Few video game villains are as versatile as zombies. The number of settings that they can appear in are unlimited. The range of powers and attributes that they can possess are vast. And because they lack a pulse, the ramifications of killing them are nonexistent. When Nathan Drake murders hundreds of mercenaries in Uncharted, one can’t help but wonder whether he is truly a good person. But when Leon Kennedy does the same to the undead in Resident Evil, there’s no question as to Leon’s righteousness.
The only major downside to zombies is that because of this versatility, there are no shortage of games that feature them – and because there are no shortage of games that feature them, their presence alone is rarely enough to make whatever they’re part of feel special. Few games from the mid-2000s were more acutely aware of this than Dead Rising. The brainchild of Capcom’s Keiji Inafune, Dead Rising cast players in the role of Frank West, a photojournalist-turned-vigilante who tasks himself with discovering the scoop of a lifetime in a zombie-infested shopping mall. While many players picked it up because of this premise alone, most stayed with it when they discovered that underneath laid a challenging, yet deeply rewarding gameplay experience; one that exacerbated the danger of its zombies with a stringent time limit, and an unforgiving save system.
When the dust around its release settled, the industry had crowned it one of the most unique takes on the genre, and a solid demonstration of how the seventh console generation would be able to take the medium to new heights. Yet Capcom was dissatisfied. It felt that Dead Rising could have been better had it leaned more deeply into its Western design elements, and that its development team had been unable to do so because it was almost entirely Japanese. As a result, the company would enlist Vancouver-based developer Blue Castle Games to take over the series in its stead – a decision that helped improve it in the short term, yet stripped it of everything that made it unique in the long term.
This is the rise and fall of Dead Rising.