Dead Slumping

Last month my cousin kindly loaned me his copy of Dead Rising, an Xbox 360 game in which you have to survive in a zombie-infested mall a la Dawn of the Dead.

Having lost some interest in zombies after finishing my as-yet-unnamed novella, it wasn’t until last week that I finally fired the game up. My main motivation for it was to pad my Gamerscore with some quick achievement points.

Unfortunately, I found myself getting bored pretty quick.

First off, let’s mention the good: the graphics are excellent. They’re maybe not quite as good as Gears of War, but they’re close. What’s even more impressive is the sheer number of zombies the game is able to put on the screen at one time—we’re talking dozens, even hundreds of zombies, all with independent AI.

However, for me, the game has a few too many stumbling blocks. First and foremost is the fact that you have only seventy-two hours in which to complete the game’s storyline (and get picked up on the roof by your helicopter pilot pal). I find timed missions really irritating. I spend most of my time worrying about the clock and trying to rush through, and generally not enjoying myself at all. As my cousin Ed said to me about Splinter Cell: Double Agent (which has a number of timed missions), it feels less like a game and more like work. Part of me thinks timed missions are often just a cheap way to increase a game’s difficulty.

The most annoying timed mission I’ve ever played was “The Falling Ship” in Jedi Knight. You had to escape a ship that was about to explode in something like thirty seconds. Getting out on the first try was virtually impossible, which meant you had to figure out the right path through trial and error. That pulls you out of the game experience and forces you to think of it as a videogame, not an adventure.

In the case of Dead Rising, the entire game is technically a timed mission. To make matters worse, most of the side missions (maybe all?) are timed as well. I spent the three hours I played worrying about trying to follow the main storyline while getting in a few side missions.

And let’s talk about the side missions. A lot of what you do is escort survivors to the mall security office. In-between, you have boss battles with random psychopaths who have holed up in the mall. The one boss battle I had was okay, for what it was, but I found the escort missions boring and irritating.

All of this might have been made tolerable if it were easy to save the game. But no; the only save points are in restrooms. That means you can easily spend an hour on a mission and get eaten just before you reach a restroom.

Finally, there’s the weird way the main character, Frank West, walks. Clutching his camera (he’s a photojournalist) against his torso, Frank walks like a crippled hunchback. And he apparently doesn’t know how to sprint—an awfully useful ability when being chased by zombies! Seriously, why can’t he run? You have to gingerly limp your way between the undead.

And then there’s Otis.

In the end, despite my Pavlovian desire for achievement points, I just couldn’t stomach the idea of escorting eight survivors at once, or grinding through 1,000 zombies, for a measly 20 points each…and all with that timed Sword of Damocles hanging over my head.

  1. Ed left a comment on April 6, 2007 at 7:28 am

    What’s your opinion on that oft-reported annoyance that the text doesn’t display well on standard def TVs. Have you noticed any major issues?

  2. Oh, the text is definitely tiny on my TV (which isn’t HD, for those who don’t know). I can never tell what Otis is constantly badgering me about.

  3. Baby Carrot left a comment on April 13, 2007 at 10:14 am

    Thanks for the update on Dead Rising. I looked at it as a game that had a lot of potential, and if it was treated more like the Evil Dead series of videogames, I believe it may have been. I too am someone who absolutely can’t stand timed instances, good write-up on that. I’m kind of glad I didn’t fork over the 60 bucks for it.

    However, if you’re interested in making a good investment, Guitar Hero 2 is unBElievable. My fingers hurt more after playing the controller for 2 plus hours than if I was playing my regular guitar. Really fun, and challenging, (if you want it to be). It’s great for parties too. Highly recommended…

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