Dead Rising

Dead Rising

Capcom's zombie-infested survival-horror game is enchanting, addicting fun, in spite of a handful of half-baked design decisions.

A few of us here in the office (and around the world apparently) picked up Capcom's Dead Rising over the weekend. I think this is an exciting game for a number of reasons - not just for the player, but for the industry as well - but before I get too much into that I need to share a few things that I absolutely can't stand about it.

The first is the backward save system. Seriously. Capcom, the year is 2006. Your consumer base has moved beyond the concept of save points and single save slots. Time to join the party. Not being able to save when and where I want (or at the very least having frequent, automatic saves) in a game as large and complex as Dead Rising leads to many a moment of frustration when we discover that hours of game progress must be re-played. Thankfully, the gameplay in Dead Rising is addictively fun (more on that in a bit), but that doesn't excuse Capcom's stubborn resistance to evolve with trends.

Yet I'm still playing.

Here's another twist: the game comes pre-loaded with the ability to completely erase your game progress without making it clear that it's doing so. Worse, the game actually makes you think that this is a desired option. If your character dies, you're presented with two options. The first is Load Game, the second, Save Stats and Continue. Load Game will load your most recent saved game. Save Stats and Continue will ruin your life.

Basically, it erases all of your game progress, sending you back to the beginning of the game. I discovered this the hard way, after having played the game for about 15 hours over the weekend. The only bonus to this treachery is that you will restart the game with the same bonuses you had when you "saved status," making the climb back to your place in the narrative a little less difficult. Still, WTF? Who on the planet would consider this a good thing? And to not explicitly describe that this option will erase your saved game is a crime.

And yet, I'm still playing.

The other thing I completely can't stand about Dead Rising is the fact that it was designed to be incompatible with standard-definition televisions. Many developers of games for the Xbox360 take advantage of the console's HDTV-compatibility, and some even go so far as to heartily recommend that players play their game on a high-definition television, but Dead Rising is the first game I'm aware of to make playing the game almost impossible (and severely painful) to play on an SDTV.

I'm speaking about the in-game dialogue and on-screen text. Many of the characters in the game are not voiced, so their hints and story dialogue are displayed on-screen as subtitles. On-screen text is also employed to provide the player with information such as where to find quest items, and side missions, and to provide mission status and updates. The problem is that unless you're using an HDTV, this text is impossible to read. Not difficult, impossible.

I own a 36", 5-year-old TV. It has about as clear and large a picture as you could expect from a tube-based TV. And yet I find myself leaping up from the couch and pressing my nose against the glass to try to read the text displayed in Dead Rising. And I still can't read most of it. I have no idea what I'm missing, but I'm sure it's important. Perhaps it's the part about how the game will erase your saved games.

And yet, I say again that I'm still playing.

In spite of all of my protestations that games should be finished, perfect and playable for me to even bother picking them up, in spite of my loudly-voiced opinion that patches and updates are the lazy developer's excuse for poor project planning, I not only spent good money on Dead Rising, in spite of its extremely frustrating flaws and poor design choices, but I'm enjoying the hell out of it. I actually thinking about it right now, and can't wait to get back to playing it.

All of the hype over this game has been justified. It is one of those rare examples of expectations being not only met, but exceeded. I'm hoping that they patch, or address the problems I've noted above, but even if they don't I'll probably play this game to completion and beyond. And I'm not even sure I can tell you why.

Resident Evil 4 made it fairly obvious that the guys at Capcom were into zombie films, and being into zombie films myself, I have to say that Dead Rising is Day of the Dead to RE4's Night of the Living Dead. It's the campy, goofy, yet still terrifying younger brother of a zombie game, and the number of ways you can beat on the walking dead, and the amount of time you can spend doing it, is simply amazing and the quite frankly the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. In fact, it often feels as if the zombies in this game are simply inconvenient set pieces, obstacles to be overcome in order to progress through the story, which is exactly as it should be. In Dead Rising, zombies are deadly, but slow; menacing, but dumb; hard-to-kill, but fun to beat on, and the game provides the would-be zombie-slayer with every possible implement with which to beat on the undead. Then, when you get bored with doing that, you can work on the main storyline for a while, and beat on more zombies along the way.

