If there was ever a time to resurrect Dead Rising, it’s now. It’s not just because it’s been six years since we got the last entry in Capcom’s tongue-in-cheek zombie series. We’ve also got the console technology to ditch level transitions, as the new Silent Hill 2 and Dead Space teams remind us, and deliver a remake that really gets things right. And I do mean a remake, starting right back with the first Dead Rising.
There’s some part of me that wants a Dead Rising 5; heck, you could call it Dead Rising V and have Frank West taking on vampires and their shambling minions. But Dead Rising 4 did too much damage to the series for anything less than a full reboot or remake to succeed.
I’m not going to delve into every single one of Dead Rising 4’s crimes against the series; there are plenty of YouTube videos addressing that. But it was a joyless shadow of previous entries, Dead Rising 3 included. Surprisingly, there had been a Dead Rising reboot in the works, but it was ditched in favor of Dead Rising 4, which ultimately proved to be bafflingly a bad decision.
Dead Rising 4 ditched the ability to throw random items, it traded Frank West in for a grizzled, humorless impostor, and worst of all, it was a Christmas game. I don’t mean in the way that Die Hard is a Christmas movie either. Dead Rising 4 was awash with Christmas decorations, fleece-clad zombies, and even Christmas music. Even its traditional “Overtime” mode was relegated to DLC, another ridiculous move.
Capcom could go straight to Dead Rising 5, but there’d have to be one hell of a hook to draw in people who were completely new to the franchise. So going back to square one for a Dead Rising remake and reintroducing us to Frank West, preferably voiced once more by Terence J. Rotolo, is definitely the way to go.
But why bother at all? Because the original Dead Rising, set in a zombie-filled mall, is one of the most entertaining games of all time. Unlike the original Resident Evil, whose silliness often emerged by accident via bizarre voice acting and localization, Dead Rising consciously reveled in its ridiculousness from the word go.
I’m not just talking about the costumes Frank West could don, cross-dressing included. Rather, the mall offered a glorious amount of freedom. You could pick up and throw virtually any object, whether or not it’d do any damage. Remember the record sequence from Shaun of Dead? Now imagine that, apart from throwing a CD store’s whole stock, you could throw apples, chairs, weights, soft toys, anything you could get your hands on.
It wasn’t just that anything could be a weapon, either — it was more often than not that anything had to be a weapon. Guns were scarce at first, so aside from the entertainment factor of smacking a zombie with an HDTV, it was all you had. Humor-heavy as Dead Rising was, there was a definite fear factor at play. You could easily find yourself penned in the back of some shop, gawping in horror as the Romero-style zombies slowly shambled towards you.
Then there were the psychopaths. You could fight some amazing and terrifying foes, from an angry supermarket manager with an upgraded shopping cart, to a chainsaw-wielding clown. And yet, there was always this faint note of sadness about them, so you felt a bit guilty about dispatching them. At least half of them weren’t bad; the trauma of the outbreak had just driven them beyond their breaking point.
Despite having a vastly inflated opinion of himself, Frank West was an oddly likable protagonist and was determined to uncover the truth. Throw in a photography mode, albeit with a slightly suspect points system, and you’ve got a game that deserves to be experienced by a new generation of gamers on a new generation of consoles.
Granted, there’s already a remaster of the game. But it’s showing its age, and compared to the sequel, the zombie count could have been a little higher. Dead Rising deserves the Dead Space treatment, especially in terms of its loading times. EA Motive has boasted how you could seamlessly roam through the whole of the game’s mining vessel, so imagine being able to explore the whole of Willamette Parkview Mall without so much as a loading screen.
It would give Dead Rising’s sense of menace a big boost, too. Imagine stepping into the mall’s garden area, assuming you’re safe, only to have hordes of undead tumble out through the sliding doors. And I do mean hordes — the power of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X would turn the mall into an (un)living hell.
Forget about “Nightmare” difficulty making enemies stronger; a Dead Rising remake could fill every nook and cranny with zombies. Add a multiplayer mode and you’d have your own, significantly sillier version of Dawn of the Dead, especially if Capcom throws in the build-a-weapon mechanics from Dead Rising 2.
Over the years, people have wondered if Dead Rising would ever cross over with Resident Evil. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 aside, that’s never happened, and Dead Rising is all the better for it. The series has a tone all its own, and given that Resident Evil has gotten progressively more serious, there’s no need for Frank West to ever investigate the Umbrella Corporation.
So will Capcom ever actually resurrect Dead Rising? It’s possible, but right now, Capcom seems to be playing it safe. New (and remade) Resident Evil games, Monster Hunter Rise, Street Fighter 6 — all those are pretty safe bets. Dead Rising 4, on the other hand, killed off developer Capcom Vancouver / Blue Castle.
One way of testing the waters would be to put out a new minisode, like Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, which was a purchasable, playable prequel to Dead Rising 2. If there’s sufficient interest, Capcom could then dive right in with a full Dead Rising remake. But whether it’s next year or six years from now when it’s run out of ideas for Resident Evil XII, Dead Rising deserves to live again.