Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dead Rising: The Negatives

I should have titled this post "I Come to Bury Dead Rising, Not to Praise It."

I got an interesting e-mail from Chris Kessel. Here's the part that really made me think:
I’m curious as to what your impression would have been if you tried to play the game through in one take like a FPS RPG.

Well, I would have hated it.

If you're a power gamer, and you want to blast through a game on the first playthrough, then Dead Rising probably isn't the game for you.

That's a double-edged sword, though. Let me explain.

There are plenty of games, particularly on consoles, where difficulty is a vertical wall. First person shooters are particularly guilty in this regard--if you get stuck somewhere, you just have to keep reloading the save until you defeat what's in your way and can continue on your highly linear path.

I've been in dead ends like that many times in the last few years. You really don't have any options except to try that segment over and over again, because if you restart the game, it's with a new character with zero experience. You're starting from scratch.


That's what makes such a huge difference in Dead Rising. If you do restart, you retain your character level and all experience points. The time you already put into the game wasn't wasted.

What this system does is give everyone a chance. You can level up your character and defeat just about anyone in the game just through persistence.

Dead Rising is what I call a "tourist" game. There's so much to do and see that I never felt trapped. Linear games, particularly first-person shooters these days, present such a tightly controlled experience that sometimes they're downright claustrophobic.

Games like that aren't worlds--they're sets. There's no exploration, and I miss that.

In a true tourist game, though, what you can see and do is almost limitless. They may seem dissimilar, but Ultima IV and Dead Rising were both tourist games--vastly different in other ways, but similar in the vast number of things that could be discovered in the world. And you could keep building your character as you explored.

Oblivion is the same way.

GTA is a tourist game, too, and that's one of the reasons it's so popular. GTA also points out the problem with tourist games, though--most of them are never finished and balanced. GTA muddles by in terms of being "finished," but the vast majority of tourist games are failures. At some point, the coherence of the world completely breaks down. Some of the worst games ever made have been tourist games in huge worlds, because when they're bad, they tend to be incredibly bad.

That was a digression, I'm sure you're used to it.

Here's another superior element of Dead Rising: there are multiple ways to defeat any enemy in the game, particularly when you're in an open mall area. I've been consistently surprised (and pleased) by the huge number of strategies you can use.

The bosses can be annoying in a continuity sense. They're not illogical in terms of their place in the story, and most of them are remarkable characters in their own right, but they move so quickly that it feels unnatural (and it is). In the context of a traditional boss fight, that's not unusual, but in a hyper-detailed world that feels freakily real at times, it's jarring.

Hmm. That didn't come out so negative after all. That's what great games do, though--they overcome their flaws, and Dead Rising runs over its flaws.

With a lawnmower.

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