I never enjoyed horror. Why would I want to engage with media specifically designed to make me anxious and uncomfortable? Not my bag, sorry. Thankfully, zombies often bring the perfect mesh of horror and goofiness that makes the genre far more easy to get into. Telltale’s The Walking Dead, for example, lets you into a world where the horror isn’t in the immediate terror, but rather lies in the interpersonal tension and the fear of assimilation into the mass.
Dead Rising doesn’t use zombies in this way. It doesn’t make you question the human condition and the essence of what it is to be alive. No, Dead Rising puts you in a shopping mall and fills it with the undead and a whole pile of toys with which to kill them.
Playing as Frank West, a giant-headed photojournalist who has covered wars, you know, you’ve got to survive in what amounts to a zombie-slaughtering playground. Honestly, it’s a perfect location for a survival not-quite-horror adventure, with all the sweet gear you could possibly want for wanton murder and destruction. There’s the obvious - grab a chainsaw at the hardware store and churn through the undead like hot butter - and the slightly more off-the-wall - you can go to a sports shop and pelt golf balls at their heads for miniscule damage.
There’s a story about uncovering the mystery of the zombie outbreak, as well as boss battles against bullet-sponge human enemies, but you’re not really playing for that. The bosses are actually some of my least favourite experiences in all of video games, forcing you into ridiculous situations against enemies with way too much health and damage output for a first playthrough. It’s all worth it though, for that blissful time between missions. Trundling through the mall, picking up whatever nonsense you can find, guzzling orange juice and coffee creamer, slicing up zombies and discovering everything Willamette Mall has to offer. It’s not a serious horror experience. It’s a power trip where you kill zombies the way everyone thinks they’d be able to when the apocalypse hits.
We all think we’d be Frank West. Not a single one of us has it in us. He’s out here killing baddies in a baby onesie and Mega Man blaster in hand, taking pictures and gaining XP based on Amount Of Gore. I’m cowering in the corner waiting for the inevitable clutches of death.