Frank West and the Dead Rising franchise have been around for 10 years. This month sees the release of the fourth game in the series, and you can expect the guys at Capcom still have a few surprises up their sleeves.
Dead Rising was first released back in 2006, with Frank West quickly cementing himself as the lovable protagonist of the series. Not unlike Evil Dead‘s Ash Williams, West’s light-hearted take on the looming end of the world, combined with the simple beauty of completely dismembering bodies, has made him something of a cult hero.
But now, in a market saturated by zombie/survival games, movies and television series, some might wonder how the Dead Rising series has managed to remain both relevant and revered. If you ask Joe Nickolls, studio head for Dead Rising 4, it’s thanks to players’ relationships with the game.
“The series has evolved so much, and everyone that’s been on that journey has felt as though they were a part of Frank’s world. We felt we really had to invest in the Dead Rising brand, because we hoped it would be around for a very long time. Everyone has a different relationship with the games, and it’s important that we embrace that in order to grow the series.”
The Dead Rising franchise has long been known for its ludicrousness. Sending the living dead flying with whatever long, rigid item you can find lying about has always drawn the masses, and with DR4 introducing the exo suit, you can be sure the insanity will continue.
“One of the hallmarks of the game has always been putting things together with duct tape that otherwise shouldn’t be near each other,” offers Nickolls. “You’re always thinking, ‘what’s the next stupid thing I can do?’ So we came up with the idea that maybe you could just combo yourself,” he laughs. “We designed this suit that you could build upon; it lets you punch cars, and rip up parking meters – all it really does is make you more powerful. But of course, you can then combo that again. You can walk up to a slushie machine that makes frozen drinks, and combo that with your suit, which gives you this ridiculous weapon that shoots ice tornadoes and ice pellets and icicle bombs. It was the dumb, logical progression.”
Of course, what good are ridiculous weapons without something to fire them at? In this Dead Rising, the Horde has been revamped. “We’ve always had the regular zombies – I just like to call them a herd of cows. They’re not too terrifying, they’re slow, and you can mow them down like bowling pins.,” says Nickolls, who wanted to amp it up a bit this time around. “We’ve now introduced the ‘freshly infected’ – it’s very 28 Days Later. If they bite you, it’s game over. Don’t think you can climb onto cars or anything to get away; they’ll just climb on after you. They’re a lot more athletic and agile. It’s gonna be crazy. They can then go one of two ways – they can become a part of the general horde, and just wander off meaninglessly, or they can become a lot smarter and more perceptive. Kind of like the raptors from Jurassic Park. They wear you down and finish you off. It’s awesome.”
In case you hadn’t already guessed, the recipe for a Dead Rising game is simple – zombies and outlandish weapons. To those still struggling with the concept, Nickolls likens it to a nice meal.
“The analogy I give to a lot of people is if you look at a serious survival game or a serious zombie game, I equate that to a steak dinner. It’s like a nice steak dinner. You make an appointment to have this dinner, and it’s an important commitment. We, on the other hand, are a greasy cheeseburger. You bite into that cheeseburger and it goes all over your shirt, and it’s super satisfying, dirty and messy – and it’s amazing. A couple of days later you go ‘yeah man, I want to do that again,’ and that’s what Dead Rising is. We’re this guilty pleasure that you just love to keep going back to, again and again. I think that’s because we know exactly who we are, and what we are – we don’t try to pretend to be something else. That’s what keeps us fresh.”