E3 06: Dead Rising Preshow Hands-On - The Infection Begins

Who knew there was more to Capcom's 360 zombie-killing game than killing zombies?

Capcom was kind enough to bring a new build of Dead Rising--its Xbox 360 brawler starring one photojournalist and hundreds of walking undead--by our offices recently, and we got to start out right at the beginning of the game to see how the early parts of the zombie invasion have turned out. We've previously been tickled pink at the madcap zombie brawling in the game, which lets you pick up any object in the environment and use it as a weapon against the awful creatures. But the new build we played was much further along in development, and we got to see some of the other mechanics in the game at work as well.

You could fight the living dead, or you could just take pictures of them. Your choice.

We had been curious whether Dead Rising was going to be just a nonstop zombie bash-fest, but during the demo we got to see how the progression of the storyline will break down. The game operates on a quest system, with story missions being referred to as "cases" and optional missions called "scoops" coming in over the phone from your offsite ally, Otis. One of the missions we encountered involved an old man who was looking for his wife, who'd been separated from him and was stranded on the roof. We located the old lady and used the game's rudimentary command system to tell her to follow us so we could lead her back to her husband. Accomplishing this goal awarded us "prestige points," which you'll use to upgrade Frank's abilities as you progress.

In fact, one thing we were surprised to find out is that protagonist Frank won't start the game with all the combat moves we've been used to using in previous demos, like a jump kick and a roundhouse kick. It turns out you'll have only a limited set of attacks at the outset, and you'll level up when you've got enough prestige points, which will both increase your base stats (like health and strength) and reward you with new moves.

Another amusing way to customize Frank is through a variety of costumes that you can find in the mall's various clothing stores. We saw him squeeze into a child's outfit, with a tiny T-shirt and shorts, and then put on some kind of weird horse-head mask. Obviously, there's a lot of potential to get silly with this stuff, though we didn't notice any gameplay-relevant effects based on our choice of clothing. But hey, who doesn't like to play dress-up?

You'll be able to gain prestige in a few other ways too. We previously mentioned that Frank will be armed with his trusty camera, and when you take a picture of the environment, you'll earn points based on how busy and how interesting the photo is. That is, the more zombies that are in there, the more points you get. Are those zombies attacking a helpless bystander? Even better. You even see the points itemized and tallied up in the corner of the screen when you view the photo after taking it. This seems like a pretty entertaining way to upgrade your character outside of the core missions.

You know it's hard out here for a pimp, especially with all those zombies running around.

Aside from all these new mechanics, we had a ball just running around the shopping mall in which the game is set, trashing zombies with every available apparatus. Some of our favorites included a bowling ball, which we could use to knock down a bunch of zombies at once ("steeeerike!"), and a skate board, which you can ride around and use to plow through a whole horde of the beasts (though we couldn't pull off a reverse Japan air). Apparently, just beyond the point where our demo ended, you'll gain access to a Humvee that you can use to smear tons of zombies across the pavement. Sounds good to us.

In addition to being more complex than we'd expected, Dead Rising is also starting to look a lot better. Primarily, the frame rate has gone way up, so the game's a lot smoother than it has been in the past, and the team seems to be applying some other graphical touches (specularity and such) at the same time. We're more excited than ever to see the final product now that we've gotten a better idea of how Dead Rising is going to turn out, and we'll certainly bring you further updates in advance of the game's June release date.

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