Typical scenario. I'm two steps from death, bleeding and broken. I've been backed into a corner by an infinite army of the undead, cowering in a maintenance room with nothing but a half empty shotgun, a traffic cone, and a can of spray paint for company. My daughter (A rare example of a likeable video game child) Is huddled in a safe room and needs her medicine in the next 15 minutes or she's going to go zombie on me. There is a psychopath holding a woman hostage on the other side of the courtyard who needs rescuing, but doing that and getting back to my daughter in time is going to be risky at best. Weak and lacking equipment, I've found myself in an difficult situation, what do I do?
Option 1. Play it safe. Sacrifice the hostage, let the psychopath go, Get back to my daughter.
Dead Rising is all about time management. I mean, sure, it's about bludgeoning zombies in the face with a rake as well, but for a lot of the game, success and failure revolve around being able to set things up so you are in the right place at the right time. Ex motocross champion Chuck Greene has a lot on his plate. He's got his sick daughter to take care of, a grand conspiracy to unravel to find the truth behind the zombie invasion of Fortune City, and a gaggle of civilians trapped in the city that need rescuing, and Chuck has to do it all, as well as hold out for 3 days until the military arrive to rescue him.
Interestingly all this happens in accelerated real time, and more than that, the plot runs to a schedule. Where another game might have timed sections, Dead rising is constantly timed. At no point does the timer reset, there's nothing you can do to earn extra time. A mission will become available at a certain point in time, and if you can't get to it in time then it's gone forever. If the mission is plot critical then the plot ends there and then (The game continues however, and ignoring the plot and holding out for rescue is possible.)
Answering calls to rescue survivors or deal with psychopaths (brutally hard optional boss fights) nets you lots of XP (known as PP, or progression points in DR) for improving your zombie bashing skills, but it takes up valuable time that you may not have. Trying to rescue as many people as possible without losing track of the main quest is fun and challenging, and it's this balancing act that brings the real tension to the game, You don't want to abandon your mission, but neither do you wish to abandon other survivors. You can't let these people get torn apart by zombies and psychopaths! What kind of a person are you? (Not to mention the PP bonus for a rescue is enormous)
So yeah, I cant bear to sacrifice people. Option 1 is no option at all.
Option 2 then. Come out guns blazing. Rescue the hostage, bludgeon the psycho, be the god damn hero.
Problem. Guns blazing requires guns. I could come out swinging, but a traffic cone doesn't really make for a decent club, and spray paint isn't really a great distraction against he legions of undead. So what do we do? We improvise. In the maintenance room I'm cowering within lies a workbench. A workbench that allows me to combine items. Turns out that a traffic cone and a can of spray paint makes an air horn. An air horn that explodes zombie heads. Who knew?
The combo system replaces the photography based levelling of the original game Wandering the malls and Casinos of Fortune City will find Chuck full of armfuls of things he can bodge together with a little duct tape, and combo weapons are consistently brutal, imaginative, and hilarious. Itís an enormous pleasure to play around and discover a new way to horribly maim the hapless dead, and the game rewards your efforts with buckets of PP
Even without combining the junk scattered around the city, youíll rarely find yourself yourself struggling to deal with the undead. Zombies swarm in intimidating hordes thousands strong, but ultimately are pretty soft, going down in a few hits. Staying clear of groups will protect you from the worst of the bites and grabs, and itís the pressure of the time limit forcing you to take risky routes or fighting without health or weapons that get you into trouble. Still, since Iím planning on taking out the psycho this time, I can spare a couple of minutes arming myself. Blades from a kitchen, a sledgehammer from a hardware shop, and a couple of slices of cake for health, and I'm ready to face this guy.
30 embarassing seconds later, and I crumple in a heap. Reload. Die horribly. Reload. Die horribly. Good grief.
Dead Rising has ridiculous bosses. Enormous health sponge bosses. Lacking any kind of zombie mutations or supernatural powers to explain their impossible resilience, they quickly become frustrating. This would be more tolerable if things were consistent, but instead weapons damages frequently seem entirely arbitrary. An enormous jack hammer modified with a brutal spear might lose out to a simple machete, and most firearms only do the most cursory damage.
Coming from cleaving a swath through the easy hordes of zombies, itís something of a shock, and I wouldnít be surprised if the nature of the bosses turned more than a few people away from the game.
However, eventually, after a harrowing, drawn out slugging match, he falls. Hostage rescued! To the safe room!