One of the most unique--and arguably one of the most inspired--upcoming games for the Xbox 360 is Dead Rising, the ultraviolent, slightly campy beat-'em-up from Capcom starring hordes of the walking undead and one very unlucky photojournalist named Frank. Microsoft showed off a new build of Dead Rising at its recent press event in San Francisco, and we couldn't resist jumping on the controls to hack, slash, beat, and bludgeon our way through the latest version of the game's overrun (but still sparkling-clean) shopping mall to see how this quirky zombie adventure is shaping up.
To be clear, the human-on-zombie violence in Dead Rising forms the core of the gameplay mechanics here. Though you'll attempt to seek out and sometimes rescue a few of the remaining humans stranded amid the sea of undead, your primary occupation will simply be killing zombies in every way you can possibly think of. And since there are a lot of zombies in this game, you'd better be able to think of a lot of ways to kill them. Luckily, Frank is a pretty good brawler even bare-handed--you can punch and kick the awful things with reasonable effectiveness, and we found Frank's jump-kick maneuver to be exceptionally useful for clearing the path directly in front of us. Better yet, hitting the attack button again as soon as we landed made Frank perform a roundhouse kick that would also take out enemies directly on either side of us.
But your bare-knuckle brawling is only the tip of the iceberg in Dead Rising. It seems to us that just about everything--and we do mean everything--in the environment can be used as a weapon against the zombie masses in the game. (And if you were stranded among this many undead, you'd get your hands on anything you could, too.) We wandered into an antique store at one point and found a giant battle axe and ceremonial sword available for our use. We used these items to cleave zombies in half in a multitude of ways: at the waist, vertically, and even by beheading--you name it and the creatures were neatly split in twain.
But you won't always have access to such conventional weaponry, which is why you'll have to keep an eye out for anything that might pass as an offensive tool. Of course, that chainsaw hanging out in the hardware store was an obvious choice, which we used to saw the zombies in half much like with the aforementioned antique blades. Sporting goods also made for suitable weapons, such as a golf club, which Frank swung as if engaging in the popular Sunday pastime (fore!) and a hockey stick, which he wielded more like a baseball bat. We even noted that there was a coat hanger available for use as a weapon. But perhaps our favorite weapon was a giant table umbrella, which spanned a good six feet and which we could use as a bulldozer of sorts to plow through hordes of enemies. Tapping the attack button made Frank shove the umbrella forward briefly, but we found we could hold the button down and simply run straight ahead, taking down any of the ghastly things in our path that we encountered. And since some sections of the demo we played contained literally dozens of zombies in a small area, using the umbrella was a satisfying attack method indeed.
We also got a look at Dead Rising's new camera mechanic, which isn't exactly revolutionary but will add an extra layer of gameplay all the same. Since Frank is a photojournalist, you'll be armed with a camera at all times. Of course, any good photog is out for a scoop, and we can't think of a more news-making story than a horde of the living dead overrunning a shopping mall, so you'll be able to whip out your camera with the left trigger to snap a picture of any nearby zombie shenanigans. The more shambling horrors you can capture at once, the more points you'll be rewarded for the photo. For now, this seems like a pretty superficial addition to the game, but we'll be interested to see if it figures into the core adventure once we get to try out a final version.
Luckily, that time is now closer than it was--Dead Rising is slated for release in June, and the game is feeling more complete than it has previously. The artists are clearly adding a layer of polish to the visuals, as we noted an abundance of shiny specular highlights on the shopping mall's glossier surfaces in this recent build. We definitely appreciate the madcap violence that results from pitting one industrious dude against hundreds of mindless undead, but we're eager to find out if there will be more to the gameplay in the final game. Stay tuned for more on Dead Rising as it happens.