It's fantastic. And in spite of its soul-crushing frustrations, it's the most fun I've had playing a game since Guitar Hero. Dead Rising also has a guitar in it, but you can use it to hit zombies, which makes it go to 11 in my book. I also recommend the chainsaw, and the bowling ball, and the hedge-clippers, and the teddy bear mask, and the battle axe, and the potted plant, and the propane tank ...

Permalink

I find that I am turning into an increasingly spastic gamer, with all these great games sitting in front of me and not enough time to possibly enjoy them all. Dead Rising is certainly not helping - this is one of the few games that I'm actually looking forward to getting to play through more than once. And I actively dislike horror movies, and the survival horror game genre. Dead Rising is just that good.

Agreed on the annoyances though - the text is not incredibly easy to read on HD displays either. I've actually noticed this in a few games. It's almost as if some developers are testing their games using PC monitors at PC distances instead of across the room. Either that, or they have incredibly large displays, the likes of which we mere mortals can but envy.

First, it's Dawn of the Dead, not Day of the Dead, that you're thinking of.

Secondly, this is probably the most addictive entry to the Xbox 360 catalog yet. It would be a killer app if its gameplay mechanics recieved a bit more polished. I wouldn't be surprised if Dead Rising was rushed through QA; they certainly didn't test it on any SDTV. This does suggest, however, that this IP is going to be stellar. I wouldn't be surprised if the quality of the now seemingly inevitable Dead Rising 2 becomes to Dead Rising what Resident Evil 2 is to Resident Evil. As for the save system, yeah, that needs to be addressed, but I actually perversely admire Capcom from staying away from the save-point-less, PC-style system. The frustration alievated by that is marked by substantially less tension in the game. There is just less at stake when you lose. But I guess that's a balance issue more than anything.

Again, this is going to be great franchise. I can't wait for the sequel (and, knowing Capcom, Dead Rising 3, 4, EX, Special Edition...)

Weebot:
First, it's Dawn of the Dead, not Day of the Dead, that you're thinking of.

You're not psychic. I appreciate the help, but I meant what I typed. In spite of the obvious sharing of set pieces, Day of the Dead has much more in common (tone-wise) with Dead Rising than Dawn of the Dead. In my opinion at least.

If that's the case, then that is even more surprising. I remember Day of the Dead being pretty damn bleak, which isn't the case with either Dead Rising or Dawn of the Dead. Why that choice of comparison, if you don't mind elaborating on the subject?

Weebot:
If that's the case, then that is even more surprising. I remember Day of the Dead being pretty damn bleak, which isn't the case with either Dead Rising or Dawn of the Dead. Why that choice of comparison, if you don't mind elaborating on the subject?

As I noted in my post, the shopping mall set makes a strong case for a comparison to Dawn of the Dead - both Romero's original and the newer, also awesome re-make - but I think Day of the Dead has a much stronger narrative in terms of it being a continuation of the original Night of the Living Dead and how it addresses the creation of zombies and the perpetuation of the infection, etc.

I also liked the interplay with the characters who were trapped in the bunker, and, like I said, I think that the story and characters have a lot more in common, tone-wise, with Day than with Dawn.

I also just plain like Day more. There was something about Dawn that struck me the wrong way, in terms of its relation to the original black & white film. I think that with Night of the Living Dead, Romero like Spielberg with Jaws, was forced due to budgetary restraints to "hint at" more than he actually showed, and it is what was left to the imagination that was most terrifying. With Dawn of the Dead he just went nuts, and the result is a little campier, in my opinion, than the "grittier" Day of the Dead.

That said, we're splitting hairs here. Dead Rising clearly borrows from almost every zombie film ever made, and a case could be made for comparing it to any of them. The fact is though, it's a damn cool game, and might just turn out to be a console-seller. Two of the guys in the office bought Xbox360s this weekend so that they could play it for themselves.

