by Micah Kolding
Frank West's instincts as a freelance journalist have never steered him wrong, and this time they have inspired him to drop into Willamette, Colorado, a boring little town with nothing to do but hang out at the shopping mall. He has arrived just in time to exchange cryptic pleasantries with a mysterious foreigner, take a hostile warning from an elusive old man, and watch the survivors' barricade finally crumble as the state-of-the-art shopping center finally succumbs to the zombie plague. It's now falls on him to rescue anyone he can, defeat anyone he must, and hopefully get to the bottom of this story before time runs out.
As yet another take on everyone's favorite kind of Apocalypse, Dead Rising is a horrid delight. Destroying zombies has never been so much fun as when you're able to wade through enormous mobs of the unrelenting abominations, exploring the many, many ways to ventilate their skulls and come out safely on the other end. The survival-horror atmosphere is made complete as your forced to scour the mall for potential weapons and supplies: shopping carts, baseball bats, cooking oil, sledgehammers, golf clubs, katanas, frying pans, bowling balls... you would be hard-pressed to make use of every available zombie-killer throughout the course of the game. And if you're not making frequent use of the shotguns and chainsaws (of COURSE there are shotguns and chainsaws, you silly-billy) then you're truly missing out.
Most of the game consists of a series of missions that generally involve finding survivors and escorting them safely back to the mall's security room. A high enough score on such missions can unlock bonus missions, and at set intervals you'll be faced with advancing the plot and getting closer to discovering the truth behind the zombies. This plot is a surprisingly engaging story, delivering more than just an excuse to shoot zombies as its presents us with a cogent theme of rampant consumerism. It's smart enough to be exactly as disturbing as such a game should be, giving us a caliber of horror experience rarely seen among video games.
The game's primary weakness is its lack of innovation when it comes to boss battles. The ones of them that don't have a simple "hit 'em until they're dead" dynamic are generally reduced to a mindless tap-the-right-button-when-it-flashes-on-the-screen mechanic. Aside from that, the missions can get a little repetitive at times and the game starts to drag its feet a bit towards the end. These are forgivable flaws, however, ultimately not detracting much from the true charm of the zombie survival.
So rejoice, devotees of the helicopter-shotgun-chainsaw-timebomb saga. The dead are once again rising, and it's just as awesome as it's ever been. So shoot for the head, watch for the teeth, and keep those games spinning.