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Dead Rising

Gaming's Defining Moment: Dead Rising

Fifteen years since the series' debut, we reflect on the iconic zombie slasher.

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Later this year, Turtle Rock Studios is releasing its take on a zombie-slaying video game with Back 4 Blood. For the most part, the game is regarded as a spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead, another zombie slayer that actually debuted back in 2008, and has remained a popular franchise thanks to a creative community of modders on PC. But, before Left 4 Dead waltzed onto the scene, there was another zombie-slayer, one that came from Capcom and put you into the shoes of the iconic Frank West to survive the unfathomable undead hordes: the game of course was Dead Rising.

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Set in a mall, the ultimate playground location for a sandbox zombie-killing game, Dead Rising used an in-game time system to define how long players had in a single playthrough. This style opened up plenty of free avenues in how someone could experience the world, but also ensured that there was a storyline to follow to some degree. It wasn't the greatest design for a narrative plot to shine through, but Dead Rising made up for that with an absurdly fun sandbox, overflowing with weapons and tools ideal for blitzing through masses of zombies.

The reason this is important is because Dead Rising was one of the earliest, big name examples of a zombie-slaying open world that gave players the options to conduct themselves as they saw fit. When it debuted back in 2006, it felt wild, crammed with possibility, and fresh, and was the sort of game you could spend hours relentlessly chewing through waves of the undead. It never quite delivered on the fast-paced nature of Left 4 Dead and didn't quite have the scale of say, Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare, but it also never failed to disappoint in its levels of excitement and engagement - and being a forerunner of this design, it helped sculpt others that came after it.

Being stacked up against hordes of zombies with the expectation of surviving by literally gunning or slashing your way to safety was hardly revolutionary. Hell, Resident Evil was already in its fourth game at this point and we'd all seen arcade machines like House of Dead at every place you can loosely dub an 'entertainment venue'. But Dead Rising was one of the first main line video games that took zombies, placed them in an open world, and combined it with enough arcade tropes that it never felt frightening or overwhelming - because it was simply... fun.

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One of the areas that really elevated Dead Rising's enjoyability was in its weapon choices. You could use a massive range of items and tools, some of which were incredibly effective, for example chainsaws, whereas others could be the polar opposite, i.e. a children's toy. And, this huge range of over 250 usable items served as a great starting point for the wackiness of the series, absurdity that evolved into being able to combine weapons together in Dead Rising 2 onwards, to make some truly ridiculous tools. A personal favourite was the Heliblade, which creatively involved strapping machetes to the rotors of a toy helicopter. From a physics perspective, it was far from plausible, but boy was it fun to use.

This very factor is why Dead Rising is an iconic game, because it was innovative in what it looked to bring to the table. Now, granted, Dead Rising hasn't really evolved at all over the 2010s. The games have become more polished, and up to date, but they also haven't strayed too far from the formula introduced in the 2006 original - heck, the fourth game even used Frank West as the protagonist once again, after seeing other chaps take the mantle for Dead Rising 2 and Dead Rising 3.

But, the point is, 15 years from the launch of the original, this series still has a place in the games industry. With the fifth game being cancelled by Capcom, and the studio, Capcom Vancouver, now closed, it seems unlikely that we'd get a continuation of the series anytime soon, but hopefully, this zombie slaying IP hasn't quite met its grim end yet. Whether it's another sequel, a reboot, or a remake, we'd like to see Dead Rising back on the scene, and with the series soon passing its fifteenth anniversary, the ball is entirely in Capcom's court.

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