Capcom’s Dead Rising series helped kicked off the last console generation with the Xbox-exclusive first entry and promises to do the same with the release of Dead Rising 3 alongside the newly-released Xbox One. And across three games so far – Dead Rising, Dead Rising 2, and the digital prequel, Dead Rising: Case Zero – what a curious series it is, full of fratricide, odd eroticism, plague bugs, killer clowns, and, uh, photography?
Although reviews are indicating that Dead Rising 3 might take a darker tack with its open world zombie-killing formula – Kotaku says the current game attempts to keep the narrative “grounded,” while IGN isn’t sure if the game knows it’s a parody – we thought we’d revisit some of the stranger choices in the first three games. Let’s celebrate the weirdness of the dead, from the stories, to the mechanics, to the question everyone will ask: why are you so needy Otis, oh god won’t you leave me alone?!
1. After the Zombie Apocalypse, the Televised Thunderdome Begins
Following the events of the first Dead Rising, the zombie plague was simply something the surviving population had to deal with. It was really only a matter of time before the networks figured out how to make them into a ratings phenomenon.
Enter Terror is Reality, the in-game reality sports program in which hard-luck hero Chuck Greene participates to keep his daughter alive with a steady supply of anti-zombification drugs, Zombrex. The show is the mixture of motocross, mass murder, and flamboyant announcers one might expect in the middle of an ongoing zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, and highlights just where the survivors’ priorities lie as the world burns.
2. Being Asked to Commit Genocide
…of zombies, that is. One of the early tests of Xbox gamers’ endurance, the “Genocider” cheevo tasked players with killing 53,594 zombies in the game’s no-breaks-allowed “72 Hour Mode.”
This number is, coincidentally, the total population of the town of Williamette, CO, where the first Dead Rising is set. The achievement would return in Dead Rising 2 with the Z-Genocider 2: Genocide Harder and Zombie Genocide Master challenges, requiring the player to take out 3,596 and 72,000 zombies respectively.
You could always try to find guns and explosives to try to reach this achievement, but if you prefer the truly bulk approach to zombie killing, there’s always smashing them to paste via car in the tunnels underneath the mall.
3. Getting to Use Mega Man’s Gun
Before the series introduced weapon-crafting in Dead Rising: Case Zero, Frank West had to rely on whatever zombie-killing implements he could find littered around the Williamette Mall. And the collection of swords, knives, guns, bowling balls, chairs, and umbrellas wasn’t too shabby (although their longevity left a little something to be desired).
Enter the Real Mega Buster, replicating the Blue Bomber’s iconic weapon from the Mega Man series, unlocked with the Zombie Genocider achievement and available in the mall’s security room in a New Game+, offering a maximum of five hits to kill any enemy in the game.
Now, the Mega Buster only has 300 shots, but you could always run back to the security room to pick up a new one and keep up your Mega Man-inspired killing spree.
4. A Strange Definition of “Erotica”
Not content with being an open-world zombie killing game featuring a quirky clock and bizarre, frequently nonsensical story, the first Dead Rising also had a very unexpected mechanic with its photography system.
Taking pictures was one of the quicker ways to nab XP (“PP” here), allowing Frank to level up with well-shot compositions featuring tons of zombie carnage, human drama, and upskirt photos of zombies.
Sure, you could snap sexy pics of any of the panicked female survivors in the game, but for some of the truly choice PP, you’d have to capture one of the game’s lingerie-clad zombies in action to get the maximum “Erotica” points.
5. Also, This “Sexy” Murder-Suicide
Again, it’s hard to stress how… odd the representations of sex are in the Dead Rising games, but Dead Rising 2 attempted to up the ante with the Bailey Twins, a pair of sequin-wearing psychos ready to slice and dice hero Chuck Greene.
A little cheesecake was, by this point, par for the course for Dead Rising, but the sequel added an extra ick factor with their menacing groping of Chuck’s ally, reporter Rebecca Chang. It’s such a gleefully sick and exploitative sequence, the husky-voiced twins alternately promising a little sex and violence as Dead Rising 2 barreled towards its conclusion.
And to add a little more twisted misery on top of it all, after Chuck dispatches Crystal, her sister, Amber – unable to live with the loss – guts herself next to Crystal, sharing a final, tender touch as her blood pools on a disco floor.
6. Frank the Pimp
Capcom kept things classy in the first Dead Rising with this achievement, requiring players to escort eight female survivors to the Security Room during the game’s “72 Hour Mode.”
The challenge itself is actually kind of cool – essentially, Capcom is tasking the player with getting a high number of survivors back to safety in one piece – a task laid out with the similar Tour Guide achievement in the same game.
That they all have to be female survivors adds an extra layer of difficulty to an already tough scenario, but really, “Frank the Pimp?” This particular achievement shows just what kind of regard the developers at Capcom had for women (very little), making what’s an overall enjoyable game hard to recommend to half of the potential players out there.
7. The Unbearable Loneliness of Otis
Meet Otis, the kindly janitor and one of the reasons why you’ll hate Frank’s walkie-talkie in the first Dead Rising. The character is a nice enough older guy who simply wants to help Frank save the remaining survivors in and around the mall, but mechanically, he’s one of the most irritating elements in a series rife with irritating elements.
Say you’re out, running around, trailing eight survivors (probably female) around behind you, just hoping none of you get shot by a roving Psycho. Well, here comes Otis on the walkie, offering advice on another band of survivors being menaced by zombies somewhere. Oh, and when you respond to Otis, Frank is unable to use his weapons or defend himself in combat.
Hey Otis, maybe next time lend poor Frank some kind of hands-free setup?
8. Maybe the Best Homage to George Romero in Gaming
With its mall setting and commentary (however dull) at conspicuous consumerism, both the first and second Dead Rising titles were the best Dawn of the Dead games never made.
In fact, the similarities between the properties were so close, that Capcom added a notice to the first run of the game, pointing out that Romero didn’t participate in the development of Dead Rising.
In spite of how thin (and problematic) the series is, Dead Rising captures some of the anarchic glee of Romero’s 1978 film, which saw a trio of survivors holed up inside of a Pittsburgh mall following a national zombie outbreak. While Dead Rising was more interested in twisted and increasingly confusing conspiracies involving zombies bugs and Dawn was about how humans would find trying to survive with their stuff an empty, spiritually draining endeavor, both used their mall settings to ultimately let some humans go sickhouse on a bunch of dead people after playing dress up.
Or at least, that’s how I read their legacies.
Previously by Charles Webb: