With Dead Rising 4 mere months away – though not for PlayStation gamers – the time is right for an opportunistic re-release of some of the earlier games. Acting as a prefect primer for the series, this re-release triple pack includes Dead Rising, Dead Rising 2, and Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, and if you don't fancy shelling out for all three, each one can also be picked up individually. It's initially disappointing to see that Dead Rising 3 didn't make it into the bundle, but on the positive side, this is the first time the original Dead Rising has appeared on a PlayStation platform, allowing anyone who missed it last generation to experience this first outing, warts and all.
Even back in 2006, Dead Rising was a hard game to like at times, mainly due to some very unusual design choices. Aggressive time limits, constant escort missions, and annoying boss fights very nearly stifle any fun Dead Rising has to offer. Fortunately, scavenging all manner of unusual weapons from the mall that serves as the setting, and using them on the zombie shoppers, was, and still is, a lot of fun.
The story also turns out to be more entertaining than you might recall, and while it's still clichéd as hell, you'll have fun watching unflappable photo journalist Frank West take everything in his stride, as he battles zombies, psychopaths, and cultists – all while trying to get to the bottom of just why this small American town's been totally overrun by the undead.
The idiosyncratic game design mentioned earlier in this review are still in full effect in its re-release, and if you know which side of fence you're on when it comes to the Dead Rising series, then you already know if you're going to have a good time or not. There are a couple of noticeable improvements that do polish the experience, with a boost to the framerate and resolution making the action run much more smoothly that before, but this definitely won't be changing the mind of anyone who developed a dislike for the series the first time around.
The only other obvious change over the decade old version is the inclusion of multiple save slots rather than just the one. This is a very welcome revision, especially since it's possible to cut yourself off completely from the game's true ending if you happen to save your game at the wrong moment, and didn't leave enough time to complete one of the main story missions.
When Dead Rising 2 arrived four years after the original, it attempted to improve the series' formula, while still keeping everything that made Dead Rising feel unique. This meant less demanding timed objectives and refined controls on the one hand, but also the same annoying escort objectives and absolutely dire boss battles on the other.
This slavish desire to keep almost every element of Dead Rising intact for its second outing – albeit with some tweaks – means it does very little to try and appeal to anyone who didn't care for the first game. For anyone fully on-board the Dead Rising zombie train, though, the addition of a weapon crafting system, as well as online co-op and a multiplayer mode, makes Dead Rising 2 a thoroughly enjoyable title that represents a marked improvement over its predecessor.
As with the other two games that round out the Dead Rising Triple Pack, this port is pretty much an exact translation of the version released during the previous console generation. As a result, anyone looking for improvements outside of a better resolution and increased framerate might feel a little let down, but when you're having a good time smashing zombies, it's hard to feel too upset at the lack of any major changes.
In Dead Rising 2 the story moved from Willamette to Fortune City – a caricature of Las Vegas – with Frank West also being replaced as the hero. Taking his place was Chuck Greene, a motocross ace, who must venture out into the zombie infested city in search of Zombrex – a drug his daughter needs every 24 hours, in order to stop her becoming a full-on member of the undead.
Understandably, fans of the series were a touch disappointed with Frank being subbed after only a single outing, and while Chuck definitely grew on you, he's certainly no Frank. Always keen to please their fans – and seeing a chance to make more money no doubt – Capcom decided to alleviate this disappointment, by releasing the third and final title in this collection, Dead Rising 2: Off the Record.
Off the Record is essentially a re-imagining of Dead Rising 2, but with a down on his luck Frank West once again taking centre stage as the protagonist of the story. This is more than just a character model swap, though, as numerous changes needed to be made to the story structure, and missions, in order for any of it to make sense. A new area, the return of the photography mechanic from the first game, and many other tweaks, make for a remixed – and more challenging – version of Dead Rising 2, that's essentially fan service for anyone who really, really, likes Dead Rising.
The Dead Rising Triple Pack represents the perfect opportunity to revisit this divisive series. While it's a bit disappointing to see only a cursory effort being invested into presentation improvements, it feels as if enough time has passed since the titles were originally released that series evangelists will enjoy returning to the zombie mayhem found in these faithful ports. Newcomers, however, must be warned that any enjoyment you find here may be regularly overrun by a shambling horde of questionable design decisions.