Dead Rising 4‘s a joke that’s worn a little too thin. It returns to the series’ birthplace – a zombie-infested mega-mall in the sleepy town of Willamette, Colorado – but this time, it’s in the throes of an equal horror: the holiday shopping season. With that come some not-too-subtle nods to the history of the zombie genre, lest you forget that the the shambling brain-munchers started out as a critique of mindless American consumerism. Given how thoroughly the zombie genre has infected every last acre of pop culture, this line of commentary isn’t exactly fresh. Dead Rising 4 doesn’t seem the least bit bothered by this.
You control Frank West, a grizzled, jaded reporter pushing 50, in a one-man battle against the teeming throngs of undead who have taken the mall. Sometimes, you’re armed with a machete. Other times, with a flaming chainsaw, or a battle axe that shoots balls of lightning. Weird weapons like these – which you craft out of ordinary items you find all over the mall – form the backbone of Dead Rising‘s slapstick take on the zombie apocalypse. On the more extreme end, you have an acid-spewing Santa, a go-kart-turned-minigun-turret, and dozens of other absurd tools of destruction.
Amidst the chaos, there are paramilitary troops sent to contain the outbreak as well as bands of survivors that have gathered together in oddly-themed tribes. The first of which is a group of Arthurian knights, equipped with period-appropriate gear, like halberds and shields. Each group has its own “maniac” leader who’s extra tough and plays their schtick to a tee. They’re the butt of the game’s jokes, not surprisingly. It’s ludicrous to think that within a few hours after the zombie apocalypse, someone would be so committed to a role that they’d risk death in battle to stay in character, but then again, so is a sledgehammer that explodes with every swing. Dead Rising 4 encourages you to just go with it.