Every time a new hardware generation comes around, we hear the same old boasts. More polygons! More effects! Higher resolution! Well, you know what, I don’t care about any of that. I want new hardware to improve the way I have to play games, or approach them, and no single game this generation did that more than Dead Rising.
It didn’t just use the 360’s power for shinier sweat and blurrier lens blur. It used it to give us a gaming experience we’d never had before. Even after all these years, it’s tough to try and place the Dead Rising games into a genre, because the kind of game it invented doesn’t really fit. The Japanese attempt – Zombie Paradise Action – may initially seem stupidly awesome, but think about it and it actually starts to work.
It’s survival horror in some ways, from resource management to slow combat, but… there’s just so much combat, and so few scares. It’s a brawler in some ways, since so much of your time is spent fighting, but… you don’t have to fight much at all if you don’t want. There are boss fights, and it’s kinda open world, and… well, it’s just something, OK?
Dead Rising stands alone. Well, alone with a sequel or two. And it’s not often a game is able to break free of established expectations and occupy its own, fresh space in the gaming landscape.
Prior to Dead Rising, zombie games hadn’t really been zombie games at all. They’d simply placed zombie skins over your regular video game bad guy, limited in numbers and generally confined to a corridor or small “arena” level.
But Dead Rising’s ability to show hundreds, sometimes thousands of zombies on-screen at once actually did the undead justice. It led to scenes that truly felt like you were playing through the game’s chief inspiration, Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, as combat became less about timing and combos, and became something zombie fiction could be proud of: crowd navigation, weapon maintenance, scrounging for supplies.
Think about the biggest games, and series, from this past console generation. From Modern Warfare to Grand Theft Auto, Street Fighter to Madden, Bayonetta to Final Fantasy, almost every big game of the 360/PS3/Wii era was merely a refinement of an existing genre. A shooter with more explosions, a sports game with reflective helmets, a Grand Theft Auto game with bigger maps.
It’s sad, then, that in the seven years (seven!) since the first Dead Rising’s release, it remains one of the only games of the entire generation to really give us something new to play with. A kind of game we’d never played before. So thank you, Dead Rising. For that, you are one of the generation’s finest heroes.
Last-Gen Heroes is Kotaku’s look back at the seventh generation of console gaming. In the weeks leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, we’ll be celebrating the Heroes — and the Zeroes — of the last eight years of console video gaming.