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Dead Rising | review | game | Lollipop
(Capcom for PS2)
by Mike Delano
When it comes to developing for next-gen systems, some developers are content to forge ahead with the same battleworn game concepts they've peddled for years, just giving them a shiny new graphical sheen to keep up with the times. In the formative months of a new console, especially, the majority of releases are simply tedious updates of last-gen titles in new clothes.
Then there's Capcom. There are actual ideas over at Capcom. There are concepts for new gaming experiences, not just the same ones rehashed over and over. Not all of their ideas work. Sometimes, they're the rebirth of cool, like the ultra-hip resurrection of the side-scrolling beat 'em up in Viewtiful Joe or the revolution in presentation for the action RPG that is Okami. Sometimes, they're God Hand. But they're rarely predictable.
Sure, Capcom also runs the Mega Man and Street Fighter sweatshops, but those are just to pay the bills. I'll happily tolerate Mega Man Battle Network Card Fight Pizza Crazy 6 if it gives them the funds to create games like Dead Rising.
The concept here is so good, it must've had execs wetting their pants when they heard the pitch. You're Frank West, a photojournalist trapped in a mall overrun by zombies, and you have the GTA-like freedom to use anything and everything at your disposal to cut through the hordes of the undead to make it out alive.
A premise this solid deserves a presentation of this caliber. The atmosphere is a faithful recreation of the 1978 zombie classic Dawn of the Dead (an inspiration so obvious they had to put a disclaimer on the box to avoid lawsuits), both in the sheer, maddening volume of your brain dead adversaries and the sense of humor. Beating zombies with their own limbs, mowing them down (literally) with lawnmowers, and wearing ridiculous costumes found at the various mall retailers: The creators nail what zombie movies are about, and never let the desire to get morbidly artsy or important get in the way of zany fun.
All of this would be enough, but a few Capcom touches elevate it to classic status. Your character is a photojournalist, so rather than controlling a trained soldier or random meathead, you take photographs amidst the carnage to chronicle your adventure, and you score points for composition. West is just one of an interesting cast of characters, and, in true Resident Evil fashion, the storyline extends far beyond just zombies in a mall, expanding the boundaries of the game with every boss battle and plot twist.
Games with killer concepts often go wrong; State of Emergency and Bad Day LA are just two recent examples. But when the right ideas are given the right treatment, you get, well, just what you've come to expect from Capcom.