Review: Dead Rising 4: Frank’s Big Package
Dead Rising 4 is back, for better or worse. If you missed out on the game when it originally released, it was probably either because it had (until now) skipped PlayStation 4, or because … well, you heard about it. Dead Rising 4 was an incredibly polarizing game, quickly becoming somewhat infamous for massive changes to both the formula and characters of the franchise. These changes were seen by most as not only being unwanted, but as making the game almost aggressively inferior in comparison with the previous titles in the series. I found myself alienated by a game that radically tried to fix something that — pure and simple — wasn’t broken. Truth be told, I disliked the game so much I haven’t touched it since, despite numerous updates and extra episodes and modes being added in.
A year later, Dead Rising 4 has returned with Frank’s Big Package, a re-release that includes not only all previously released DLC, but also an entirely new mode. While also available for the game’s original release platforms (Xbox and PC), the Package brings Dead Rising 4 to PS4 systems for the first time as well.
First, a disclaimer. If what you’ve played or heard about Dead Rising 4 had turned you off to its original release last year, you should know that very few changes have been made to the main game. There’s a handful of small tweaks and updates, but the grand majority is the same. I figured I should get that out of the way, in case anyone reading was hoping for something more, like a complete redesign. If you did not like Dead Rising 4 when it came out last year, you will not like this release of it either. As such, I won’t be covering the content that was originally included with Dead Rising 4, as we already covered that in a review.
There have been a handful of updates to the main campaign, as previously stated, but nothing I would consider game changing. Enhanced enemy AI, new photography and survivor missions, usable Maniac weapons, and some minor reactive animations to the corpses of zombies when attacked have been added. That last one is a pretty blatant attempt to address one of the many complaints as seen in the excellent CrowbCat video that compared DR4 with the original 2006 Dead Rising. It does concern me that the one issue that they addressed from the video happened to be the very first thing shown in it, especially considering that there were other, much more major issues to address. I can’t tell if I should take this as being a sign of dismissing the complaints with a minor tweak, or acknowledgment of defeat in just how inherently damaged this game was from the outset. Neither one are great options, but one casts Capcom Vancouver in a significantly crummier light.
New difficulty modes have also been added in: Hard and Blackest Friday. This was probably my most appreciated addition, as (without mincing words) the difficulty of the original release was bloody pathetic; I managed to clear the entire game without dying once. The new Hard difficulty ups the ante closer to what the previous games’ difficulty has been, although not as strict simply nature of DR4‘s design (no time system, etc), but it’s ultimately just number changing. Things deal more damage, weapons deal less, etc. It is in no way a new experience, just a harder one. Blackest Friday is truly insane on that scale, with even a single zombie being a massive threat to the player. I’m not sure I recommend that one. I’m glad that some work has been done, but as a whole the changes feel paltry and only the very tip of the iceberg of what this game requires to be brought up on its feet. As a whole, Dead Rising 4 still suffers from a multitude of problems. Minor tweaking like this isn’t going to help win over any of the fans that want a more traditional and arguably higher quality experience. However, there is one major addition that’s coming with this release worth talking about, and that’s Capcom Heroes mode. Bonus: it’s free to everyone who already owns Dead Rising 4.
Heroes is an entirely new way to play through the main campaign, adding the ability to wear special costumes based on classic Capcom characters and dish out those character’s signature attacks on the undead hordes. These range from the mega-popular to the obscure, but each is packed with unique moves and animations. Fundamentally revamping the way Frank plays, each costume acts as a specialized Power Suit, an equipable Mecha suit from the main game. Some are better at certain things than others, and unlocking them all and swapping at one of the many arcade cabinets scattered across the world creates, initially, a fun and hectic zombie killing experience. It’s immediately satisfying to unlock and play as your favorite heroes, from more typical stand-bys like Mega Man X, Ryu, and Dante, to more goofy just-to-see-Frank-in-the-outfit options like Jill Valentine, Cammy, and Morrigan. Outlandish cult favorite characters like Viewtiful Joe and Sissel from Ghost Trick (My favorite game of all time! Ahhhh!!!) are here as well. Each costume has a special way of issuing attacks and even feature unique finishing moves, plus there are special challenges to complete to unlock special Shadow versions of all the characters as well. I couldn’t honestly tell you what benefit there is to playing a Shadow version, outside of the distinct cosmetic difference, though.
