When it was announced that Dead Rising 4 was coming and bringing back Frank West, part of me wondered why, what story could they possibly tell and why bother with Frank, seems they had a plan.
Frank West is now a teacher, passing on his knowledge and special view of the world to the next generation, basically his is a bitter man, but he knows it and does not care. When his most promising student Vicky Chu drags him back to Willamette to see what a military base is doing, at first he complains, then demands to be taken back or at least to minigolf as was promised, but in the end he relents. What this event kicks off for Frank is a manhunt that has him changing his name, if not his ways and in the end, a member of the ZDC, Brad Park, locates and drags Frank back into the world, as Willamette has once again become home to the zombie scourge.
While Frank is the star, the game does offer up supporting characters to the game as well, Hammond is the city’s engineer, so she can help, Tom runs the local resistance based off a farm and even members of the military group Obscuris are around. While outside of these people, the maniacs, shelter members and other people crazy enough to stick around in a zombie infested town, like podcasters, can all be classified as annoying, they offer little the story and are all very whiny people, which makes interacting with them more of a chore than anything else. Sadly, Frank also falls into this category, there are times when he is macho asshole, defying all those around him and then there are other times when he decides that someone means enough to him to care, the problem is, there is no distinction between the two moods and you have no control over when they change.
What does not change though is the gameplay, at least from Dead Rising 3, the system is still in place to create some really crazy weapons and vehicles, but it is no longer tied to a crafting bench, as long as you have the parts, you can build away. You can still pick up the oddest items around and either use them on their own, there has to be something said about defeating a horde of zombies with a slippery when wet sign, or you can use them to build the weapons. Some items like the electric Christmas wreath are just pointless, they don’t do anywhere near the damage that you need a combo weapon to create and you have to get in close to use them. Then of course, there are items like the Blambow, which combines a cross bow with fireworks and creates one of the best ranged weapons in the game, of course you can’t just create anything, while that would be impressive, it would be almost impractical, so you need to find blueprints.
The hunting down of blueprints and other collectables is the bulk of the game sadly, while the story is there, it only takes about 8 hours to play through, though collecting everything else can increase the games length by 3 or 4 times. The problem is with the collectables and side missions, is that they lack the appeal that past games had, the survivors around the place are all pretty much useless, the only benefit you get to saving them is that they increase the level of the shelters, which you can also find and save from zombies. The problem with all this saving is that it never provides a clear benefit to Frank, as you only really need one and then fast travel, but outside of that, Frank at no time comes across as someone who would care enough to save people. If saving is not your bag then, you can also look for newspapers, mobile phones and laptops, which can provide more insight to characters and events prior to Frank’s arrival and while they do expand your level of awareness to the story, they are not important enough that they change details.
While the gameplay falls to more of the bland side of things, there is no denying that equipping a combo weapon, or jumping into the seat of a combo vehicle and ploughing through the zombie horde is still not fun, it can be downright delightful. The problem however comes from using melee weapons, you can chain attacks together, which in turn lets you keep the combo meter building, which lets you trigger some awesome and devastating attacks, the problem is that chaining attacks from one enemy to another can be a frustrating experience, even more so when the super zombies show up. Frank will continue to attack in one direction, while you attack and you need to stop attacking, point Frank in the right direction and then start attacking again. The problem is you need to attack zombies, keeping the combo going to level up, which you can then use to unlock new skills and such, I found however that just driving through the horde can level you up so fast, it is scary.
Another part of the game that is scary, is just how un-scary the game can be, there are times when Frank behaves like a terrified person, only to crack a joke and then spit out one liners for the duration of a fight. The inconsistencies of Frank aside, the presentation of the game is a mixed bag, the upside is that hordes of zombies no longer just spawn around you, in fact some areas will remain clear of them, once you have taken them out, but that does not stop them from appearing in front of you. Items, other human characters and vehicles all tend to appear without too much warning as well, with that strange pixelated fade in effect some games use, while there are times when you will notice it happening quite clearly, other times it just sort of happens in the background of a cutscene, only for that item to be ignored by the character.
The zombie masses are great to see in full force, the downside to them is that there only appears to be a dozen or so outfits for the people of Willamette, which means that the horde looks the same, removing some of the impact. The game still runs well with the massive hordes on screen, something Dead Rising 3 struggled with, even when you bash through them in a vehicle. The biggest issue with the presentation is the overall quality, there were far too many times where the characters would move their mouths, as if speaking, but no words would come out, thankfully after the first few times this happened I turned the subtitles on. However even the final ending of the game is marred by this, characters would speak, but the subtitles here proved to be of no use as they would not display, or they stuck on the last line from a scene earlier, it was such a problem that I have almost no idea what the characters said at the end, while the actions on screen do help paint a picture, it’s a shame that I actually don’t know what was said.