After Dead Rising 3, which is generally regarded as a fine, but not great title, the Dead Rising franchise feels like it’s at a crossroads. On one hand, there’s definitely always a place for a game that embraces its inherent stupidity, but if this is pushed too far you end up becoming whatever Saints Row currently is. Dead Rising 3 was certainly awesome for showing off the power of the Xbox One, as it would have been all but impossible to render the sheer number of zombies on screen on previous generation consoles. Still, despite the fact that it was a decent technical showpiece, playing Dead Rising 3 gave the sense that players were wandering through the worst Black Friday parking lot of all time, which wasn’t necessarily great from a gameplay perspective.
With Dead Rising 4 on the horizon, it’s up to Capcom to prove that the Dead Rising franchise is more than a goofy horde-murdering simulator. After all, when you’re making the fourth installment in a franchise, it’s imperative to not only show that new ideas are still flowing, but that the franchise as a whole is worth continuing. Going back to the mall setting made famous by the first Dead Rising is definitely a great way to embrace the series’ roots, but the last thing that Capcom needs to do is give us a game that feels overly familiar. One of the biggest issues with, say, the Battlefield/Battlefront franchise is that newer iterations simply feel like new skins on the same package. If Dead Rising 4 is just the first Dead Rising with a Christmas skin, then it’s going to be really tough to justify a Dead Rising 5.
We’ve certainly learned a few things about Dead Rising 4 since its initial leak one week ago. For one, there seems to be a renewed commitment to both vehicular combos and weapons with environmental effects. Throughout the course of the E3 demo on display, players have the opportunity to do electric damage to zombies in the area, which is certainly nothing new, but it provides players with the ability to maintain the hilarity that we have come to expect from the franchise. New to the franchise is the presence of exo-suits, which allow players to bring the Dead Rising franchise’s hallmark crafting systems to Frank West’s body. Despite the fact that the E3 demo allows players to romp through the world in an exo-suit as much as they please, it’s worth noting that these will function similarly to Power Armor in Fallout 4 in that these will not be an unlimited use item.
Certain weapons can only be used when Frank is wearing the exo-suit, such as a parking meter that players can pull out of the ground, which definitely makes a great deal of sense considering that, you know, this would be really tough to do without some increased strength. On top of the new body modification system, Dead Rising 4 also doubles down on its sheer lunacy by giving players the ability to take selfies with zombies during a signature kill moment. Sure, this definitely seems to cater more to the meme-loving Reddit crowd than anything else, and it could wind up being something that becomes tedious, but it’s nice to see a mechanic that genuinely encourages players to experiment further in combat.
Even though there are some major questions swirling around Dead Rising 4, it’s still nice to see that Capcom is committed to developing a title that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Xbox One has really carved out a niche for itself as a console whose exclusive lineup boasts a solid combination of super serious games and titles that are willing to embrace the quirkier side of the industry. With that said, if Dead Rising 4 doesn’t improve upon the gameplay of its predecessor and simply presents a game that feels too similar to Dead Rising 3, it might mark the end of the franchise entirely.