It Was Released In Scotland As Dead Raisin

Dead Rising was released for Xbox 360 in the summer of 2006. Players take on the role of investigative journalist Frank West, who is plunged into a full-on zombie outbreak in a fictional town in North America. Most of the squelchy brain-threatening action takes place in and around a large shopping mall, as the plot and reasons behind the outbreak unravel, and those left alive are faced with a desperate scramble to survive.

In some ways, it is the game that defines the Xbox 360 more than any other for me. It felt fresh, which is what you want from the first game you play on your shiny new console. As an early title it is still admirably pretty, and the quantity of enemies on screen continues to impress even now. The Achievements are legendary in certain circles, and serve their purpose by enriching proceedings with extensive replay value and challenge. All in all, it was an experience that it would not have been possible to deliver in the previous generation, and alongside the likes of Gears of War it helped to give the Xbox 360 valuable identity in its formative years.

The extensive myriad of weapons is a famous feature of Dead Rising. This ties into the strong sense of depth the shopping mall setting is imbued with. When the player discovers the hardware store, for example, they are rewarded with some truly imaginative and gloriously violent treats to unleash upon the unsuspecting zombie horde. You’re never far from something to brandish in your constant battle with the undead, even if it is just a giant plastic lipstick tube. That the developer spent time including widely varying impacts and effects in line with all the different weapons belies a strong understanding of how to craft an enduringly satisfying experience for the player.

The physics engine is robust enough to allow for plenty of unexpected mishaps and whimsical japes. Zombies, like the adorable oversized toddlers they are, will frequently get themselves into all sorts of odd positions and situations. Survivors, while far fewer in number than the zombies, punch way above their weight in the (often unintentional) hilarity stakes. A personal favourite is a chap called Jeff who constantly and inexplicably repeats the phrase “Son of a bitch” as you lead him and his lady wife through the mall. Bear in mind that you can tool most of them up with a weapon of your choosing, and that each of them has different combat prowess and movement speed and you’re faced with a multi-faceted challenge. The worst penalty for failing this challenge is seeing a group of halfwits in baseball caps desperately and frantically swinging electric guitars or something equally ridiculous until they eventually succumb to the shambling horde. That sort of marvellously macabre scene is worth the price of admission alone and is not really a penalty at all, as long as you like your humour pitch black and your electric guitars covered in zombie chunks.

Hastily-formed bench-based strategies are often the way forward, as in life.

When I was first learning how to play Dead Rising a little collateral damage was par for the course. When you’re setting upon hundreds of human-shaped zombies with nothing but a lead pipe, you’re more than likely to accidentally clobber a human survivor that you’re supposed to be escorting. Do so with the sledgehammer though, and one stray swing will pop the head right off a survivor with the violent and inherently satisfying comedy of a watermelon exploding forth through a microwave door. Your brain will instinctively tell you to laugh as brave Gordon Stalworth’s body slumps to the ground with what appears to be a surprised look on its torso, and you will, for half a second. Then you’ll realise that you were supposed to be protecting Gordon Stalworth, that he trusted you, and that you callously and rudely made his head explode like a nuclear canteloupe just because you weren’t paying proper attention. Then you’ll realise that because Gordon Stalworth stupidly headbutted your sledgehammer like Phil Mitchell in a mosh pit you’re now going to have to re-load your save and start that section again. Then, finally, the pure and simple truth will descend on you. You’re glad it happened. Because it was really very funny, and you and Gordon Stalworth will always have that moment.

I will concede at this point that if you are afraid of zombies, clowns or blood then Dead Rising might not be the game for you.

The constant viscerality and mischievous sense of humour underpins much of my fondness for Dead Rising, but there’s much more to the game than that.

Resident Evil was, for me and many others, the quintessential survival horror series. Nowadays that series’ emphasis has, for better or worse, generally shifted to gunplay and distanced the gameplay from a notion I feel is central to the genre – the importance of player decisions. A game that wants to test and poke at a player’s survival instincts needs to force difficult decisions upon them. The most regular choice in those early Resident Evil titles was the simplest; judging whether to engage in or avoid combat became a more important skill than mastering the intentionally imprecise targeting system. Once players began to get a handle on the nature of their zombie enemies and started to ably judge the relative risk and danger inherent in a given situation, a new threat would be thrown in to force continued adaptation and refinement of strategy. The Hunter enemies from the very first Resident Evil are the textbook example, if the textbook is covered in worrying green scales and makes a terrifying clicking sound when it walks around.

Not pictured: Wally.

At the core of Dead Rising is a similar reliance on the player to decide on the best course of action when it is rarely obvious, with enough freedom built in for the appropriate, and often distressingly unfortunate, consequences to play out. Similarly to Resident Evil, a choice between avoidance and engagement of the zombie horde must be made at every turn and limited inventory space brings with it the related pressures, but more complicated decisions are also a regular demand. They can’t be considered separately from a crucial feature; the effect of the oft-maligned fixed length of the game and its save system is crucial to Dead Rising’s challenge. If you don’t achieve your objectives in time for the finale, then it’s game over. You get one save file, and it’s more than possible to save yourself into an unwinnable scenario. The stakes are high, and so even experienced players have tension piled upon them like brains in some sort of, er, endless brain waterfall. A Niagara of grey matter. I’ll stop.

The best thing about Dead Rising though, and the thing that makes me smile more than anything else every time I think about it, is that the sequel is almost upon us. With many of the original development team returning, and the rich promise of co-op play and competitive multiplayer modes in tow, my gut is telling me we’re in for another treat. Or maybe it’s telling me to find some brains and eat them. Not sure. I’ll go with both.







3 responses to “It Was Released In Scotland As Dead Raisin”

  1. John.B avatar

    The title, I lol’d.

  2. Markatansky avatar

    I was sure it was “The Sims in Glasgow”, but I may have been horribly mislead. Or not?

  3. Kat avatar

    I tried twice to get into Dead Rising and failed both times which concerned me as it has zombies 🙁 <3 zombies. That said I'm going to try the sequel regardless and hopefully a co-op mode will help me through!

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