Saturday, January 05, 2008

Dead Waning

I'm glad I waited
at least a year before purchasing the 360. It has a respectable catalog and the early titles are already released as Greatest Hits, putting them in the 25 dollar range.

I tried out Dead Rising and it is an example of how some of the best core gameplay can be completely marred by the worst design decisions.

Let me count the ways:

1. Timed fetch quests that culminate in escort quests. I decided I wouldn't bother rescuing any more people after I spent a half hour clearing a path for this lady only to have three things completely botch my progress.

A) Followers have to be a certain number of steps before they will follow you through load doors but the game doesn't tell you if they aren't close enough, B) if you don't get them through the door and then go back to the previous room their position will "reset" somewhere near the middle of the map instead of where you fucking left them and C) I hit a cutscene trigger as soon as I entered the door, but apparently zombies are spawned in based on time because when I went back the path I had cleared was entirely overrun.

2. Unblockable attacks. Zombies will initiate close up attacks. Sometimes you can shake them off, but you will always lose at least one health point. There is no 100% way to detect this, since the distance varies from zombie to zombie. You start with four health points. Whee. Most bosses have attacks that are unblockable and aren't interrupted by your attacks - not even when you slam a sledgehammer onto their heads.

3. The game is based around iteration but without saving any of your game progress. What this means is that you are expected to do a few "dry runs" where you level up your guy a lot and then you play the game "for real". Fuck that. The quests give you the most leveling points and most of them are terrible, so you're basically supposed to do horrible quests over and over again before you arrive at an optimal experience.

4. You'd think that killing zombies using found objects is perfect for core gameplay. Apparently the designers of Dead Rising thought it better to give you some hackneyed mystery plot where you track down zany characters. The zombie killing ends up being tangential because of the stupid time limits to get to the next mission.

5. Horrible characters. Across the board some of the worst, most insipid personalities brought to life by jerky animation and atrocious voice acting.

6. At a certain point in the game the large center park area will spawn a jeep with a .50 cal mounted on the back, containing three violent militia members. So instead of a nice wide open space to kill zombies it's now an area you have to run through as fast as you can while dodging psychopaths. Yes you can kill them but they respawn.

7. When Otis calls you on the walkie-talkie to tell you about missions, you can't fight. Even if you are surrounded by zombies. You have to run around like an idiot until he goes through his whole spiel.

The whole game is shot through with horrible design decisions. I keep trying to get psyched about picking it back up but playing it feels like an actual chore.


The worst thing about Dead Rising is that it could be a great game.

I would center the game around an extended siege, say, a week. You and several other survivors are trapped in a warehouse that is constantly under attack. The gameplay has two parts: fending off assaults and going into the mall to scavenge for needed supplies. The original game already has the player going into stores to grab new weapons/clothes, so wrap this into the core gameplay.

Maybe you'd be tasked with finding a first aid station to raid for medical supplies. Along the way you find a hardware store and pick up nails, which will help you restore some of the barricades.

In Dead Rising zombies are set dressing, a diversion while you deal with the annoyances of the main game.

It's hard to hope for a sequel when the original is such a mess.


Chris said...

Re: waiting a year - you can't go far wrong waiting to buy consoles, I believe. The good games are just as good (most of the time), and the flawed games are just as flawed, but either way they get cheaper the longer you wait. If anything, waiting allows the wheat to separate from the chaff - some of the titles people flip about early in a console's life span become old hat when the fervour dies down.

But no 360 for me yet. I want to give Sony one last chance to win me back before defecting to the beast.

Best wishes!

Patrick said...

The respawning convicts was what did it for me. Fuck this game, and fuck the autistic mentality that went into many of its design decisions.