I’ll admit it. I’m more than a little weird.
Back when I was kid, most of the people my age would have been having nightmares about a zombie apocalypse, but me, I had dreams. The horror of flesh-eating shambling corpses was absent in my unconscious thoughts, replaced instead with the notion that you could have a hell of a lot of fun with them. Perhaps it was because I played too many video games, but I envisaged taking them down by the dozen with samurai swords and vehicles, comically adorning them with bits and bobs before using them as target practice. Then Dead Rising came along for the Xbox 360, and no longer did I need to dream it, I could actually do it. Well, virtually anyway.
Available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the Dead Rising Triple Pack bundles all the Dead Rising titles from the previous generation into one easy purchase. That’s Dead Rising, Dead Rising 2 and Dead Rising 2: Off the Record for those not in the know. Disappointingly, they’re not so much remastered as just simply ported, meaning that all three titles clearly show their age and no new bells or whistles have been added. That’s not to say any of the games look ugly though; in fact, I was impressed how even the original title held up to today’s standards, and with Dead Rising 2 and Off the Record being previously released for PC, they do exhibit a noticeable upgrade over their previous console counterparts.
Forget about the graphics though; these are old(ish) games, of course they’re not going to blow your mind. What really matters is the gameplay, and the Dead Rising Triple Pack has it in droves. Whilst each title has its own little nuances to make it stand out over the others, all three play out pretty much the same: finding yourself trapped in a zombie infested complex, you’ve got to survive for three days so that you can escape to safety when help arrives. It’s the arrogant yet strangely likable protagonist Frank West and his penchant for taking photographs that make Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2: Off the Record unmistakably the highlights of the package though. Adding a unique element to the gameplay, Frank’s photographical exploits are unfathomably compelling, keeping the experience feeling fresh even to this day.
Frank West or no, playing this trio of Dead Rising games again reminded me of their real attraction: you can play them however you want without feeling like you’re doing it wrong. You can be the hero, battling your way through Willamette Mall or Fortune City on a mission to round up all the survivors and take them to safety. For the genocidal, like myself, you can just spend three days obliterating every zombie in sight in the most weird and wonderful ways. And those who prefer a story and a bit more structure to their games can do their best to adhere to the unique timed missions in order to find out what’s really going on. Of course, the best option is to try to do all three, at once, which is entirely feasible once you’ve expanded your character’s abilities through continuous play – but as long as you’re having fun, it really doesn’t matter.
No matter how much fun you can have by your lonesome though, playing with a buddy in co-op is always better, and both Dead Rising 2 and Off the Record allow you to do so. With a friend fighting alongside you the action is more ridiculous, more destructive, and most importantly, more fun. You can take part in co-op challenges, proceed with the story, or just run riot with crazy weapons you’ve created with the crafting system first introduced with Dead Rising 2. Whatever you choose, it’s always sure to be a laugh.
There are a few issues spread across the three titles that can somewhat dampen the fun experienced however, the main one being the controls in the original Dead Rising. Whilst they are not “bad” per se, they have an element of awkwardness about them that is further exemplified when fighting against a human adversary, and even more so when it comes to using a gun. In time you learn to compensate for them, but the feeling that the controls could be more intuitive will always be there. Thankfully, the controls in Dead Rising 2 and Off the Record are very much improved.
Another issue is present in all three games: psychopaths. It’s not that the Dead Rising series’ equivalent of boss fights are without merit, but it often feels like the combat system just isn’t optimised to deal with them effectively. It also doesn’t help that they tend to soak up damage like sponges, turning what could have been tense encounters fraught with danger into drawn out battles of attrition. Saying that, however, once you’ve developed your character and acquired some serious weaponry, they do in fact become rather trivial. Finally, the series’ antiquated save system can also be a bit of a bore, requiring you to travel to specific areas of the map which are often quite a trek away to record your progress. The current generation of consoles alleviate this issue to some degree, thanks to sleep modes that enable you to leave game states dormant in the background in case you need to dash off, but it can still be an inconvenience.
Even with the few minor issues and inconveniences though, the trio of Dead Rising games included in this triple pack undoubtedly serve a huge amount of zombie slaying fun that any fan would be mad to miss out on. Sure, it’s a shame that more hasn’t been done to make any of the games remarkably prettier than their original releases or tweak their gameplay for the better in any way, but they remain the great titles that they always were bundled at a bargain price. Whether you have fond memories of the original releases and wish to rekindle the love, or have never played them before and suddenly have the urge to commit zombie genocide, the Dead Rising Triple Pack comes highly recommended.