In porting Dead Rising to the Wii, Capcom may have very well constructed the best advertisement for the Xbox 360 I have ever seen. I don’t have a 360, and as a PS3 owner, one game I’ve always been envious of is Dead Rising. I am a huge fan of all things zombie related, and when the original version of the game first came out a few years back, I was genuinely astounded by the size of the zombie crowds, but being a rational person, I wasn’t going to buy a third console when I was generally satisfied with at least one of the ones I had bought this generation. So imagine my delight when I heard that Dead Rising would be seeing a port to the Wii. It was a feeling that faded pretty quickly upon playing the actual product. Having never played the 360 original, I can’t say with complete certainty that the port is completely gimped. That said, it certainly isn’t the strongest game in the Wii library, and will likely be a disappointment to hardcore owners looking for something to bolster the less-than-stellar offerings on Nintendo’s little console.
Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop follows Frank, a freelance photojournalist pursuing a possible story in the small town of Williamette. Flying in by helicopter, he finds the town cordoned off by the military and infested with zombies. Departing his ride, he winds up trapped in a mall packed with the undead. The game follows him as he and a small group of survivors try to make sense of and put an end to the bizarre happenings of what is going on. Compared to other zombie-themed games, the story doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is none of the dire corporate conspiracy of the Resident Evil games. The game is clearly geared toward simply having fun with the situation, and though it offers more than a few situations that can only be termed as completely insane — the chainsaw juggling clown boss is nuts — it’s all pretty much in good fun.
The game suffers from numerous problems. Most noticeable from the get-go are the visuals. Dead Rising was one of the first games to really impress on gamers what this generation of console might be able to do. The Wii version comparatively shows how little the Wii can do. Gone are the teeming crowds of zombies. In their place are a smattering of the undead, placed closely enough together to be a hazard, but lacking any of the impressiveness that defined the 360 game. Occasionally at choke points, you’ll find a compact group of six to around a dozen zombies, but little more. The game attempts to shore this up with consistent re-spawns, but it comes across as cheap. You’ll pick off zombies from a distance and see replacements literally appear out of thin air. On one hand one can suppose it’s not much different from the endless hordes you would face in the original, but it still feels markedly less satisfying to be sniping zombies from afar and have replacements popping up before the the dead ones hit the ground.
On a more basic level, this is a very ugly game, even for the dated technology of the Wii. There have been several Wii games with nice looking visuals, but Chop Till You Drop just isn’t one of them. The game is plagued by the sort of rough edges and ugly character models that one might attribute to the early years of the PlayStation 2, or in its worst moments to the later years of Nintendo 64. The only bright spots are the cutscenes and these are taken straight from the 360 version and reproduced as FMVs.
Looking at the gameplay, there are high points and low points. The game isn’t devoid of fun. On a purely arcade level, it is fun as hell to run around capping zombies. I would just about giggle with glee every time I came across a chainsaw and couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer macabre humor of literally mowing down a pack of zombies with a lawn mower. If you’re looking for nothing more than blood, gore and violence then this would be a fine candidate.
The game’s downfall is its complete and utter lack of variation. The entire game is just one long process of running into the mall, avoiding or killing zombies while making your way toward a survivor in need of rescue, or in the case of story-related missions, some obscure objective standing in for a survivor. Add to this a lack of any sort of real challenge once you’ve mastered the controls. Even the boss battles, which are at least insane enough to be interesting, are too easy for their own good. Money for weapons is always plentiful and leveling up is effortless. One can jack up the challenge by playing the hard mode of course, but it would be nice if the normal difficulty would offer at least a modicum of challenge. There are some hard parts. The main zombies aren’t ever much of a threat, but the zombified poodles and parrots can cause you some problems simply because they’re more aggressive, harder to hit, and consistently respawn.
The controls too offer both a mix of good and bad. Like with the Wii edition of Resident Evil 4, you aim your guns with the Wii remote, which works remarkably well as long as you’re sitting a reasonable distance from the television. I wish more games would try to incorporate this somehow. Chop Till You Drop tries to incorporate further motion control, a la remote waggling for melee attacks but it isn’t responsive enough to be practical. Thankfully the developers let you perform the same attacks with the A button. There are some special moves that can be activated through motion control sequences, but generally they’re pretty useless. You’ll get by best on your basic attacks.
There are some glaring problems with the control scheme though. It may seem like a minor issue, but the reload system is highly flawed. Conveniently, Chop Till You Drop features both a quick select menu for selecting weapons in real time and a more traditional inventory screen accessed by pausing the game. Both are relatively handy most of the time. To reload you simply reselect your current weapon in the quick select menu. This would work fine except for that the quick select menu is accessed using the Wii remote’s d-pad, and its small size makes it very easy to push the wrong direction. I can’t count the number of times I would push the up button to reload my handgun and at the same time nick the left button. Rather than reloading I would end up equipping my sniper rifle which, defying all shooter logic, is pretty useless throughout much of the game. It’s a flaw that doesn’t break the game, but it might have been nice to have a button devoted to reloading.
Beyond these issues, the game doesn’t have much else to complain about. The audio is fine, but doesn’t really do much beyond the bare bones necessities. The voice acting is high quality; I couldn’t think of a single character who seemed miscast. The Wii version also fixes many of the save system problems that plagued the original. You have multiple save files, and the game lets you save whenever you want, so no matter how you mess up in the game you can easily reload and try again. Overall, after a few hours of play, I suspect most people will be ready to move on. Honestly, if you have either of this generation’s other consoles, you’d be better off waiting for Dead Rising 2.