Rotten flesh has never been more pixilated.
Dead Rising on Wii? If you’re at all familiar with the Xbox 360 zombie-thrashing original, the first question that probably crossed your mind when you caught wind of this port was “how?” How indeed. The Xbox 360 version featured huge, interactive, beautiful environments littered with innumerable inanimate objects which could be recruited as weapons, as well as endless waterfalls of zombies everywhere you looked to balance out the other side of the ass-whopping equation. The Wii, on the other hand, simply can’t handle any of that stuff—not even in its 480p presentation (which is considerably easier on the GPU versus rendering high-def environments). So if you’re a developer, and you want to make the game work on the Wii, what do you do? With Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, Capcom essentially chose to chop till the frame rate didn’t drop.
That isn’t to say that CTYD doesn’t provide a compelling experience in its own unique way, however. While it’s true that plenty of stuff was cut from this version of the game, Capcom smartly found other ways to leverage the Wii’s unique strengths. It’s a matter of give-and-take, and whether or not it appeals to you depends entirely upon the nature of your expectations. Allow me.
Zombie pop-in attack
We might as well start with the honest negatives. The very first thing you’ll notice when you boot up Chop Till You Drop is the muddy video quality and subpar textures and resolution. This isn’t entirely the game’s fault; hardware limitations are obviously primarily to blame—but in many ways, it just feels like Dead Rising wasn’t made for this system. Right from the start, if you’re at all acquainted with the original game, you’ll be counting the corners which were cut to make this (quasi-) possible. The number of zombies on-screen has dropped exponentially, and now, in CTYD, they’ve got a new attack: zombie pop-in. All right, so it doesn’t really occur anywhere near you, but there’s plenty of it to go around. On the bright side, this nice little age-old programming technique coupled with the comparatively sparse undead population results in a pretty rock-solid frame rate. And in all honesty, once the initial shock wears off, the game really isn’t all that unattractive (just sometimes). It isn’t fair to rate the game based on comparative quality anyhow since its counterpart is based on a considerably more powerful platform—so let’s forgive the relative deficiencies for a moment and continue on to more substantial items.
Adapt or die (or maybe become undead)
The aesthetic differences are just the beginning. One nice “correction” over the Xbox 360 version is the addition of multiple save slots (20 to be exact) in Chop Till You Drop. However, their utility has been greatly reduced by the fact that in CTYD, the various “cases” are actually presented as separate, selectable missions. This means the end of the sandbox-style gameplay and affiliated 72-hour in-game time limit that previously left your activities so wide open to preference, replaced instead by much more targeted and linear gameplay. As such, you’re stuck referring back to the security guard in the safe room (a mechanical room featuring the air handler whose ducts your survival and rescue efforts so strongly depend on) each and every time you wish to tackle another mission and further the story. Thanks to this design shift, everything is now more manageable (and less stressful thanks to the fact that you aren’t being timed)—but unfortunately, it also seems much more monotonous and frequently tedious. The constant trips to and from the mechanical room now feel more like a chore, and the free-roaming independence that saturated the original is all but absent. Case in point, navigation is now supplemented by a spinning 3-D directional arrow to help get around (though it’s often pretty confusing in all its relentless rotations).
Speaking of a lack of freedom, CTYD also funnels you through the mall’s environments with the help of a variety of obstacles (such as construction blockades and magnetic tape) to ensure you still feel the requisite claustrophobia brought on by what modest number of zombies currently are on-screen (which generally hovers around 10 to 15 probably). This works pretty well, though it’s admittedly somewhat of a nuisance trying to make your way through the resulting maze-like environments—especially at night, where it’s practically impossible to see further than a couple of yards in front of you (and when you’re generally more concerned with the excessive number of zombie parrots and poodles, who are sure to lead to the suspension of gameplay and subsequent wedging of a dinner fork in your eye socket at least once during the experience). This further chokes the design toward linearity, leaving little choice as to your route from A to B.
Bowling balls don’t kill zombies, guns kill zombies
Okay, so both of them kill zombies. But in CTYD, you’re highly encouraged to use guns as much as possible, which sort of seems logical thanks to the Wii’s fantastic aiming controls via the IR pointer interface (stick with your strengths, right?). Ammo drops gratuitously out of slaughtered zombies, leaving you with plenty of firepower and very little trigger inhibition. You’ve got to first shoot zombies and stun them in order to use the various special attacks unique to each melee weapon, as well, so that further incentivizes the use of firearms. Finally, you get to keep all of the weapons you buy from Cletus indefinitely, which is convenient to say the least.
The Wii functionality is also put to use in executing the special attack for each individual weapon, and generally it works pretty well (as previously stated, you’ll have to stun the zombies first with a well-placed gunshot, after which you can approach them and execute your special attack). You can actually use the Wii-mote for regular attacks as well, but thankfully, that’s optional (I opted for the A button every time personally).
Oh—and let’s not forget this interesting omission: in CTYD, photojournalist Frank West can’t use his camera. Huh? Sure, it’s not the end of the world (well, in the game it might be), but in the original, the use of the camera added some interesting mechanics to the mix. Now you’re stuck doing no photojournalism and just a whole lot of re-killing.
Not necessarily rising
The net result of all of these adjustments to the basic formula is that the game actually feels quite different this time around. Is that a good thing? Well, frankly, not particularly. The original design felt more versatile and open-ended (because it was) and simply made more sense, and that was a large part of the game’s overall appeal. At the same time, however, CTYD is a pretty decent action game that makes good use of the Wii interface—not to mention part of a relatively small assortment of worthwhile M-rated titles currently available for the system. And thanks to its newfound linearity, it’s a far less stressful experience if you are among the population of gaming perfectionists/completionists who simply couldn’t stand the single-save-slot, uncertain wandering of the original. So, as you read earlier, how well this title fits with you is entirely dependent upon your personal expectations and what it is you’re after.