Anyone expecting Frank’s Big Package to give them a good stuffing this Christmas might not be as happy as they’d hoped, but at least he’s got some stamina…
Game: Dead Rising 4: Frank’s Big Package
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Reviewed on: PS4 Pro (a copy was provided for review purposes)
Dead Rising 4: Frank’s Big Package is so violently mediocre that it actually made me question my credentials as a game reviewer and lifelong gamer. This happened early on, just after I’d worked my way through the tentative opening sequence that sees popular returning hero Frank West join forces with maverick student Vick, as the pair infiltrate a suitably generic facility that is rumored to be used for conducting vile experiments on zombies and humans alike.
Slight spoiler, but not long after that, a cornered Frank finds himself in league with ZDC agent Brad Park, an unlikely ally. By hook and by crook, really, the pair find themselves returning to Willamette (where the first game was set) during yet another zombie outbreak in yet another newly built (and even more massively more massive) mall. Sigh. It was then that my epiphany hit me, as I stared at a burning helicopter surrounded by probably a hundred identical zombie enemies. Not similar, not a little bit alike. Identical. Every single zombie was dressed in the same green, red and white Christmas elf outfit.
At first I thought “maybe this is some kind of in-joke. Those guys at Capcom Vancouver are so crazy.” I killed the zombies. I explored a bit more of the mall. Every zombie was wearing that same outfit. Every. Fucking. One. But that wasn’t the only problem, oh no. You see, Dead Rising 4 (I refuse to call it Frank’s Big Package any more) is the closest I’ve seen to a triple-A, big budget game that was copied and pasted almost entirely from start to finish using the unacceptable bits of past games.
I am one of those rare and unloved Dead Rising 3 fans that thought the grainy look and open world setting really worked alongside base-building and bonkers crafting mechanics, and as a Xbox One launch title and early exclusive, I felt like it offered good value. Sure, I also appreciate (but don’t like) Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2 for their unique nature, craziness and level of difficulty, but Dead Rising 3 is my baby. Dead Rising 4 is like none of the games that came before. It looks like hot garbage, it offers next to no challenge (except on the fourth difficulty level, which had to be patched in,) features no notable objectives or side missions and has…. I dunno… A crap mini-golf game to make up for it…
The worst thing is, it has none of the personality of the previous games, which means no timed missions or sense of threat, no Psycho’s (which are now replaced by utterly insipid Maniac’s) and perhaps most surprisingly, a drastically reduced number of crafting options. There are some other characters besides Frank, Vick and Brad to interact with and take along during certain sequences, but you’ll never care about any of them (or even really consider them to be under enough threat to worry about.)
Now, I am probably being a bit harsh, because whilst everything I’ve said is correct and for the first hour or two of Dead Rising 4, I was ready to pack it all in and go back to PC gaming, it does get better. Firstly, Frank West is well scripted and well voiced, which (in my opinion) makes Dead Rising 4 Frank the best central character of any Dead Rising game, including the others in which he has starred. It took me a while to come around to the idea that this was a story all about Frank, really, and that no one else was going to contribute. Once I did that and the game began to feel like a fairly linear action romp, I began to do better with it.
It also offers a feature called “Cases” which basically involve Frank using different viewing modes on his camera to identify clues and record them (because you know, he is a photojournalist) which is quite fun. The first example occurs during the prologue, for example, and Frank and Vick must identify the three incriminating elements in one of the labs in the secret facility. This also introduces us to the night vision mode and the fact that Frank can score points for taking particularly spectacular (aka horrible) photos of zombies, death and carnage. He can also take selfies, if that’s your thing.
The other feature that appears after the first couple of hours is the true open-world nature of the game, although I didn’t find it as compelling as that of Dead Rising 3. Willamette’s mall may dominate the theme of the game and the majority of its notable sequences, but the suburbs and neighborhoods that surround it are worthy of investigating, if often only for your own perverse amusement as you pilot a hybrid between mobility scooter and go cart that shoots electric pulses at zombies front and centre. Frank is also sent much further afield on his adventure, which results in more secret lab exploration, but by that point the story is moving at a pace and if you’ve stuck with it that long, you might as well hold on until the end.
Dead Rising 4 also introduces some new enemy types, which in addition to the Maniacs (basically just angry humans) there are also a number of super zombies. Explaining how this comes to pass would alleviate you of some of the slender pleasure that the game has to offer, but broadly what you end up with is some of the 28 Days Later style zombies that sprint and chase after the player, as well as deal more damage and take more before they fall. Thankfully, no matter what the plot tells you, they are just as dumb as the other zombies and remain relatively easy to defeat.
Once you finish the main story (which most people will if they can get over the initial hump of the first hour or two) then you’ll be able to take full advantage of the Frank’s Rising DLC which is bundled with the game. I’ll avoid spoilers here, but needless to say Frank stars once again, and you’ll find a few more hours of story that continues at a similar pace to the latter half of the game, making it quite an enjoyable way to extend your playtime. I don’t really feel the same about the mini-golf DLC or the various bundled outfits that this version comes with, because frankly that stuff is just McGuffin that doesn’t interest me in the slightest.
To use its full title one last time, Dead rising 4: Frank’s Big Package delivers about twenty five to thirty hours of content, of which about seventy-five percent is actually enjoyable. There is a co-op mode (which was not in the original) and there are probably other additional bits and pieces that I might not have noticed, but unfortunately I didn’t play the game when it was first released around a year ago. Regardless of the fact that it does pull its socks up later on, I have no doubt about the fact that Dead Rising 4 is the weakest in the series overall and it really does narrowly avoid disaster on the strength of its lead character and late-game storytelling.