story although you had to actually try to produce that state) whereas Skyrim is absolutely neurotic about the player maybe feeling for a second that they’re not the absolute centre of the game’s universe and so making sure that they always feel like wherever they went and whatever they did was “right” and they can’t miss out on anything.

        It’s not really about learning how to do something, it’s about making sure the player is in the right frame of mind to not be the centre of the game’s universe but just another moving part in it.

        I think actually, making the game shorter might have helped. If it was more explicit that the game was about running through repeatedly and playthroughs iterated faster people might not have thought that the game was about winning the story every time.

  9. AIR says:

    “With no timer ticking down, and no possibility of losing all your progress and having to start the whole game over, all saves really do is demark achievement so that you can continue from that point the next time you load the game.”

    I understand why having saves as a strategic resource, a la Resident Evil, is one of the early definers of Survival Horror, and how it can shape the game experience. However, it seems that what Chris is railing against is basic idea behind saving your game. He seems to be interpreting this (auto-saves or manual saving at any time) as some perversion of the standard.

    I see where he’s going with how it changes the experience (and like Shamus I hate the arbitrary timers and the certainty of failure being a hidden mechanic) but when Chris is basically saying “all saving does is allow you to return to that point later” and painting that as a failure, I wonder what he’s seeing as the purpose of saving your game. Especially when he’s citing the saving system as a large example of what makes it a “boring, empty replacement,” as opposed to the dozen other mechanical changes.

    Contrast the new Dead Rising with something like State of Decay and you might see where some of these mechanics falter on the merits of their implementation, rather than just in comparison to the established Dead Rising mechanics.

  10. AngryMGSFan says:

    Hey! You can’t just sneak that Kojima comment in there and expect to get away with it. I won’t stand for it!

    Kojima’s stuff isn’t satire, it’s just intentionally campy and completely absurd. For it to be satire it would have to be about exposing the comedy in something else, when actually it’s just what happens when videogames are created by a (brilliant) madman who is really into James Bond movies (and some other stuff).

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