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Dead Rising Triple Pack

Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: Download/3
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ Survival Horror/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Zombies wore out their welcome over the course of the last console generation. I donít care what anyone says: the undead shambled their way into literally anything and everything they could get their rotting appendages on. And the whole theme just got really, really old. But while we can admit this fact, we can just as easily respect the games that handled this nearly-ubiquitous theme better than the others. And the franchise most would correctly identify as the ultimate zombie apocalypse experience is Capcomís Dead Rising series. While the companyís Resident Evil series remains perhaps its most well-known survival horror property, its current sorry state leads one to believe that its best days are arguably behind it. But with a fourth main installment in the works and arguably no major slip-ups under its belt, Dead Rising is still going strong. The Dead Rising Triple Pack is not only a decent value, but it constitutes the best versions of three games that have aged surprisingly well.

All of the games in the Dead Rising Triple Pack look great on Xbox One. The original was a breakthrough for its time, praised for the sheer number of zombies that could be on the screen at any given time. Dead Rising 2 upped the ante in terms of its visual fidelity and artistic creativity. However, all the games are artistically and technically consistent with each other, lending a sense of cohesion to the package as a whole. Dead Risingís interface didnít really have too many problems, so it was kept the same throughout the franchiseís lifespan. Just as impressive are the environments, which might feel a bit thematically samey, but make up for it by representing the very best and worst of sheer commercial excess. Shopping malls can certainly be overstimulating, and the ones depicted in these games are a faithful, morbidly funny translation. And in terms of the sheer number of ways in which you can interact with the shopping centers, it's best to just let you discover them for yourself.

Every game in the Dead Rising Triple Pack nails it when it comes to sound. As far as music goes, it's spot on with its attention to detail and sense of place. Shopping music is something of an earworm; it's a deliberately subtle bit of manipulation that encourages shoppers to buy, buy, buy. In both Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2, all the bubblegum nonsense feels wonderfully appropriate, and it also contrasts hilariously with the over-the-top violence. Voice acting is admittedly more sparse in the 2006 original, which contributes to one of its biggest problems. I know Capcom is well aware at this point, but Willamette Parkview Mall janitor Otis Washington is perhaps the most annoying character in the history of video games. The fact that all his dialogue is rendered in tiny text boxes that can't be cycled through is positively maddening, and could have been fixed had they given him an actual voice.


Gameplay:

2006ís Dead Rising casts you as Frank West, an intrepid photojournalist who, by way of an anonymous tip, has commissioned a helicopter pilot to lift him into the town of Willamette, Colorado. It turns out, the sleepy little mountain town has found itself host to a zombie infection, with all its survivors holing up in a massive shopping mall. Unfortunately, most of the survivors are either insane, evil, or incompetent. And through the actions of a selfish old dingbat, the zombies invade the mall, killing most of the survivors. Ever vigilant, Frank must get to the bottom of this story while doing his best to rescue as many people as possible. Oh, and heís got three days before his helicopter returns to pick him up, so no pressure. Frankís a classic Capcom character. Heís a blustery, homely fellow, but a good-natured one nonetheless. His ambitions are frequently unraveled by the needs of those around him, but he always makes the right decisions.

2011ís Dead Rising 2 retains the campy B-movie charm of the original game, though it features a sterner, more self-serious lead. Chuck Greene is a former national motocross champion who has lost his wife to an outbreak in Las Vegas. Worse yet, his wife managed to bite his young daughter Katey, rendering her infected with the parasite that causes zombification. Luckily for everyone in this post-zombie world, the pharmaceutical industry has made a breakthrough with Zombrex, a miracle drug that staves off the turning process. Of course, Zombrex is insanely expensive, so Chuck is forced to put his athletic skills to the test by competing in the controversial sports entertainment game show known as "Terror is Reality." After the competition, Chuck is unfortunately framed for a terrorist act that sees Fortune City, Nevada completely overrun with the undead. Itís up to him to keep his daughter supplied with Zombrex while attempting to clear his name.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is almost completely susceptible to accusations of being little more than a reskinned version of Dead Rising 2. The major difference is that you play as Frank rather than Chuck. While minor story alterations are put into place to attempt the illusion of a completely new experience, the biggest differences on hand are Frankís photography mechanics and the inclusion of Sandbox Mode, which does away with those pesky time limits and offers a series of additional objectives.

