Frank West would make the late "Rowdy" Roddy Piper proud. In one of the most famous lines uttered in a cult classic B-movie, Piper, who went HAM on a horde of evil alien invaders in They Live, boasted, "I have come here to kick ass and chew bubblegum … and I'm all out of bubblegum."
West, the hero of the fourth installment of the Dead Rising video game series, aptly titled Dead Rising 4, is most certainly out of bubblegum. And West undoubtedly kicks serious rear.
As fans of the series will recall, West was the hero of the original Dead Rising (2006), and his return to Willamette, Colorado, which once again finds itself overrun by a zombie plague, is a welcome development..
The storyline is similar to the first game: West, a freelance photojournalist, is back at the Willamette Parkview Mall, which is crawling wall-to-wall with zombies, to uncover a mystery of a secret government research project. He is there to snap pictures of the undead mayhem for the scoop-to-end-all-scoops, which will blow the roof off the story of the century.
Joining West is his ambitious protege Vick, who turns out to be a bit too enterprising, triggering a series of events that lead West once again to be all alone in the shopping mall fending off hundreds of undead attackers.
In addition to the backside-kicking bravado lifted from They Live, Dead Rising 4 borrows heavily from zombie films of the 70s and 80s, most notably George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. What it does best is not take itself too seriously. West is a wise-cracking cynic who spouts cheesy B-movie dialog in the face of certain death.
This sense of humor is what powers Dead Rising 4. The latest installment follows the formula that made Dead Risings 1-3 so successful. West's goofy one-liners aren't the only examples of a game not afraid to poke fun at the zombie action hero genre.
West may be the story's protagonist, but combat is the real star of this grindhouse feature. As you control Frank across the zombie-infested floors of the shopping megaplex, you can make use of just about anything around you to fight off the never-ending swarm of enemies.
For example, you can use the t-shirt cannon to pepper your undead foes with cottony ordnance; better yet, combine that t-shirt cannon with Christmas ornaments to up the ante on your zombie-blasting mayhem. Build the "Blast from the Past" weapon by attaching explosives to a sledgehammer to take out multiple enemies at once.
How about launching fireworks from a crossbow? Think MacGyver meets Rambo and you'll understand the absurd and wildly fun weapon options available to you.
The game is rated M-Mature for violence, gore and language. And although things get very bloody very quickly, the over-the-top presentation and silliness of the action on screen is more likely to elicit belly laughs than upset stomachs.
As you explore the world of Dead Rising 4, completing quests, missions and killing sprees, you have the opportunity to unlock over 100 unique skills to enhance your character. The four skill trees—brawling, fortitude, shooting and survival—let each player choose what is best for his or her style of play.
Frank's photography skills again play a big part in the story, and you need to snap pictures of crucial evidence that will unlock the mystery of Willamette and alert the world to the funny business going on there.
Costume changes are back and just as silly as ever. Take out dozens of zombies with your fire-breathing singing Santa Claus while you wear a ridiculous mask, a suit of medieval armor or cargo shorts.
All in all, Dead Rising 4 is a solid addition to the series. There's not a lot of new ground to cover, which is praise for the original title. Dead Rising got it right, and Dead Rising 4 is more of the same in a good way. If you liked the original, you'll enjoy the new chapter.
Dead Rising 4 is available Dec. 6 for Xbox One and Microsoft Windows, and is expected to be available on Playstation 4 at a later date. Check out the game's trailer below.
Grade: B, for super entertaining zombie combat in a familiar package.
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