To revisit this a little, since I spent another priceless chunk of my life playing the game this weekend, I found a good article at Wired covering it. He shares an interesting perspective on how the lack of any convenient save mechanism actually changes your style of play, and the annoyance we felt initially actually turns in to gut-wrenching, heart-pounding "Oh god I don't want to die" moments:

http://www.wired.com/news/columns/0,71663-0.html?tw=rss.index

He also ends the piece by saying that the infrequent save points have actually caused him to stop playing - which is almost where I'm at with the game.

I am probably opposite the gaming mainstream in prefering games with fewer save points, rather than save-at-will.

Very distinctly, I remember playing Jedi Knight during a particularly harrowing leap-a-thon where my jedi was forced to risk terrible death hopping from scaffolding to scaffolding, catwalk to catwalk. I had physical vertigo and butterflies. Suddenly I remembered I could save at will, so I literally saved before each press of the spacewar. Instantly, the tension drained out of my body. So did the fun. I had managed to make the experience boring.

I contrast that to the original Aliens v. Predator FPS. Running the Marine levels, you couldn't save at will, only when the game let you. The whole time I was playing, I had to accept the prospect of sudden, terrifying, instant alien death that would undo all my hard won progress. It was terrifying. Aliens without save-at-will would have been an exercise in recon by death, followed by the quick reload.

I think we have, perhaps, made a mistake in basic game design in combining "game saves" and "death penalties" into one system of save-at-will. It's tension-destroying, bad game design to have a system where you when you die, you go back to your last save point, because it puts the penalty for death entirely into the hands of the player, who of course makes the penalty zero.

Why don't more games take a lesson from how massively multiplayer games work? Your game could be saved throughout play (or at will), so that you can jump in and play in short bursts (that is, the game remembers your progress to date and lets you "log out" of playing at any point); but once you start playing forward you wouldn't be able to "rewind" to a past save point. And when you die, you would be sent to a pre-determined hospital/respawn point with certain fixed penalties (loss of equipment, xp, etc.), not to your last save point.

Fletcher:
He also ends the piece by saying that the infrequent save points have actually caused him to stop playing - which is almost where I'm at with the game.

I've never been much of a console gamer. I'm trying to change that since PC games I want to play are too spread out to keep me wholly interested with one platform. But Dead Rising has me wanting to play all the time. Having others around who are playing the same game in a similar manner really helps me. When the interest wanes around me on titles like this, so likely will my own.

That said, I can't put down the controller. I can't let the game beat me. I can't walk away knowing that there are multiple chances for me never to come back to this vile mistress.

My save-point frustrations are over, honestly. Once I got past the grocery store incident, and back to the pivotal cut scene that follows, the time crunch annoyances subside. I use the maintenance tunnels as my main mode of transportation, and save at the bathrooms in Paradise Plaza right before I enter. I'm never more than one boss fight away from my last respite, so the true frustrations of "OMG I can't believe I have to do that all over again" have come and gone with some habitual planning and a little resignation to the facts.

Take my advice: Save, then high-tail it to the park and spend as long as it takes to kill the convicts, then save. That act alone had me feeling much better about the game overall.

I agree with you about AvP. That game scared the crap out of me, and wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without the tension factor.

But I don't think you would need a save-at-will system to make Dead Rising more playable for someone like me with limited time and a short temper. Something like the auto-save points in Halo and Far Cry would be a vast improvement.

Ion fact. The game occasionally does auto-save before it starts you on a mission, but it's unpredictable, and with only one save slot, it's possible for the game to royally screw you in the process.

On the whole, I don't mind when a developer makes choices to increase the fun or excitement factor of a game. What I mind is not having control over how my time is wasted. Being forced to replay a game from the beginning multiple times is something I have a hard time swallowing.

I think the forced-replay issue is a fair point. I think my contentment is based on not having to have replayed from the beginning, as several of my cohorts have. Had I needed to do so, knowing me I would likely be singing quite a different tune right now.

I'm on my fifth replay at this point. It's a bit disenchanting.

First this:
Font size issue being addressed

And second:
This is the best weapon in the game

The Excavator
image

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here