Dead Rising is an odd series
With the 4th game recently launching, the identity issues of the Dead Rising series have become more apparent than ever. This is on display when going to the game’s Metacritic page, containing a mixed to positive critical reception, but fairly low user scores indicating a game that hasn’t fared well with the more die-hard fanbase.
Really most of this comes down to a division on what Dead Rising is about. Depending on your source it’s very hard to pin down a central idea of what the “Dead Rising fan base” thinks of the series, because the opinions vary wildly depending on the source. Generally however this comes down to one of two camps:
- People who like Dead Rising thematically. The surface level idea of open areas filled with zombies and toys to mess around with said zombies.
- People who like Dead Rising in design. These are the people who admire the combination of time limits and other quirks in Dead Rising’s design that make it unique to play.
And I don’t believe either stance is necessarily invalid. Personally I belong to the latter camp, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people who have come to the Dead Rising series for different reasons to my own. However the issue with a fan base like this is that Capcom are stuck in a situation where they can’t please everyone. Streamlining the game to allow for more freedom for the thematic fans in 4 has led to a backlash from the design focused fans of the series. However if they stick to the more traditional design quirks the first two games followed then Capcom would be subjecting themselves to a backlash from the thematic fans.
My personal solution to this is that Dead Rising needs a spiritual successor. And not just an identical game, because by simply making one game with a timer and one without would just result in 2 games running with the same issue on both sides. No, what the series really needs in my opinion is a spiritual successor
without the zombies.
Now before you all start throwing your metaphorical tomatoes at me let me explain. The problem with having both the timer and the zombies in the game is the appeal of the zombies. Zombies are simply too mass market an idea, and inherently attract the wrong people to the series. Creating a successor with a similarly behaving, but ultimately different enemy type separates that part of the series and allows for the appeal to be squarely focused on the game’s design quirks. Therefore, the people that buy and play the game have a better idea of what to expect. From there, you have a series with a unified fan base with a more solid identity that knows where to grow.
However, I won’t say this is a perfect solution, and it still leaves a lot to be desired. For one, it puts a twice the pressure on devs, simply because you’re making 2 series. If Capcom were to spearhead this themselves you could mitigate the problem by sharing engines, but still. Also, if a successor was being developed at a separate studio it’d involve entrusting those devs to implement Dead Rising’s design features well. Because without Capcom’s Vancouver team and Keiji Inafune unlikely to do anything of the sort any time soon I doubt an independent successor would have anything to do with the team from earlier DR games. Not only that, but design focused fans of the series still have compromise to put up with. Separating the design from the IP means developing new characters and locations, meaning design fans would have to part with Frank.
I know this article sounds like nothing more than paragraphs of wishful thinking, but as someone invested in the series I would like to see a brighter future than the path they’re taking. It’s never too late to correct course and breathe new life into a series, 2016’s DOOM is proof of that. Personally I feel like this audience division is the biggest ignored factor, and what needs to change is a more wide recognition of the fact that both types of fans do exist, and they’re both after a game that caters to their taste.
…Or they could just pull a Metroid and make nothing instead.