Capcom made waves at the beginning of the Xbox 360’s lifecycle with the then-exclusive zombie game, Dead Rising. The game was seen as a benchmark for what the new hardware could accomplish, rendering hundreds of enemies on screen with very little sacrificed in the way of overall performance. Sure, the loading screens took a while, but other than that, the performance was good. However, the Dead Rising series has disappeared recently, though the reason probably isn’t a mystery.
To be honest, the question should really be “do we even want to see a new Dead Rising game?” considering that the last one in the series honestly belonged on a refuse pile, but that’s not the point of these articles. We’re here to talk about if we’ll ever see a new Dead Rising game, so let’s break down the history of the series to see if it’ll rise from the dead again.
The History of Dead Rising
Dead Rising launched in 2006 on the Xbox 360. Created by legendary game developer Keiji Inafune for Capcom, Dead Rising sees players take on the role of investigative journalist/war coverer Frank West as he heads to Willamette, Colorado after rumblings of a military quarantine. As the game’s name would imply, there’s a lot of zombies, giving Frank 72 hours to survive in a shopping mall, rescuing survivors and uncovering clues to the mystery surrounding the zombie uprising.
The game’s formula, which saw time progress throughout the game with missions appearing and disappearing like clockwork, gave Dead Rising a unique gameplay style. Players would level up and unlock new skills, which could be carried over to a new playthrough, meaning players could farm EXP while learning how to move through the mall in a time efficient manner. Anything you’d learned could then be applied to your subsequent playthrough, where you’d be stronger as a result. It’s a system that’s been compared with Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, which even shared some of the same developers. You could also grab any item you could find in the mall and use it as a weapon, whether it was swords, guns, fridges or toy hammers.
Dead Rising launched to a decent slate of reviews, earning itself a pretty great 85 on Metacritic. There was a bevy of problems with the game, chief among them being the difficulty, the survivor AI being just as (if not more dumb) than the zombie AI, the subtitle text being nigh on unreadable on standard definition TVs, and the dreaded transceiver, from which an old maintenance worker would berate you if a zombie interrupted your call. However, these flaws weren’t enough to stop the game from selling 1 million copies by the end of 2006.
The really interesting part of Dead Rising’s legacy, at least as far as the first game is concerned, comes after launch in 2008. The MKR Group, copyright holders for George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and the 2004 remake, attempted to sue Capcom based almost solely on the premise that both Dawn of the Dead and Dead Rising are based on fighting zombies in a shopping mall. Naturally, Capcom won the case, as the concept itself is “wholly unprotectable”. Perhaps the funniest part of it all is that George A. Romero himself didn’t even know what the hell Dead Rising even was.
It would take four years (and a port of sorts of the first game to the Wii) before Dead Rising would receive a sequel. Dead Rising 2 was developed by Blue Castle Games while supervised by Keiji Inafune and other key staff from the first game. The game launched on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, and took place in a new city, a fictional gambling haven known as Fortune City, with players controlling new character Chuck Greene. A former motocross professional and mechanic, Chuck finds himself trapped in a zombie outbreak, looking for a way to save his daughter, Katey. The game featured a new weapon crafting system that meant players were able to create elaborate, zombie killing death machines.
Alright, it was mostly chainsaws being duct-taped to various items, but still.
Dead Rising 2 launched in the latter half of 2010, though its approach to additional content caused some controversy. An optional, paid prologue/demo by the name of Case Zero was released before the full game, telling the short story of Chuck’s first encounter with zombies a few years before the events of Dead Rising 2 proper. After launch, Dead Rising 2: Case West acted as an epilogue to the game, reintroducing Frank West into the game’s canon. The decision to block off the story to these standalone extras wasn’t quite so well received.
The success of Dead Rising 2 would prompt Blue Castle, then rebranded as Capcom Vancouver, to release DR2: Off The Record a year later, which put Frank West in the lead role and received mixed to average reviews. By the end of March 2021, Off The Record had sold 1.4 million copies. Personally, I reckon it’s the best game in the series, but that’s another story.
After taking a break from releases in 2012, 2013 saw the series reemerge with Dead Rising 3, a launch game for the Xbox One that followed another new character, Nick Ramos, as he tries to survive an outbreak in the fictional city of Los Perdidos, California. The game sought to improve on the formula introduced in Dead Rising 2, with players able to build combo weapons on the fly instead of at specific workbenches. The open world was also expanded to be bigger than ever before, with thousands of zombies on screen. The game also supported Kinect and Smartglass, but, you know, those are pretty much dead now.
Dead Rising 3 received a 78 average score on Metacritic, making it one of the better Xbox One launch games, though to be fair, that’s a bit of a low bar to clear. Dead Rising 3 would receive a healthy selection of DLC post-launch, including the brilliant Capcom fan service focused Super Ultra Dead Rising 3′ Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha. The game itself would go on to sell 2.9 million copies by March 2021.
So, What Happened To Dead Rising? (Also Known As “Dead Rising 4: In Memoriam”)
After bundling the first three games together (Dead Rising, Dead Rising 2 and Off The Record) as the Dead Rising Triple Pack in 2016, along with releasing two straight to DVD/video-on-demand films, Capcom Vancouver released Dead Rising 4 on Xbox One in December 2016 as a timed exclusive, with the game being ported to PC in March 2017 before finally launching on the PS4 in December 2017. It was, and I mean this as one of the biggest Dead Rising fans going, a massive misstep for one of Capcom’s most entertaining franchises.
Dead Rising 4 was billed as this “return to the roots” of what made the Dead Rising series special. The game was once again set in Willamette, with players taking control of a 50+ year old Frank West, who seemed to look better than he did in Case West/Off The Record. Despite the zombie virus supposedly being eradicated, a brand new strain has popped up, creating chaos as a result. It’s down to Frank to investigate what’s going on.
