Dead Rising 4 Preview

Frank is back for a Black Friday bloodbath.

E3 can feel a lot like a zombie apocalypse. Everyone moves at a rotting pace, the smell is sometimes unbearable, and you have to fight the urge to chainsaw the whole lot of them just to get a trinket. It may look “cool” from the outside, but inside is a no-holds-barred fight to the death. Well, fight to the nearest kiosk anyway. It was fitting then, to find solace in my time with Dead Rising 4, a game all about killing everything around you with whatever you can find and taking pictures along the way.

Dead Rising 4 marks the return of Frank West, investigative journalist turned revered zombie slayer, back in the bloodbath that is Willamette, Colorado. This time around, he's sixteen years older, though certainly not wiser if he's back in Colorado on Black Friday). My hands-on time with the game was limited, but I was assured that how I wished to kill every non-living thing around me was only limited by imagination.

The demo opened on a chilly November evening, Christmas decorations already in full swing because this is America and Thanksgiving means nothing anymore. Equipped with a lightning axe, I was ready to do some full swinging of my own, cutting through hordes of undead shoppers like they were rotting fruit cake. The Dead Rising franchise has always prided itself on rendering hundreds of zombies onscreen, and this one is no different. The undead was packed like zombie sardines, making my destination seem like an ocean away. A zombie ocean.

Ranged, melee, and thrown attacks are all mapped to different buttons on the controller, making switching between them a breeze. Immediate threats were no match for my Norse-approved lightning axe, which shot bolts of electricity in all directions. As I got closer to the fire station, I picked off distant targets with my Roman candle crossbow, turning enemies into a bloody Fourth of July BBQ (reminds me of back home).

I closed in on a glowing purple container. I recognized that hue; in the gaming world, purple means rare and powerful. Sure enough, inside I found a wearable exo suit. Equipping it allowed Frank to pick up the nearby mini-gun, which I used with glee. Running through the fire station, I passed by an ice sword, and while that may be cool for a Final Fantasy game, Frank West preferred to pack some heat. I dropped the mini-gun and threw a rocket-powered punch at the nearest group of zombies. All of them exploded in a mist of red and I cackled aloud as those nearby stepped away in fear.

The demo led me to follow a helicopter, promising supplies but instead dropping me a big, fat, flamethrowing mini-boss to fight. Keeping my distance and using my roman candle crossbow, I quickly laid waste to him, and what dropped was a Dead Rising dream come true. A vehicle appeared, battle-weary but packing some serious heat in the form of a rotating rocket turret. The guy running the demo was quick to point out that, with a single press of the X button, the turret would continuously fire as it spun around in circles. This, folks, is why we play Dead Rising.

No camera could capture the amount of glee spilling out of me as I drove through the Willamette streets, a cacophony of violent sound and bloody fury that left the screen shaking. I watched as my kill count began to total in the hundreds. Within a minute I had laid waste to over one thousand undead citizens, my audible laughter drawing the attention of the other attendees. One of the guys running the booth just muttered “wow” under his breath as he looked in awe. I was close to beating the daily record, he said. I had twenty seconds on the clock (timed for demo purposes) and eighteen hundred kills under my belt. I put pedal to the metal and mashed that X button, leaving the game little time to render more zombies for me to kill. In the end, I had just shy of two thousand kills.

“Second place!” cried the demo attendant, and he handed me a pair of Dead Rising socks. I walked away feeling confident in Frank West’s newest adventure. The controls felt tight and responsive. The weapon variety was continuously charming and volatile. With a promised 4 player co-op and a wider range of new enemies, Dead Rising 4 is shaping up to be an entertaining addition to the Xbox One library when it comes out December 6, 2016.