The Dead Rising games all play similarly to each other, with 2 and Off the Record featuring smoother, more feature-rich gameplay. Each of them is a sandbox action title with strict time limits imposed on its missions. As Frank/Chuck, you progress the main story by ensuring youíre in the right place at the right time to progress the seriesí trademark Case system. In between Cases, youíre essentially free to go where you please and do what you want. However, side missions pop up frequently, most of which require you to rescue one or more survivors. Others direct you towards survivors who have quite simply lost their minds and, for lack of better wording, have got to go. The degree to which these people have left the realm of rationality is best left unspoiled for the uninitiated; they must be seen to be believed. The ending you get is contingent on how you solve the Cases, as well as certain requisites that are best left unexplained here.


Difficulty:

Dead Rising is a perfectionistís nightmare. Its structure and progression model make it all but impossible to do everything you want to do in one playthrough. You see, the first time you boot up the game, Frank is weak, slow, and incredibly vulnerable. Compound that with the unforgiving nature of the zombie hordes, the notoriously awful save system, the mentally deficient friendly A.I., and the time limits, and your first playthrough will likely end in failure. Hell, even your second one probably will. But hereís the catch; all the experience, skills, and bonus statistics you earn are carried over into your next playthrough. If you want to save the maximum number of survivors, you simply canít do it until youíve leveled Frank up.

I didn't beat any of these games until at least my third playthrough. The time limit for Cases screwed me over the first two times, and by the time I'd reached the third, Frank/Chuck's speed, health pool, and attack power had improved to the point where they could go where they pleased without worrying too much about zombies, psychopaths, or ::shudder:: survivors.


Game Mechanics:

While the general consensus of reasonable people is that it would suck to be stranded in an area teeming with zombies, it's hard to imagine a more convenient places for that to happen than a shopping mall or an entertainment complex. Everything necessary for the sustenance and defense of human life is comparatively within arm's reach. Every Dead Rising game forces you to use whatever you can find as efficiently as possible.

Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2 feature protagonists who are not only wildly different in character, but also in profession. And their livelihoods are fully incorporated into their games in ways that feel wholly organic. Frank, being a photographer, benefits from taking pictures of the insane goings-on. Capturing the right shot of the right people at the right time invariably rewards him with a deluge of Prestige Points (PP), the experience of the Dead Rising series. On the sequel's side, Chuck's background as a mechanic is put to extremely good use, as he finds himself putting various items together to create effective and sadistic implements of zombie destruction. On top of all that, both 2 and Off the Record takes its casino resort setting and builds something of an economy around it. So even in a city besieged by the walking dead, money talks.

Your greatest enemy in all the Dead Rising games in the Triple Pack is not zombies. It's not psychopaths. It's not even the idiot survivors. It's the clock. At certain moments in the beginning of each of the games, the clock starts ticking, and as Scoops (side missions) pop up and become available, your time frame to complete each one is reduced by the second. These games feature a frustrating amount of trial and error, as allowing a Case to expire results in a Game Over. On top of that, the save system is infamously cruel; you can only save in designated areas, and if you happen to save at the wrong time, your playthrough is effectively ended in its tracks, and you must start over. It's not all bad, however; as mentioned, starting over allows your character to retain his skills and level statistics.

Dead Rising and its sequels might think they have a tongue-in-cheek political message about the dangers of rampant consumerism and the duplicity of the government, but the real lesson is that your fellow man isn't worth saving. As mentioned before, I have nothing good to say about the survivors interspersed throughout the maps. None of them bring anything to the table and all of them are possessive of any number of wretchedly awful character traits. They are mostly incapable of following directions, incompetent when it comes to situational awareness and self-defense, and often ungrateful when you finish hauling their worthless asses to the Security Room. Certain survivors cause more trouble for your group; one in particular led a mutiny because he ate all the Security Room's food and when he demanded more, I didn't have any on hand. The bastard took away a handful of my survivors, which messed up my playthrough. (On the next playthrough, upon encountering him for the first time, I blew his head off with a shotgun.)

The Dead Rising Triple Pack is sold as a bundle or individually, so if you want to pick and choose, you have that option. However, the complete set is good to have; all of these games are inherently replayable, and the cooperative action is still very much worthwhile. It'd have been nice if Off the Record was either accompanied by Case West or straight up replaced with Dead Rising 3, but maybe I'm taking it a bit too far. Ultimately, this is a series that has aged gracefully, so much that they're definitely worth revisiting.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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