The Wordcast. It’s like a podcast, but it’s written down, and you read it with your eyes. This week, Callum and Tom discuss the Dead Rising franchise.
Callum: Decided I’d play Dead Rising 2 recently, then kind of got back into the franchise. Then got super interested in why the series lost its way. I spent like a whole week doing loads of research on it.
Tom: OK, straight into it! And what conclusions did you draw on Dead Rising’s failings?
Callum: That it was a franchise that grew at a time when zombie games were both too self-serious and similar, by offering a light-hearted and surprisingly challenging alternative. Like the time mechanics are surprisingly deep and you can play it just messing around or trying to really engage with the story and side-quests.
Callum: But then as the franchise got bigger, the studio misunderstood why it got so popular and opted for more zombies and less complexity, rather than trying to enhance the original formula. It ironically became the type of zombie game that it was trying not to be. It’s a pure example of why streamlining games isn’t always the best idea. As someone who actually loves the first two games (I don’t count that weird reskin of Dead Rising 2 where you play Frank instead of Chuck), the later games completely lost the heart of the franchise and opted for bigger rather than better.
But then I found out Capcom shifted the team around loads before Dead Rising 4, which is why that game was completely different. There seemed to be a lot of attempts to make it more accessible, which I actually commend, but it feels wrong for such a cult series.
Like, sure, crank the difficulty down, but why remove the timer, the survivor missions and eventually even the crazy bosses? You’re just changing the whole franchise at that point.
Sorry, it turns out I’m surprisingly passionate about Dead Rising!
Tom: I get what you’re saying about the timer, definitely. Like fine, offer a mode without a timer for people who don’t want the added stress, but that was what made it interesting in the first place
I really love the idea that you could just hide in a fucking cupboard for the entire game. That, to me, is brilliantly subversive in the world of video game power fantasies, because it’s exactly what we would all do in a real-life zombie outbreak.
Do you know what it reminds me of? Nic Cage movie The Rock. No matter what happens, those jets are coming to destroy Alcatraz at that specific time. If Cage defeats the baddies and prevents it all, then good for him, but also, if he just got in a rowing boat and pissed off to sea it still would’ve ended the same. See also: Indiana Jones not impacting the outcome of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Callum, laughing: That’s a great link to be fair. Everything’s getting bombed so do as much as you can and get out of there.
Then you just cut to people running around in their underwear with lightsabers and you realise there’s no hope for this world. I could see Nick Cage doing that in a movie these days, though.
Tom: Nic Cage as Frank West? I could see that.
Callum: He’s got that “I’ve covered wars” look.
Tom: Though in years gone by, it totally would’ve been Reservoir Dogs-era Michael Madsen.
Callum: Michael Madsen has the most iconic voice of all time, I would kill to see him as Frank. Wait, didn’t they make a terrible movie adaptation?
Tom: Oh god they did, didn’t they? With that kid from John Tucker Must Die, stereotypical high school quarterback in every role he ever played kid.
I’d completely forgotten that movie even existed!
Shit, I just looked it up, they made more than one of them!
Callum: Yeah, the game’s director made an awful movie. And then America took their own swing at it.
They cast Frank as one of the least funny human beings in the world. As soon as you see the actor, you’ll know what I mean.
Tom: Oh, no way! It’s Rob Riggle! I had always assumed that what’s his name, quarterback kid, Jesse Metcalfe was just playing a weirdly young Frank?
Callum: I always assumed John Tucker was Frank, too, until I looked it up recently. What bad casting. Hasn’t it got a super cliche name too, like Watchtower or something similar?
Tom: IMDB tells me there’s two, Watchtower and Endgame. Both extremely generic titles. But hey, at least – based on the precis, I’ve not seen the movie – Watchtower retains the timer element somewhat:
“Chase and Jordan cover the government’s efforts to contain a virus that turns people into zombies. When a new drug fails to stop the spread of the disease, they team up with two survivors to escape the town before it is firebombed.”
More than we can say for the latter sequels.
Callum: It’s the full Dead Rising experience, except you have absolutely no control over the events. Still more authentic than Dead Rising 4, though.