Who knew that a game that’s essentially an interactive Dawn of the Dead could manage to sustain itself for over a decade? Dead Rising has amazingly stood the test of time, despite the fact that it was initially an Xbox 360 exclusive franchise. Capcom eventually saw the light and brought the sequel to PlayStation platforms, but the game that started it all has never been available on a Sony platform. That changes today, with the release of the Dead Rising Triple Pack. What was old is new again…kinda.
So, funny story: Before I became a multiplatform gamer, I was once a card-carrying Xbot that trumpeted the praises of every console exclusive from the mountaintops. For that reason, and probably that reason alone, I played the ever-loving bejesus out of the original Dead Rising. This means that I knew virtually every nook and cranny of the first installment. Booting up Triple Pack was like wrapping myself in a warm blanket of nostalgia, until I was hit with a startling revelation: I don’t think I ever really liked Dead Rising.
As Frank “I’ve covered wars, you know” West, players are unleashed upon a mall in Willamette, Colorado, in search of the scoop of a lifetime. Utilizing his keen eye for photography and ass-kicking skills in spades, West is hell-bent on getting to the bottom of what is happening in this small, sequestered village in the middle of nowhere. Armed with wonky camera controls, a terrible save system and a gameplay pace that could be generously described as glacial, it’s sometimes hard to recognize what made this original incarnation so successful. Then you discover how to use environmental objects as weapons, and everything completely changes for the better.
The action really opens up once the initial story seeds have been planted. As the mall springs to life, the fun of inducing mass-manslaughter becomes immensely appealing. Granted, there are only 72 in-game hours on the clock, but why not take a break for a round brain-dead home run derby once in a while? Making your own fun is where a majority of the enjoyment can be gleaned. It is best to put your competitive spirit in your back pocket and not become too concerned with the ever-present tick-tock. The moment that beating the clock becomes the focus, this experience is drained of virtually all fun.
Return to Fortune City
The open sandbox play of the original installment extends to Dead Rising 2 and is amplified tenfold. Players are zipped into the biker-jacket of motocross legend Chuck Greene, while he desperately struggles to find the Zombrex medication that will prevent his daughter from transitioning into a grey-matter enthusiast. *Sigh* Even in games, big pharma has the chronically sick by the shorthairs. Go figure. Though, I hate to be that guy, but Chuck’s poor offspring may be one of the creepiest gaming incarnations of a child in recent memory. It is hard to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with her character model, but there is just something not quite right about her. And before you say it, no, this has nothing to do with the uncanny valley. She just looks unnerving for some reason, in a way that is really difficult to quantify.
While the photojournalism mechanics of the first game have been removed, this has instead been replaced by the far more entertaining crafting system. Using items acquired throughout the world, Chuck can utilize workbenches to fabricate fantastic weapons of the most awe-inspiring variety. Imagine combining a squirt gun and a gasoline canister to craft a makeshift flamethrower or using a battery and a metal rake to create the most electrifying lawn implement in history. If you’re feeling ambitious, it is even possible to combine gems and a flashlight to create a laser sword, the likes of which would make any Jedi proud. Obviously all of these ideas stretch the limits of sanity, but that is half of the fun.
Players are once again held to the strict 72-hour time limit and polarizing pisser save system, but now the Zombrex element also comes into play. In order to keep Katey from developing an unnatural hunger for flesh, Chuck has to acquire a fresh injection of Zombrex for her, every 24 hours. Mix all of these elements together with a pinch of self-vindication just for good measure, and the second installment proves to be a worthy successor to the undead throne.
Guess Who’s Back?
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is that last piece of the Triple Pack puzzle. In this full-length re-imagining of the sequel, featuring everyone’s favorite photographer, many of the components of the first game make an ever-triumphant return. Those familiar with Marvel’s What If line of comics should be familiar with the premise of this type of plot, where Frank has now squandered all of his wealth and credibility. He then purposely injects himself into the conflict in Fortune City, in hopes of getting to the bottom of what happened this time around.
Many of the new mechanics introduced in the primary sequel are still present in this reincarnation. For example, now it’s Frank that needs Zombrex injections every 24 hours. Apparently at some point in the events of the first game he was bit and he now needs the medication to stave off his own turn. Additionally, countless new craft-able weapons have been added to the arsenal, as well as the inclusion of enhanced combat controls. Granted, these new controls tend to hearken back to the wonkiness of the original a bit more than I would like, but for some it could be considered a welcome return to form. Lastly, my incessant complaints about the saving system’s toilet humor are finally addressed through the introduction of an honest-to-goodness checkpoint system.
As far as the quality of the ports go, you can expect each installment in the trilogy to feature very few mechanical changes from their initial outing. If there was a quirk or mechanic that annoyed you at any point over the last decade, it is probably safe to assume they are still there. For better or worse, these are essentially the exact same games, warts and all.
Re-release or Re-packaging?
The visual assessment is where things get interesting. Without performing a side-by-side comparison with each of the games’ original releases, it is hard to tell if there were any significant graphical enhancements. After all, once you are trying to up-res already high definition visuals, it tends to be a case of diminishing returns. That said, other than Chuck’s poor creepy daughter, there is nothing that stands out as being overtly ugly or decidedly last gen. Plus, given the fact that the first game came out within the first year of the Xbox 360’s lifespan, there was most likely quite a bit of time spent cleaning up shoddy texture work or goofy engine quirks.
One of the major selling points of the Triple Pack is that the PlayStation audience will get to experience Frank’s origin story for the first time. However, this isn’t the only content tied to the first two games that were Microsoft exclusive. A mini-prequel to Chuck’s story, subtitled Case Zero, was released leading up to Dead Rising 2. There was also another stand-alone expansion subtitled Case West, that featured Frank investigating the links between different zombie outbreaks. It would have been great to see these pieces of extended lore incorporated into the package as well. Sure, it may have screwed up the name of the package itself, but the inclusions would have essentially provided the Sony audience with the definitive Dead Rising 1 and 2 experience. Who knows? Maybe this is how they plan to tack on DLC, post release? Only time will tell.
Clocking in at the cost of a full modern game, Dead Rising Triple Pack is still a fantastic value. Yes, each of the games have their own unique quirks, but that “je ne sais quoi,” is what helped endear the series to millions of fans, worldwide. The sheer volume of quality content being provided makes it an extremely generous offering, especially for those that don’t have these titles already in their collection. Finally, Capcom was able to put their brain-dead re-release strategy to good use!
Review code for Dead Rising Triple Pack provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.