Our gaming trot through times past is usually reserved for retro titles, but Dead Rising – a mere five years young – is a worthy exception. Why? Because it’s arguably the first next-generation game of the current Xbox 360/PS3 era.
Debuting on the Xbox 360 in August 2006, the Capcom-developed Dead Rising is a sandbox game set during a zombie apocalypse. The player, a cocky photojournalist named Frank West, finds himself trapped inside a ghoul-infested Colorado shopping mall, fighting off not only the undead but a handful of human nutcases.
The game lasts for 72 hours (in game hours, not real ones), in which time you can do whatever you want: explore the mall, dress up in wacky clothes and use a massive variety of weapons, both conventional and non-conventional, to off hordes of shambling zombies.
There is a plot, however, and an Overtime Mode which can be unlocked. Rescue enough survivors, defeat the psychopaths and solve the mystery of the outbreak and you get to finish the game properly. It’s not easy, mind you: to rescue enough people you’ll need to zip around the mall quickly, and keeping them from having their throats ripped out while you lead them to safety can be frustratingly tough.
You can make things easier by boosting Frank’s combat skills. There’s an experience point, or Prestige Point system: every time you defeat a foe or rescue a survivor you gain these, and they allow you to learn new moves or upgrade your health. Frank can also use his camera to gain points: taking photos, which are cleverly classified as horror, drama, brutality, outtakes and even erotica (well, it’s a Japanese game) based on their content.
So why is Dead Rising a true next-gen game? Well, the sheer size of the environments and the number of zombies on screen at any one time. Until this point, no other game had come close, and it made it feel like you were living through a full scale undead apocalypse rather than a simple outbreak of a few hundred shufflers. Dead Rising, we salute you.