I got Dead Rising about a week ago, and I’ve been playing whenever I have some free time. While it is a great game, I find it incredibly hard. The game play itself isn’t really that bad. It’s challenging sometimes, but once you get used to the mechanics involved in killing zombies and escorting survivors, you can do most areas without too many problems. But the game’s save system and the way its missions are set up make the game really frustrating at times. (More after the jump.)
First, you only get one save slot, and you can only save at a few designated places in the mall. I have a feeling that the designers thought the game would be too easy if you could save anywhere and have multiple saves. And it’s obvious that you are meant to play through the game several times instead of finishing everything in one go. But this system just makes it too hard (or rather, too frustrating). Because most of the game’s missions have time limits, you can easily save your game in a place that makes it impossible to complete a mission.
This isn’t a big deal with the optional missions (called “scoops”) since you can either choose to do them or ignore them completely. But there are a number of key missions that are mandatory. That’s fine in and of itself, but the problem is that if you miss one of these missions, the game is over. That’s it. You’re done. So you might be off in one part of the mall happily killing zombies and find that the game just suddenly ends. Of course, the solution to this is to make sure that you take care of the key missions, but that can be harder than you might think.
Even worse, if you’re not paying close attention, it’s possible that you might not even realize that you missed a key mission until you enter the area where it is supposed to take place. If you’ve saved your game in the meantime (remember, only one save slot), you’re screwed. You have to start the game over. The only saving grace to this system is that you get to keep your levels and abilities even after restarting the game.
Just a few minutes ago, I was trying to escort a large group of survivors to safety. After over an hour of herding them through endless waves of zombies, I finally arrived at the security room. But when I went into the room where you save your game, I was informed that I had missed a mission and that the game was over. I was then faced with the choice of starting over from my last save point or starting the game over from the beginning. I wasn’t sure if my last save was before or after the key mission had already ended, and rescuing all of those survivors had raised my level by 4 or 5, and so I chose to start the game over
Once you get a feel for the layout of the mall and when you have to do which missions, this will probably be less of a problem, but right now I’m finding it annoying. The game has other flaws (some of the people you are escorting are obviously brain dead) but I must admit that I still like it. It plays well and has great graphics. While the mandatory missions and the time limits involved do hinder this a bit, it still has the open-ended “do what you want when you want to” feel made popular by games like Grand Theft Auto. And there are just so many things to find and do in the mall, and so many ways to kill zombies, that it’s hard not to like the game.
[Update: 8-29-06] I wrote a followup piece to this initial mini-review and my conclusions were somewhat different.