FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Sep 17, 2006

I cracked.

Allow me to set the scene.

The other day, I received an email newsletter from the video game outfit GameStop. There was the usual info about upcoming releases and deals- including one wherein you get extra credit for every so many games you trade in. "Hmm," thought I, "Surely I can cull my herd of unused games and get something new. Yes, this sounds like just the thing!"

The wheels in my head spun for a bit.

Later that day I walked into my local GameStop with an armful of dusty games and an Xbox. I walked out with brand-spankin' new Xbox 360 and a copy of Dead Rising.

I held out as long as I could, I swear. I read trusted reviews proclaiming its close-to-heavenness. I drooled over info and screenshots. I stared at the game wantonly through the protective glass barrier at Target, sending Dead Rising thoughts of love and promises of "Soon! Soon we will be together...my couch and my snacks will join us, my pet, and you will help me complete my transformation into a full-blown Urban Hermit!" But I'm only human, dammit, and the game is like a big wet dream of everything you could ever want in a zombie video game. How long did I really think I could resist?


In Dead Rising, you play freelance photojournalist Frank West, a brash fella who's on his way to Willamette, Colorado to check out the...somethings that are going on there. Frank instructs the pilot of his chartered helicopter to land in the center of town, at the mall. Frank soon discovers that a good portion of the town's 53,594 citizens are now flesh-eating zombies- and the helicopter won't be back to pick him up for 72 hours.

And so begins some of the most fun I've ever had playing a videogame. The storyline is open enough that you can...err, choose your own adventure. If you want to figure out the story behind the zombie outbreak- a story steeped in government coverups and condemnations of consumer culture, then go for it. If you want to play humanitarian and spend 72 hours rescuing as many stranded survivors throughout the mall as you can, then good luck to you. You could always spend three days hunting zombies 'til your heart's content- it's all up to you.


Anything and everything in the mall is at your disposal to use as a weapon against the hordes of the undead. There are guns and knives and your more conventional weapons, of course, but running them over with a lawn mower is much more fun. Flinging CDs at their heads will only drive the zombies back, but swinging a large sheet of plywood will cut them in half. There's one weapon in particular (some sort of construction device called an 'excavator') that had me doubled over with maniacal cackling upon its discovery and use. The excavator is like a giant drill, one you've got to carry with two hands. Turn it on and stab a zombie...the zombie gets caught on it and will spin around and around, taking down any zombies in your path. Eventually limbs and blood and goo will be flying everywhere as the excavator spins and the zombie breaks apart. It's gory, disgusting, and absolutely hysterical. My current zombie body count- the game keeps track- stands at 5,219. I'll let that number sink in for a moment, as it gives you some idea of the scope of this game.


Ten minutes playing Dead Rising should be enough to quiet the people who lament that "zombies aren't scary because they're so damn slow". I've heard that argument countless times when talking about zombie movies (yes, I do things like talk about zombie movies. That's...wicked cool, right? Right?), and I've always countered that the sheer number of zombies ensures that the zombies will always win. I gotta tell ya, I feel vindicated by Dead Rising. Sure, I'm using a videogame to back up my argument, but hey, I'll take support wherever I can get it.

The zombies wandering around Willamette Parkview Mall are pure George A. Romero-style zombies; they shuffle. Some of them shuffle faster than others, but they all shuffle. Should be easy to survive, right? They're slow! They're slow...but take at look at those screenshots above (yeah, those are screenshots- I love this game!!) and tell me whether or not it matters if the zombies are slow. You can be having a grand old time, smashing zombies with toolboxes and bowling balls and cash registers, watching the body count rise...and it simply doesn't make a dent. They just...keep...coming. And the fuckers are grabby. Get yourself cornered and you've had it.

Dead Rising reinforces a surprising number of my personal beliefs, such as:

-zombies are scary
-the government is mostly evil and engages in cover-ups all the time
-the current consumer culture and flavor-of-the-minute news media are helping to rocket American society to certain doom
-I have negligible willpower when it comes to horror-based videogames
-having negligible willpower when it comes to horror-based videogames isn't necessarily a bad thing
-it may be weeks before I leave the house again

Next-generation zombie videogames...is there anything they can't do?

15 comments:

Josh said...

Please tell me they let you get in that tank and squish some zombies...

Renae De Liz said...

oh god... must see game.... this looks AMAZING!!!

How much is the system??

'nae

Goose said...

I wish I could crack like you, but I am a slave to my computer games. I can't even hold a controler. I don't know what buttons to push.
I love my horror video games, but I will have to wait for it to hit the PC in about 5 years.
Good Gaming

Stacie Ponder said...

See, PC games are a mystery to me. I've never had a computer good enough to game on, but how people manage to play things like Tomb Raider by using a keyboard and a mouse just boggles my mind. I'm not that skilled.

Josh- sadly, no, you can't use the tank (to the best of my knowledge, anyway), but there are cars, trucks, and motorcycles you can run zombies over with. And believe me, I have!

'nae- there are 2 versions of the 360 available, a 'core' system for $300 and one with fancy stuff for $400. This is why I tried to hold out- for a price drop. But with all my trade-ins, I managed to pick up the core system fo pretty damn cheap. Those prices don't seem SO ludicrous when you consider the upcoming PlayStation 3, which is supposed to sell for $600! Yikes.

But Dead Rising is worth every penny.

cattleworks said...

