After a three year absence for the franchise — and a ten year absence for hero Frank West in a canonical game — Dead Rising is back in a big way. Dead Rising 4 sees the photojournalist make his way back to the city that started it all, Willamette, Colorado, after one of his investigative journalist students gets a tip on some shady dealings there.
The return trip to Willamette brings a completely redesigned city and mall environment filled with both undead hordes and the weapons with which to dispose of them. We sat down with Joe Nickolls, the general manager of DR4’s development studio Capcom Vancouver, to talk about Frank’s return trip to the series and what new kinds of toys the man who’s covered wars will be playing with.
How excited are you to get back into Dead Rising?
Oh we’ve been waiting to out this game for so long, we’ve been working on it since right after Dead Rising 3 and the Super Ultra expansion. We started working on it immediately and decided to bring Frank back.
What went into the decision to bring Frank back?
We really listened to what the fans wanted. We did a lot of user research and found that people love Frank. Frank is this weird character that resonates with people, he’s cool because he isn’t cool. We did a lot of focus group testing and results kept coming back: “We really like Frank.”
We wanted to take a different approach to this game, we also wanted to go back to WIllamette because we wanted to get back into a mall, and so we thought 16 years after the original Dead Rising, let’s go back to the mall. Frank is 54 years old now, let’s bring him back, tough him up a little bit, and ‘next-gen’ him a little bit, and that’s exactly what we did.
Is Frank aware of what happened in Dead Rising 3?
We’re trying to be coy with the story right now, we’re going to talk more about it in a couple of months so you’ll have to stay tuned.
So, if you can tell us, why is Frank back in WIllamette?
Frank is a photojournalist, he’s “covered wars you know,” and Frank has a student who discovers something happening in Willamette and she convinces Frank to go check it out.
DR4 includes the mall and the city. Is it the same mall as the original?
This is a re-buildling of the mall as the first one was trashed in the first game. We’ve gone and modernised it, it’s really big, and you’ll probably be spending 50 per cent of your time in or under the mall and 50 per cent in the city. If there’s a zombie outbreak I want to go to the mall, because that’s where all the stuff is.
One major design choice we made in Dead Rising is instead of finding cheeseburgers randomly on the road you find them where they belong in the world. If I need an axe I’m going to go to the hardware store, or if I need medicine I go to the pharmacy, and we’ve tied Dead Rising 4 to this. You’ll see there’s some cosplay going on and you can do that throughout the world, but all of the clothes are found in the washing machines at the laundromat.
Can we expect Seven Deadly Sins psychopaths of Dead Rising 3?
We went away from any psychopaths that are sexual deviants, as we got a lot of feedback that while people liked playing the game they didn’t like the overt sexuality. They didn’t feel like it belonged in the game. We wanted the new game to have enemies that fit into the overall world, and believe me there are some nutters in there and we’ll be outing them in the coming months, but there’s survivalists and military men and people taking advantage of other people in some really heinous ways.
So we should expect enemies like the father and son sniper group in the original Dead Rising?
Yes, exactly. We didn’t want to have any theme this time because, oddly enough, not a lot of people figured out that they were the seven deadly sins. Journalists figured it out because that’s what you guys do, you discover patterns, but some people fought them and didn’t know why they were even in the world. All research suggested that while people wanted stuff like psychopaths in the game they wanted it to fit within the game’s world, and we have a ton of stuff like that in there.
What can you tell us about new vehicles and the exo suit?
We looked at what people really liked with Dead Rising, and they loved comboing the weapons and the variety of the weapons. We’ve done lots of different combos before, so what were we going to do now? Instead of just comboing weapons, you can now combo yourself.
We gave you an exo suit that allows you to pull parking meters out of the ground and punch cars and use massive chainguns, but you can also combo the suit that you’re in. We’re not tipping our hat to the different combos, but Frank can modify the suit to do crazy stuff.
Are there different types of zombies now?
Yes, we have three different types of zombies in Dead Rising now. Everyone talks about innovation, and while we wanted to add new bosses we also wanted to do something with the ‘cows’ or the normal zombies throughout the world. First there’s the horde or the zombies you’re used to, then we have the ‘newly infected’ that resemble zombies from 28 Days Later that run, never get tired because they don’t breathe, and can climb up on a dumpster to get you when you think you’re safe.
These newly infected can turn into what we call an ‘evo’, a zombie whose immune system is strong enough to turn an enemy into a zombie with a little bit of brain left. Think raptors from Jurassic Park: they’re smart, they herd you and let the horde wear you down before attacking. They can jump 25 feet, they can hit telephone poles and send them down onto Frank, and they’re super hard to kill.
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