Dead Rising Chop Til You Drop: Review

Exciting times again! This weekend I played through the first six eigths of Dead Rising Chop Til You Drop for the Nintendo Wii. Coverage of this title in the gaming sites was poor (in the end we had to stoop to look at IGN for the review). It may be that the release of some long awaited PS3 game meant that no one really properly reviewed this game. Which, is odd considering it is a wiimake of one of the best next gen titles yet.

For all you who played the original and want to know what's what or for those having second thoughts about buying it on the Wii. Here's the low down:

Something Old.
Three years ago Dead Rising was released on the Xbox 360. And it was great. DRCTYD, is almost the same Willamette Mall and the game will be instantly recognisable to those who saw or played the 360 version. Frank, Tits, Brad, Otis and the rest of the gang are all present and correct. Some of the psychopaths are still here, all the cutscenes and most of the original shops. The aim of the game: to survive three days in Willamette Mall, rescue the odd survivor and perhaps find out the truth behind the mysterious outbreak....

Something New.
But it isn't all the same. There have been a number of additions and a number of removals. Some good, most bad.

1) Poodles and Parrots. For no reason whatsoever there are now zombie parrots and poodles running around the mall (the poodle or one of them is Madonna! the poodle from the 360 version). You can probably ignore the parrots (who will dive bomb you or drop grenades on you) as they'll probably hit you once or twice through the whole game. The poodles however. As soon as you hear their snarl you go into some kind of panic. Shooting the poodles is very hard with the over the shoulder cam as they tend to run around in circles at knee level. After a short time you learn to snipe them all from a distance because if they get up close they can keep mauling you a la Resident Evil 1 dogs. Annoying and everywhere. Fortunately, later on they appear less to make room for the..

2) Zombie Chiefs. Unfortunately, although a fair few of the psychopaths are still present and correct, TGAM favourite lesbian cop Jo, war veteran Cliff and annoying photographer Kent have been downgraded from full characters to 'super'zombies that randomly appear throughout the mall. Over and over again. Sometimes together. Players not acquanted with the original may be perplexed by their appearence but we're glad they are in at all.

3) Escort Agency. Escort missions are still available although instead of Otis radioing over and over again (this has gone thank the gods), you now get these missions from him directly. Unfortunately, the art of escorting has been massively downgraded. You can no longer direct escortees to safe areas whilst you clear a path. Instead they stick to you like glue. You can no longer do three or four escort missions at a time, you have to do them one by one (although you can escort more than one person per mission). You can no longer give the escortees weapons. Some of them have weapons but from experience you can't rely on them to use them to defend themselves or you. This is a big shame as creating a unit of tooled up survivors was very gratifying in the Xbox version. This time around, you are reduced to escorting Ashley Graham around over and over again. However, either through the reduced zombie hordes or a slight upgrading of their pathfinding skills they are much less prone to getting into trouble as in the original version. Of the 20 or so survivors I've escorted back only one came anywhere near to potentially dying and I didn't have to handhold them half as much as I would have in the Xbox version.

4) Zombies! Nearly everywhere. Perhaps the widest criticism of this game before it was out was the massive reduction in the number of on screen zombies. To be honest, this didn't really ever seem to matter. In side by side comparisons, sure it looks bad but playing the game, it never felt sparse and there are always more groups of zombies off in the draw distance fog. Occassionally, this is jarring. After clearing an area from a distance you take two steps forward only for twenty more zombies to 'appear'. A number of areas in the game have been slimmed down. You no longer have a free run across Paradise Plaza, the first floor of the Entrance Plaza, Wonderland Plaza or North Plaza as a number of cheap barriers serve to channel Frank into set zig zag paths across these areas. Before, part of the fun was planning your own route from A to B via thousands of zombies. In the Wii version you have to take the set course, which after 30 or 40 times of doing the same run through Paradise Plaza starts to grate. Also, Frank can no longer walk through the water in the Leisure Park or Paradise Plaza. The sprawling leisure park of before is now more of a largish garden. Which, isn't neccessarily such a bad thing and the convicts in the sodding jeep seem to have gone which is nothing but a good thing in my book.

