Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dead Rising Update

I finished Dead Rising on Monday night, got the "A" ending, and unlocked Overtime mode.

I played the game in an unusual manner--my character was 40th level when I finished the game for the first time, which is very high. Restarting and doing things differently was so much fun that I did that for quite a while, and it's the first time I can ever remember doing that in a game.

In short, the game's a masterpiece.

It's easy for me to forgive its flaws because it does so many other things so incredibly well. I've rarely seen a game that gives the player so many choices, but manages to make all those choices well-balanced. It has some of the most interesting, entertaining gameplay I've seen in a long time.

The save system? I don't like it--and it works. Being able to save whenever you wanted to would have a seriously negative impact on the game, because it would reduce your anxiety level to zero. Having only one save is too harsh--they should have allowed at least two, although you can do that by using a memory card--but what it does is encourage you to restart.

Encouraging someone to restart sounds like a terrible idea, on the surface. Remember, though, that the game takes place in a limited amount of real-world time. Restarting isn't nearly as punitive as it would be in a longer game, and what's happened each time I restarted is that I found additional layers of gameplay that I hadn't been exposed to before.

Blenders and books? Incredibly important, and if I hadn't restarted several times, I wouldn't have understood that. Blenders allow you to combine items that, together, are far more powerful than the sum of their parts. Books make weapons last longer and give you various experience point bonuses. The game was far more fun to play after I figured this out.

If I'd been able to save anywhere, with unlimited saves, I never would have found any of that out. Being incented to restart gives you more opportunities to explore.

Here's an example of the open-ended nature of this game, and it revolves around photography. If this game were just about killing thousands of zombies, it would be one-dimensional--entertaining, to some degree, but very repetitive and one-dimensional.

Adding photography, though, was genius. Pure genius. And scattering special photo opportunities throughout the game (but not making them obvious) was genius as well. You can see these when you're looking through the camera lense, but while you're doing that, you're totally vulnerable to attack.

Opportunity doesn't come without risk in this game. Again, great design.

In the early game (the first day, in particular), photography will build your character far, far more quickly than any kind of zombie rampage you can go on. It's a sensational mechanic in terms of game design, totally out of left field, and utterly brilliant.

Even beyond the design, the game is fantastic. The writing and voice acting are excellent. I saw in several reviews that people were complaining about the voice acting.

Compared to what?

There's not a lousy voice in the entire game, unless it's Kent, the nerdy photographer kid. And there are some outstanding voices, not just average ones. The writing is top-notch for a B-movie in the horror genre. Some of the cut scenes in the last quarter of the game are nothing short of legendary. Truly epic. That's fitting, because Dead Rising is an epic game.

A few notes now and I don't think they're spoilers, although if you want absolutely no gameplay information, stop reading now.

Early in the game, you're going to have an opportunity to go on a side-mission called "Out of Control." It's one of the very few side-missions in the game that will be critical to your future success, because if you complete the mission successfully, the weapon drop is, by far, the most powerful weapon in the game. And it respawns.

Don't forget that storefronts, movie posters, landmarks, etc., almost all have PP stickers. Just focus on something with the camera and there's a green % indicator at the bottom that should help identify PP opportunities as well as tell you how to get the highest score for that particular photograph. Early in the game, photography is a great opportunity to increase your character level very quickly--just don't lose track of your main objectives in the meantime.

When you get to the last day (you know in the opening few scenes of the game that the helicopter is coming at noon), if you have a memory card, save the game to it that morning. Then pull out your memory card. That means you have a second save, and if you get an ending you didn't want, or you just want to try again, you can. Just re-insert the memory card if you want to load that save again (but remember to pull it out so that it doesn't get overwritten--the game will automatically save to the hard drive then).

Great game. Wonderful fun. And I'm looking forward to Overtime mode.

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