As a longtime film lover, my opinions on the remakes or the retooling of more daring, original work has vacillated between wanting to appreciate said originals unaltered versus my own ADD tendencies. In games, this is best exemplified in my struggle to finish the original PlayStation three-disc epic Final Fantasy VII. I love the midi score, love the mid-'90s anti-government possibly pre-911 pro-terrorist slant, but… wow, the blocky, low-polygon characters, the clunky controls, and lack of voice acting can be tough for anyone who grew up in the era of the PS3 and beyond. Many games from the SNES and PS1 can feel like a chore to new players, but the payoff, to fall in love with these characters, go on these quests might just be worth the trip. For FFVII, and its remaster, I’m sure this is the case. For Dead Rising, however…
No one (okay, I’m pretty sure no one) will ever wax poetic about any early 720p HD games of the Xbox 360 or PS3 generation that weren’t already amazing in the first place. We love 2007's Mass Effect despite the dated gameplay and many are still addicted to Call of Duty II’s tight controls from 12 years ago, but there were a plenty of titles back in the mid-2000s that didn’t need to be brought back to the land of the living in an "unaltered" form. (No, 1080p and 60fps isn't enough of an upgrade if you ask me,)
Even back when Capcom’s first installment of the mildly popular Dead Rising debuted, critics and gamers complained about the terrible story, the flat characters, dull graphics, and the worst offender of all, a terrible save system. With the release of the somewhat favorable, easier-to-control Dead Rising 3 in 2013, you wouldn’t be crazy to think that the opportunity for a redo of the first three DR adventures (Dead Rising 1, 2, and Off the Record) would keep the characters and story intact but improve the gameplay and the visuals. But this is so not the case here.
Nearly a decade later, Capcom is out to recapture the feeling of mowing down hordes of zombies with chainsaws, toasters, and inflatable hammers with the “HD” re-releases of Dead Rising, Dead Rising 2, and Dead Rising 2: Off the Record for Xbox One, PS4, and PC. All three titles have been bumped up to 1080p at 60fps. Each title also includes all additional DLC costumes, in case anyone was curious.
If you’re a fan of this series know that these titles are faithful to the original releases. If you’re new to Dead Rising know that these 1080p versions are indeed faithful, for better and worse.
Dead Rising HD Remaster
In the series debut, Frank West is a freelance photojournalist who flies into a lone suburban town overrun by zombies. The shopping center location still plays like a nice homage to the original Dawn of the Dead with common (and not so common) appliances becoming Frank’s arsenal, as he tries to survive a 72-hour period. The hook, at the time of the game’s original 2006 release, was the seemingly unlimited amount of onscreen zombies to kill or be killed by.
At a locked 60 fps, the carnage is way more solid now, but the limited four-axis movement still makes navigating even the widest of spaces feel claustrophobic. Visually, this is the biggest bump in color of the bunch, although the cut-scenes can be muddled looking up close. Dead Rising was a fun premise that had too many older-generation holdovers: the aforementioned lack of save points, that could only be done in restrooms, a seemingly random high score vibe, and a sandbox that was drab instead of inspired. (3/5)
Dead Rising 2 HD Remaster
The sequel put players in the role of Chuck Greene, a professional motorcycler with a cute but infected daughter named Katie. Using the same 72-hour cycle as the first game, Katie adds to the list of things to pay attention to, since she needs Zombrex every 24 hours. The Vegas-like setting was a step up from the previous game, but the controls and voice acting were still never very engaging. Still, this was my personal favorite until Dead Rising 3.
I didn't notice any framerate issue in any of the three, but DR2 impressed with the bigger areas and more NPCs to take down. There were little instances where the colors seemed more rich. (3.5/5)
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record HD Remaster
I never played this title upon release since I was not a big fan of the Frank West character in DR1. New areas of Fortune City are explored. This might probably the best-looking of the bunch (originally), I suppose, but I’d give the edge to DR2 as my personal MVP regardless. The framing is the most standout aspect when it comes to the visuals. It's no Max Payne 3, but there's a lot of pizzaz thrown in. Again, all the levels looked good. (3/5)
Note: Although the three games are developed by two different studios (QLOC handled DR1 while Mercenary Technology did DR2 and DR2: OtR), I couldn’t see any noticeable differences aside from that in DR1 you hit X to skip the cutscenes and in DR2 it’s the start button.
For fans of the Capcom’s Dead Rising series a double dip to play these slightly more colorful, better framerate versions is a no-brainer. For newbies, though I’d say stick with Dead Rising 3, which is the superior version of the series.