It sounds like a return to what works in theory, and there were some improvements made by Capcom Vancouver which could’ve led to Dead Rising 4 being one of the best in the series. Frank’s inventory was now separated between melee, ranged, thrown and healing, meaning players had more versatility when taking on opponents, while the weapon crafting was taken to some extreme levels. Never mind zombies, some of the weapons in this game could deck God. There was also a greater emphasis on Frank’s skills as a photojournalist, with players using the camera to find clues.
These are all great, but again: Dead Rising 4 was presented as a “return to the roots” of the series. For some reason, Capcom Vancouver seemed to display a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be a Dead Rising game, with perhaps the biggest change being the removal of the series’ usual in-game timer, meaning players could complete Dead Rising 4 at their leisure. It made the game a bit too easy, as the time mechanic added a layer of puzzle solving to previous games. Being able to complete everything in one run means there’s nothing significant to learn along the way, and less reason to play through the game again.
Dead Rising 4 also removed prominent human bosses, who were referred to as Psychopaths, and replaced them with weaker versions known as Maniacs. These fights lacked the identity or threat of boss fights in previous games, with no discernable attack patterns or personality to speak of, leaving them to be utterly forgettable as a result. The developers also promised a more mature version of Frank West, but then went and called the PS4 version Frank’s Big Package.
Just let that one sit for a minute.
Perhaps the final nail in the coffin was how Capcom Vancouver handled the game’s ending. Previously, players could unlock Overtime Mode and the game’s true ending by completing certain conditions, but that mode was removed from Dead Rising 4 in favour of Frank Rising, a DLC that sees Frank trying to stave off zombification. It was timed, so at least that feature returned, but locking the canon epilogue behind DLC rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. At least Case West had the decency to be a standalone game, meaning those who sold DR2 weren’t being forced to buy the game again.
In terms of review scores, these changes didn’t do too much to damage the game’s average ratings, with Dead Rising 4 managing to accrue an average in the low to mid 70s on Metacritic. It’s just a bit less than average for the Dead Rising series as a whole, but where Dead Rising underperformed was commercially. After a few months on sale, the game failed to crack a million units, which is a marked decrease on the series’ average performance in the past. It was also down on Capcom’s estimate of 2 million sales, which likely contributed to the series’ eventual death.
At a certain point, Dead Rising 5 was on the cards. According to the journalist Liam Robertson, who runs the series Game History Secrets as part of Did You Know? Gaming on YouTube, Capcom Vancouver were working on a new game in the series. The project started development alongside Dead Rising 4, and would’ve seen players taking on the roles of Chuck and Katey in between Dead Rising 2 and 3 in a fictional place in Mexico.
The project went through multiple iterations throughout the game’s development, reportedly settling on a formula akin to Dark Souls, but Capcom Japan weren’t impressed with such a drastic shift in one of their banner franchises. Likely coupled with the weak outing of Dead Rising 4, Capcom Japan made the decision to shut down Capcom Vancouver after a huge round of layoffs, and the Dead Rising series hasn’t been seen since.
As for if we’ll ever see a new game in the series, it’s unclear. During an earnings call in 2019, Capcom listed Dead Rising amongst what they referred to as its “superior, proprietary content”, alongside Monster Hunter, Devil May Cry, Street Fighter, Resident Evil and Dragon’s Dogma. With the exception of Dragon’s Dogma, it feels like the other four franchises have reached new heights with either new entries in their respective series, or updates to an already released game. Dead Rising hasn’t been given that same chance to shine once again.
Like with other Capcom game focused entries in this article series, we also have to go back to the massive ransomware attack that led to the premature reveals of a variety of upcoming Capcom games. The leak includes games like Street Fighter 6, new Resident Evil and Monster Hunter titles, along with revivals of games like Mega Man, Onimusha and Power Stone. Nowhere among the leaks was Dead Rising mentioned, suggesting it’ll be a long time before we see the series make a return, if ever.
If Capcom were to bring the series back in any capacity, the best suggestion might be to actually return to the series’ roots and go full remake. Capcom have experienced great success with their remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3, and it looks like they’ll continue that trend with RE4 if the leaks are to be believed. A remade version of the original Dead Rising adventure, keeping the timed survival aspects while upping the amount of zombies on screen and possibly bringing over the weapon crafting could be a great way to reintroduce the franchise to a new potential audience.
With the zombie virus cured at the end of Dead Rising 3, Dead Rising 4 felt like it was clutching at straws trying to find ways to artificially continue the series, especially when they made the decision to bring Frank West back for no real reason. It might be a good time to go full circle and return to the original game’s story, especially with the game on its 15th year anniversary this year. Heck, it’d be a good way to celebrate the franchise’s 20th anniversary.
To circle back to the intro, there’s also the question of if fans want to see it come back, which really boils down to how the series would return. A proper return to form, like a potential remake, would likely be an exciting announcement for long-time Dead Rising fans, giving them the chance to re-explore classic Willamette once again. A return akin to the likes of Dead Rising 4 would probably elicit groans and the sounds of chairs squeaking as people leave the room in droves.
The reality is that the Dead Rising series is in a state of limbo right now. With the usual stewards of the series sent out to pasture by Capcom, it truly is anyone’s guess as to if we’ll see the series make a return. That being said, EA have recently announced they’ll be bringing Dead Space back from the dead after mercilessly killing off Visceral Studios years ago. Maybe Capcom could go down the same route for Dead Rising, which isn’t to say that the “Dead Space model” is a good one. Killing off a studio only to remake their most popular game and expect fanfare is a sucky move.
At least Capcom would have the argument that they made the first Dead Rising.
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