Video Game Review: Dead Rising

Jessica McCarney – You know how to use this? (holding out a gun to Frank)

Frank West – Kinda. I’ve covered wars, you know.

frank_westDead Rising was an incredibly fun sandbox style zombie survival game. I don’t want to call it horror since it really wasn’t scary. Resident Evil and Silent Hill are survival horror. Weapons and ammo were few and far between. In Dead Rising, you can use almost anything as a weapon. I beat a zombie to death with a park bench. And yes, it was as satisfying as it sounds.

Dead Rising is a very special game to be. It’s one of the two games that brought me back to modern video games. The other is Dragon Quest VIII. From the moment I heard of Dead Rising, I wanted it. It looked like the perfect zombie game. There really is a lot to love in this game.


Frank West is a reporter looking for a good story. He heard about some sort of riot breaking out at Willamette, Colorado. So he hires a helicopter and flies out there. Much to the surprise of nobody, it turns out that there wasn’t any rioting. There were… gasp!… zombies. Frank lands at a mall, where he figures survivors are at, and investigates. He discovers that the zombie plague was intentionally released by a guy named Carlito Keyes.

Carlito Keys, the sexy antagonist

Carlito Keys, the sexy antagonist

Carlito unleashed the plague to avenge his town, which was destroyed because of the plague. You see, the plague wasn’t natural. It was accidentally created by Dr Russell Barnaby, a researcher for a U.S. scientific research facility. Barnaby was trying to find a way to mass produce cattle since Americans were running out of meat. Once the accident was discovered, the U.S. government covered it up and the military showed up and killed everyone. So yeah, he wanted revenge.

Dr Barnaby

Dr Barnaby

There was a lot more details than that. But because I don’t want to type 15,000 words in this review, I’ll summarize. Frank had to fight survivors who went insane. He had to rescue survivors trapped around the mall. He had to deal with the U.S. military when it showed up to, once again, cover up the accident.

The story had a good pace to it. Plot progressed at specific times, so the player could explore the mall and have fun (saving survivors and/or defeating the insane) around the mall. Sometimes I did get pretty wrapped up running through the mall that I almost didn’t make it back to a specific location to let the plot continue. Fortunately, I didn’t miss any of it, though the world won’t end if you miss a plot point.

The story in Dead Rising is optional!


First, more on the optional story. Dead Rising was made to be a sandbox game. You can do what you want. The game lasts for 72 hours. That’s when Frank’s ride will come to pick him up. So, the player can do the story. Or if the player wants to ride bikes for the 72 hours, he can as well.  Or the player can have Frank try on clothes. Or maybe only save survivors. Really, it’s up to the player.

Second… everything’s a weapon! You see a park bench. That’s a weapon. The TV? That’s a weapon. You pick up a pitcher of orange juice? Toss it at a zombie’s head because that’s a weapon. The pistol you took? Gasp! That’s a weapon. I think the only thing in the game that’s not a weapon are survivors. You can’t pick up a human being a beat a zombie to death with one. And that’s a shame dang it!

Oh! And Frank levels up. This can be frustrating for some. He gets faster, gains new fighting moves, becomes stronger, and carries more items the higher he goes. It is a little bit odd that Frank can’t move very fast at the beginning, so I get why that annoyed people. You’d figure a grown adult should have the ability to run like hell from zombies at the beginning.

The items that can be found in the mall is a really nice touch. The game rewards exploration. There are books that enhances almost everything (healing items, lets weapons last longer, etc). Also, there are weapons that can only be found at certain locations. So once you find those weapons… oh man, it’s like Christmas. Except with zombie guts everywhere because you’re running them over with a lawnmower.

The music for this game is awesome. Enemies have their own themes. The music that you heard in that youtube video (Beastie Boys ripoff, right?) was the theme for escaped convicts that stole a military jeep.

Finally, you get to carry over Frank’s level in the next playthrough. So let’s say you are getting frustrated at a part and want to start a new game. You can start the game and keep what you earned through leveling up. It makes the game a lot… and I mean A LOT … easier.

So the game’s a touch dated and does have some problems to it. But despite it, I still have a lot of fun playing it.

The Ending

If you do all the right things, the game continues on past the 72 hour mark. You find the military is covering everything up. And even worse? Frank’s infected with the zombie virus. Frank has Carlito’s sister, Isabela, to help make something to stave off the virus before it kills him.

Suggestive, eh?

Suggestive, eh?

Isabela and Frank eventually find a way out of the mall. But the problem is, they have to go through a military blockade to do it. That’s where the game gets weird.

Once they reach the blockade, the game plays very differently than the rest of the game. And that’s never good when it happens. Frank’s on the back of a jeep and he has to shoot down missiles that are being fired from a tank. Assuming the player can do that, then the jeep gets blown up… and Frank decides to fight the tank driver, Brock Mason. He’s the military commander responsible for the cover up in Carlito’s home town. And as it turns out, he was going to kill everyone in the mall.. survivors and zombies alike. Frank fought him with nothing more than his fists. Once defeating him, Brock falls down into the zombies surrounding the fight and dies.



And that’s not what Dead Rising is about. Dead Rising’s about using everything and anything as weapons. Not in this case, for some reason. A good number of people who’ve played this game that I talked to hated this. And you know what? They have a point.

I’ll confess something… I liked it. There was something satisfying about beating the hell out of the guy with nothing more than my fists. It felt right… like I was fighting him man-to-man.  Here. Check it out for yourself. Maybe you’ll see what I mean.

After Frank wins, I love how he screams just before the credits. I see it as a scream of frustration over the entire situation. Sure he won. Sure he defeated the bad guys. But he was infected with the zombie virus. He was living on borrowed time. There was something unfair about it… so he screamed.

And after that, we are treated to the song ‘Justified’ while watching the credits. For me, it was a good way to end the game. But as I said before, I get why other people didn’t like it.


You can pick up the game fairly cheaply because it’s over 6 years old at this point. I think Capcom released a Platinum edition of it. So do yourself a favor and pick it up if you have the chance. I think the game holds up well and it is a lot of fun.

Here’s hoping you’ll give this game a chance. It deserves it.


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