5) The White Man Cannot Jump. It's true. Many reviewers have pointed out that Frank can no longer take photographs but many forgot to mention he can't jump anymore. This means that the game takes place more or less on one level now. No jumping around, no crowd surfing, no wall kicks, no jumping kicks and much much less use of ingenious little short cuts. You can still jump in some areas a la Resident Evil 4 by pressing A + Z but it isn't quite the same.

6) The White Man Cannot Punch. This version is much much less about meleeing. It's much more shooting oriented. Of course, there are still plenty of items to pick up but you find out very quickly that meleeing gets you not very far, very quickly. The wrestling moves and the awesome disembowel have been downgraded, if present at all, and can only be done on stunned zombies. A is for Slash attacks and waggling performs a special move with the chosen object. For poles, swords etc. this is a heavy swipe. For larger items it is throw. And despite trying a lot, it appears you can no longer put buckets, cones, teddy bear heads or lego heads on zombies :( The number of weapons has been cut back as well meaning that some shops (music shops) are no longer worth ever going into because you can't pick up CDs to use in a last resort. This game is much much more about firearms which, changes the feel of the game a great deal. Instead of picking up and using guns until they run out of bullets, each gun has ammo a la RE4. Furthermore, Cletus (the gun store owner psycopath) no longer dies but becomes the gun shop after you beat him. This undermines his role in the game somewhat. Firing from the hip is gone too.

7) Time Goes By So Slowly. Gone is the feeling of frantically running through the mall with a small army of survivors as three more mission timers click down. Everything can be done at a much more leisurely pace, speed only contributing towards a rank. For me this also changes the dynamic of the game. The best (and worst) part of the 360 version was racing against the clock and many hours were spent desperately trying to save all the survivors, kill all the psycopaths and complete all the story missions. This time around it is easy to do all of these things, time limits have all but been removed and survivor rescuing no longer competes with the main story. For some this will come as a welcome change and allow people to see the whole game for the hardcore this is a shame and reduces the replayability quite a lot because most of it can be done in one sithrough (there seems to be some element of unlocking secret missions, probably associated with rankings).

8) Clothes horse. I was never one for changing clothes much. The standard wrestler boots, woman's dress, goblin mask suited me fine. In the Wii version, Frank is no longer dressed as he is in the game in cutscenes, he reverts back to his default gear. This is perhaps the biggest tragedy of them all. Custom characters in cutscenes is totally under rated. A black mark for Capcom here.

9) Control Freak. Depsite countless playthroughs, I would be a millionaire if I had a dime for every time I pulled out the camera instead of going for a headshot in the 360 version. The controls for the Wii version are significantly improved and allow for quick changing between melee weapons, guns and big throwy weapons. Healing is done via the menu which stops all those annoying occasions in the original when death was more to do with desperately trying to find a melon in the inventory rather than lack of skill etc.

10) Text me. I played these two games the wrong way round. I played the Xbox version on a non HD TV and the wii version on an HD TV. Either way it is inexcusable to release a game where some people might not be able to read the text. This time around I got a little bit more of a sense of what was going on rather than chasing the objective arrow and hoping to make sense of what it was I was supposed to be doing once I got there.

Something Borrowed.
This is not so much Dead Rising: Wii edition as Resident Evil 4: Dead Rising Edition. Downed zombies drop ammo, cash and health as in Resident Evil 4 (and 5) and all actions (opening doors, jumping over counters) are reliant on button pressing and prompting. Dead Rising on the Xbox 360 was not a Resident Evil clone. Dead Rising on the Wii is. For those still in two minds about this game, this may be the deciding factor. If you liked the Resident Evil 4, particularly the mercenary missions then by all means get this you'll love it. If you can't stand not moving and firing, shooting at all or over the shoulder cams, get out of town.

Players who own Dead Rising on the Xbox 360 but don't really play it anymore, obviously, don't get this. Players who don't have it might want to try this version (it's a helluva lot more approachable than the 360 version). For fans of the game itself I would recommend picking it up and playing it through a couple of times at least. It's a nice reimagining of the original and without the urgency of doing everything at once you get to take pleasure in wasting thousands of zombies in Willamette Colorado.
I love this game.

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