I... remember Pong.
And, I found Missile Arcade (that was the name, wasn't it?) difficult, always impressed by those expert players who just spun that friggin' ball control at the start, spitting out missiles at the bombs falling down.
In other words, I'm no computer game geek.
This is a culture that I am not even at the level of a tourist with a lame Berlitz translation book to help him out.
Some friends of mine have traded stories of video games they grew up with, and they're younger than me, and THEY'RE talking generations of technical development... the quaint, humble beginnings of the Commodore whatever. Shit, i don't even know. but they're talking nostalgically about the little sounds and melodies of some games, titles that are off the moon. It's like I don't even LIVE in this world..!
Sigh.
But, that's not why i write...
My wife and I have more or less decided that we can't invest in a computer game because we are such ridiculously, pathetically, compulsive, obsessive blobs of flesh, we'd never leave the house, never do any chores, never do ANYTHING that requires us being away from the TV and more importantly, away from dismembering zombies with spontaneous weapons of messy destruction.
There's some place in Canada, some big-ass amusement place built by Sega that I guess is just amazing. My wife got kicked off the House of the Dead game there for hogging it-- during a high school senior field trip she was chaperoning (she was one of the teachers).
My god! I lost my wife for a week to the internet when she discovered Harry Potter fan-fiction! When would I see her if we owned a game that allows you to kill literally THOUSANDS of zombies!?
Therefore, in the same responsible way that we decided to have cats instead of small humans, we're content to indulge in the occasional excursion to a 2-player Area 51 game in the game room of a Fuddruckers...

So, I must live vicariously through people like you.

Vicarious is the color green.

m13b said...

I too love this game.

The only thing I don't like about it, is just how bone stupid the survivor AI can be. Be very careful when trying to get survivors through Paradise Plaza. A couple of those little water moats along the sides are impossible to rescue people from if they should fall in.

Apparently, the folks you're trying to save aren't smart enough to step up 10 inches to save their own lives...

Apart from that, it's great fun.

Stacie Ponder said...

Cattle, I know where you're coming from. Once I get going on one of these games, it's hard to pull myself away...I end up losing alot of sleep because I won't start playing until the end of the day when I SHOULD be going to bed. Bah.

Just think, though- I could be robbing houses! Or taking the drugs! Or smoking!

And I'm with you, m13b- I generally loathe games that make you escort survivors. I've had pretty good luck with this one...though I have lost a few to the zombie hordes on the way back to the hideout. Oops! Sorry about that, terrified old lady! At least I got some good pictures. :D

I like the fact that you simply CANNOT save everyone in this game in one go at it. I like a game that rewards repeat play.

theron said...

I'm afraid I'm just old enough for the video game revolution to have passed me by. As a kid, I had Pong (whee!) and we had actual pinball machines in our game room, but the video revolution took place while I was otherwise occupied.

Of course, my kids were/are into games. In the 80s, I almost got hooked - I used to send my kids to bed early so I could stay up all night playing Mario Bros. and Fester's Quest. Then, I took a good look at myself and said "No more." It was sad, really.

Stacie, all I ask is this: Please take a shower soon, okay?

Josh said...

Lead me not into temptation... I have neither the money nor the time to spend killing zombies... haven't...felt... this... torn... since... grand... theft... auto... why... am... I... talking... like... shatner...?

Des said...

Me ams fucking jealous!!!!

How is the text in the game? I've heard there's a lot of text and little audio dialogue. I've also heard that if you don't have an HDTV then the text is unreadable it's so small.

Stacie Ponder said...

Des, everything you've heard is absolutely true. The game (and therefore the text) was made for HDTV-- on SDTV it's terrible. I got used to it after a while and could read with no problems, but initially when a text block would come up, I'd move to within a foot of the TV, squint like Mr. fucking Magoo, and yell "What?! What'd that say?" repeatedly.

That said, I honestly don't think I missed anything- many portions of the game bear repeating, and any text that's absolutely essential is bigger and appears on static (rather than timed) screens.

There's gobs of dialogue in the cutscenes, but none beyond pre-scripted exclamations while you're playing. It doesn't really detract from the game- and I'm used to RPGs. :D

The text issue is my biggest complaint about the game, and uh...hey, it's my OWN fault for not having a 2 zillion dollar TV, right?

cattleworks said...

On a semi-related note: in a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, they give a good review for the book WORLD WAR Z (forgot the author but he had something to do with the ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE which came out a few years back).
It sounds cool. If i understand it right, the book is all interviews, like a Studs Turkel book, interviews with people around the world describing they're hellish encounters with zombies-- oh, yeah, that's the set-up, duh! Zombies have overrun the world.
It's essentially neat made for movie situations, cool stressful scenarios, like zombies overtaking a sub was one thing the review mentioned, and then interviews with the people who were there.
It sounds worth a look for any zombiephiles out there, if they can manage to pull their blood spattered selves away from an undead infested mall...

NINTENDOTHUMB said...

It's ironic that you posted today about "Dead Rising". By a bit of luck I got a chance to play it at a friend of a friend's house. Yes, it is awsome. Yes, I came home and dreamt about the game. Yes, it now owns a little part of my soul. But sadly I have not broken down and bought a 360 yet (and I am too pack rat-ish to let my old, weathered mothball-smelling XBOX be put to sleep just yet.) I thought that the undead game genre hit a high mark with "Resident Evil 4" but this game may go one better just due to the fact that it taps into the childhood (for those of us who grew up in the Romero era late 70's and 80's) fantasy of being swarmed by zombies and being super-dooper strong enough to beat the shit out of 'em with anything you can pick up. I can't wait to get this game.

Steve said...

It's been 8 days Stacie; please shower and come back to the real world. Dead Rising will be there when you return!!!! :)

Stacie Ponder said...

Can you believe that I haven't even been playing the damn game?

No? It's true.

I could use a shower though. Thanks for the reminder!