Frank West's Out-of-Tune Aria
Look, I know you’re supposed to go into a game (especially if you want to review it later) with as open a mind as possible, but one question continually popped into my head right from the very second Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop began. Who asked for a port of Dead Rising in the first place? Don’t get me wrong, the 360 original (released about two and a half years ago) was great. It was not, however, all that memorable. Unfortunately, Chop Till You Drop makes the game more memorable for the absolute worst reasons.
If you’re not sure what Dead Rising is all about, here’s a quick refresher: Frank West, a freelance photojournalist, gets a tip that something bad is happening in a mall in Willamette, Colorado. It turns out that it’s a horrible zombie outbreak, and with your ride coming back in three days, Frank is constantly against the clock and a massive horde of zombies to uncover the scoop with his camera and find out what’s going on before its too late.
At least, that’s how I would describe the original game. Chop Till You Drop, despite starring Frank West, has no photography, removing the element of taking pictures from the game completely. Yes, you are still a photojournalist, and you still have your camera on you at all times. You just, you know, can’t use it. The thrill of being against the clock has also been removed, so there’s no pressure to get leads or advance the story. Most tragically of all, there are barely any zombies, either, presumably a limitation of the technology the game has been ported to.
So, just about everything that was unique and fun about Dead Rising has been removed. You can’t even jump anymore. So what remains? That’s hard to say, really. Technically, the missions from the original are still there, although many are truncated inexplicably. The game’s first boss, for example, used to take place in the food court, with him on the rooftops of businesses and you shooting at him from the ground level. This multi-stage boss is now reduced to both of you in the table area, you shooting and him doing this weird, kick, thing. Everything necessary to do the original, much more exciting boss fight is still there, but for whatever reason, this boss was changed. Lots of other weird alterations like this are present in Chop Till You Drop, and they make the game less dynamic and exciting all around.
There’s also a lot less to pick up and mess around with, which made liquidating the zombies so much fun in the first place. Now items sparsely populate the mall, and improvised combat is pretty much axed. Instead, the game awards you with a lot of guns very early on and gives you tons of ammo for all of them, which is just sort of lame. Half the fun in the original was picking up whatever you could find – giant teddy bears, guitars, TVs, and so on – to beat on the zombies with. It’s technically still in this version, but severely limited.
Chop Till You Drop was rebuilt on the Resident Evil 4 Wii engine, which might sound like good news. After all, Resident Evil 4 was a terrific game. Unfortunately, Dead Rising is not imbued with any leftover greatness that game might have had. That’s probably because that engine seemed tailor-made for rending dark, gloomy, and gritty locations. When its being used to render what was a very clean, sharp, and sometimes colourful-looking mall, it falters. Chop Till You Drop looks like a grainy PS2 game. It’s not even a particularly smooth experience, either, with inexplicable framerate drops and even a few disc read errors during the compressed cinematics, despite the fact that the disc I rented is completely flawless.
I know I’ve spent the majority of this review comparing Chop Till You Drop to the original. You might be wondering if that’s fair. I feel it is. Ports and remakes will inevitably be held up to the standards of the original work. Even if it came close to capturing the essence of the original, Chop Till You Drop would have been decent, but it doesn’t. It’s a very, very bad game even on its own merits, an ugly, stilted game with compromise after compromise made seemingly make the game nearly unplayable. Some of the changes don’t even make any sense – why remove the jump button? Why put up velvet ropes everywhere that demand you take a stupid, overly long route everywhere you go? Why can’t Frank walk in the water fountains anymore? Why can’t he use his camera? Why do you have to press the ‘Z’ and ‘A’ buttons at the same time to use objects or pick things up? We may never never know the answers to these profoundly dumb changes to Dead Rising, and frankly, it’s not really worth pondering.
Stay far away from this horrible butchering of what used to be a fun game.