Dead Rising 4 is the most streamlined version of this game we have but this leads to it being somewhat of a step back for the series. Much of what made this franchise special has been removed and toned down to a more traditional open world game. There is a far greater ease of entry that makes it a bit too easy. The Christmas setting does lead to some fun jokes throughout but your playground feels shallow compared to the past. The zombie killing excitement is still there but the tone shift is disappointing.
A lot of what made Dead Rising special has been removed in this iteration. Some of these were left out in the previous game (Dead Rising 3) but the developers have doubled down on the ease of gameplay. The aspect of some countdown is nowhere to be found - a feature that definitely gave the game some appreciable urgency. Survivors are also almost irrelevant in this game. Saving a survivor involves clearing out the nearby zombies. This can be annoying since zombies will continually move towards you and you will constantly attract new ones. You don’t have to escort the character back since they become perfectly safe after fighting off the threats. Survivors will also always just spawn out in the open. This removes another of the series’ more esoteric aspects: going through many different win conditions to save these self centered jerks. The game takes a step back from what made it unique and more of a standard open world game.
The setting returns to first game’s protagonist and town but with a brand new, rebuilt mall. Frank West is a disgruntled old man who would rather be playing mini golf than being a journalist. There’s some good dialogue from our hero and it’s present throughout the entire game. It’s set during Christmas time which is always enjoyable to have release around this time of year. In fact, the game leans into this by having all the menu music as a different holiday tune. The, smaller than ideal, mall is short lived since most of your missions take place outside. In fact, I didn’t return to the mall once after the first hour or so and instead spent my time out in the town. This was a let down since house after house is far less exciting than running through weird stores and tourist attractions. Of course, you can always return and goof around in the mall but the story beats and side quests all take place out of it. It makes the space you play in quite uninteresting a let down.
The camera functionality makes a return. Taking photos is a good way to earn a lot of experience really quickly. There are also detective sections throughout the game that will require Frank to explore a small room, photographing specific evidence. These areas are pretty short and don’t do a ton for the gameplay. They feel more shoehorned in than necessary. Snapping shots while out and about is much more fun and interesting. Being able to swap the camera around to take a selfie in front of something crazy is always a good laugh.
The psychopaths and crazy villains have been completely removed and replaced with easy to defeat, throw away enemies. There are no areas of the map controlled by crazy chefs. The closest are some side quests that involve you fighting off random enemies that are only slightly more difficult than the gun-wielding characters you find all over the map. One upside is that many of the game’s boss fights will give you the new exosuit to use. This powers Frank up and can even be customized in order to do crazy attacks and huge amounts of damage. These are always fun to use and can make taking on a zombie horde a piece of cake. Unfortunately, all this leads to is an easier play time in an already easy game. You will be rewarded with almost enough experience points to level up after every mission you take on, exosuit or not. Dying is a complete non threat. With no weird and strong enemies keeping me on my toes and an almost invincible character, you will easily play through this entire game without dying.
The multiplayer option this time around is questionable. Dead Rising 4 removes the co-op campaign entirely which is quite a let down. In its place is a level based survival mode that is separate from the main story. You play as a random character with up to three other friends inside the mall. You will be assigned missions to complete as you progress and have to make sure to survive until a designated time each day. Throughout this, each character is receiving points for doing well and losing them if they have to respawn. You will level up your character and can unlock the same perks as in the single player. It’s a fun mode on its own and there is a good deal of depth to it but pales in comparison to the proper co-op campaign mode we have come to expect.
Dead Rising 4 is a bit of a different beast from what this series started as. It’s much more similar to the previous installment but still removes some of the uniqueness. The game has been streamlined down to a more standard open world game. The zombie killing fun is still there and is as ridiculous as ever. The writing is funny, the Christmas setting is enjoyable, and the multiplayer will be hit or miss to series fans. Dead Rising 4 is still an enjoyable time but just doesn’t feel special.