There is another suit on the roster, and it’s a freaking crime it took an entire year for this to come to the game. By default, you can play in Frank West’s classic Dead Rising 1 outfit. It is a little weird that they popped his DR2: Off The Record sunglasses on him, and it’s even weirder that they just didn’t bother adjusting Frank’s camera strap to be lanyard style like it was in DR1. And to nitpick some, his unique gun isn’t the kind that would be available in the first game; attention to detail goes a long way for fans, guys. But hey, it is Frank’s OG costume, and that’s pretty cool. I’m still amazed this wasn’t in the game at launch as an unlockable (not to mention the fact that both this costume and Chuck Greene’s were avaialble for Nick in Dead Rising 3) . It seems like such an obvious option, especially when one of the major selling points was Frank’s return.
If there was one major drawback to Capcom Heroes mode, however, it would be that the vast majority of the game’s remaining mechanics are simply… gone. Since each of the character costumes have their own unique attacks, you don’t use standard weapons at all in this mode — you can’t pick up anything besides health and key items. Oddly, you can’t create combo vehicles either, leaving you to have to traverse either on foot or in one of the weaker standard vehicles. You still use your camera, and you’ll still have to plod through Dead Rising 4‘s story beats. In this mode, you’re also limited to only using the Heroes costumes for the entire campaign, which quickly starts to grow stale. There are 17 of these character costumes, but unlocking each one is time-consuming and difficult, as each requires a different set of conditions to unlock, such as story progression, in-game vendors at specific locations, and so on. This means swapping between Heroes will grow tiring, as you’ll be limited to only a handful for most of the game. Let me tell you, even playing as your absolute favorite Heroes starts to bore when there’s so little you can actually do with them.
It is fun; honestly. It’s hard not to smile when handling a favorite character. At the very least it’s a major saving grace that you can unlock these costumes for use in the regular game as well, but boy do I not feel like playing the whole game this way. With the base game’s already-reduced variety compared to previous entries, enduring Capcom Heroes mode’s additional limitations is borderline upsetting. Perhaps if this had included new multiplayer content, or even just acted as part of a straight sequel to Dead Rising 3‘s excellent Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 (yadayada) it might have been able to avoid the sense of fatigue that sets in. It’s a shame, because the idea itself is incredible, and I will sing a thousand praises for Capcom giving my boy Sissel another ten seconds in the spot light.
With the main offerings out of the way, it should be noted that this version of the game also includes all previously released DLC: Frank Rising and Super Ultra Dead Rising 4 Mini Golf. Apparently, we never got around to reviewing those, so I’ll go over them briefly.
Frank Rising sucks. A lot. What should have been included in the main game as the series’ traditional Overtime Mode, instead is a short and largely ordinary-feeling addition to the story. Through its very existence, Frank Rising spoils a major event that happens at the end of the main game. The new gameplay additions suffer from the same issues that I went through with Capcom Heroes, mainly that the already-limited amount of things we could do in the main game is cut down even further because of the special circumstances of the story. Certain aspects of the gameplay don’t even make any sense in-universe. I guess you’re already getting this DLC if you pick up Frank’s Big Package, but that doesn’t make it better.
Super Ultra Mini Golf fairs a little better, insofar as it’s just dumb fun. This DLC is surprisingly long; you’ll play through a number of super-sized mini golf courses set in the map from the main game, created with Halo Forge-style neon ramps and special “green” placements. I’m no expert on Mini-Golf games, but it plays okay and is generally kind of a good time if you’re playing online. Get past what in the world this is doing in a Dead Rising game in the first place, and you might have a good time. Some of the holes are wicked difficult, and it can be fairly engaging if you set time aside to play it on its own. That said, it is worth mentioning that the ball physics don’t work especially well. For instance, the ball will occasionally just stop dead for completely unexplainable reasons. Like a lot of other aspects of DR4, Super Ultra Mini Golf is buggy.
As a whole, Frank’s Big Package is just more of Dead Rising 4, and that’s not necessarily an exciting prospect. I wish I could be more positive with it, but the game falls too short on too many levels for these additions (however major some of them may be) to really improve the experience. The change won’t make it worthwhile for someone that didn’t enjoy Dead Rising 4 to begin with. I do think there is something to salvage here, but it would require more time and effort than I imagine the game’s sales would allow for. Off The Record showed us before just how amazing a second pass at one of these games can be, and I feel that the same could probably be done for Dead Rising 4. At best, it is perhaps a great foundation for something more fleshed out (and more traditionally Dead Rising) to use in the future. As it stands, though, Frank’s Big Package and the base game it springs from both fumble with misplaced ambitions and a disinterest in what had made the series popular in the first place. Like I said when we started, if you didn’t like Dead Rising 4, you won’t like this. An effort was made, for sure, but it just isn’t enough to fix an inherently undesirable experience.
(5 / 10)
PlayStation 4 review code was provided by the publisher.