home > editorial > And I Start Thinking of Killing Kombies: One Gamer's Struggle for Daily Survival
GamesFirst! Online since 1995

View Image Gallery || Get Prices

And I Start Thinking of Killing Kombies: One Gamer's Struggle for Daily Survival
game: Dead Rising
posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: Capcom
developer: Capcom
view related website
ESRB rating: M (Mature)
date posted: 11:08 PM Wed Aug 2nd, 2006
last revision: 12:36 AM Fri Aug 4th, 2006

Unlimited Game Rentals Delivered - Free Trial

Click to read.Okay, have you heard this one?: A zombie with half an arm and chunks of head missing chases a guy into a bar. Bartender does a double take, quickly searches behind the bar for a double-barreled shotgun, he aims it and shouts,
\"I told you to stay the hell away!\"
\"Oh come on!\" Says the man. \"I promise this time I\'ll tip.\"

I\'ve been having a difficult time doing anything productive lately and it isn\'t because of television. Yes, I know it\'s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and I, too, have been watching Mike Rowe come face to face with Great Whites and Tiger sharks (though the Tiger I saw was being dissected), however this isn\'t even close to the problem. Books have somehow lost all appeal, food has lost flavor, sex has lost...sex is still cool. But BOOKS have lost all appeal. The simple problem is that I cannot get the idea of slaughtering minions of the undead out of my sick disproportioned head. Blame Capcom for some great PR, or the crowds around Dead Rising at E3 (God rest it\'s soul), or even the myriad of in-game videos showing main character Frank West wreaking havoc on hordes of zombies that looks so much fun; but placing blame, sadly, only makes me want it more. We\'ve already covered the gameplay of Dead Rising on a couple occasions, so this article will go another direction to attempt to detail just what makes zombies, to use the favored lingo, so freaking cool - and, even more so, why games and movies with zombies have become a cornerstone of Americana.

But First, Some Brief Notes About Capcom\'s \"Dead Rising\"

In Dead Rising, coming August 8th for the Xbox 360 game console, players follow the efforts of ambitious photojournalist Frank West as he investigates the strange happenings at the Willamette Parkview Mall only to find that more than just the Chinese food in the Food Court has been rotting. Like in George A. Romero\'s classic film \"Dawn of the Dead\" zombies have invaded the mall and have cornered a few innocent survivors where few dare to tread. Frank West, whose main drive seems to be torn between saving human survivors and getting great photos to win the Pulitzer Prize, is your All-American guy. Frank likes TVs, propane tanks, guns, and pie ? or at least he likes using the aforementioned items to dismember, bash, or, at least, humiliate the walking dead.

The game spans 72 hours ? about 10 hours of game play - of Frank\'s quest to save everyone, stop the zombies, and get out alive. Capcom has made the game mostly open-ended, allowing the player to do all, some, or none of these options. But what makes this game appeal to gamers, and why it has been #1 on GameFly\'s reserve list, is that you can literally pick up and use anything in the game (bench, chair, sword, chainsaw, gumball machine, pipe, mannequin, etcetera) to bludgeon, slice, blow-up, etc, the hordes of zombies. It\'s gruesome, but somebody\'s got to do it.

So the idea of killing zombies has me hooked, horribly, horribly hooked. I\'ve been pining for this game for several months since I played it at E3 (God rest its soul). Dead Rising stood out as a title with great promise because it was, simply, a blast to play. But why do we love killing zombies in games? Why does that give us such great satisfaction? I am no sociologist or psychologist so I cannot give you the whyfors and the whathaveyous about why your brainwaves are all funky-my degree, I must assert, is in English. But I do believe these parameters need not be met in order to have a discussion of the zombie mythos. Zombies have become a part of Americana (Europa too) and I, therefore, will make statements not as an expert, but as a voyeur and participant of society-on the inside looking out.

What\'s in your head, zombie?

It\'s been a while since a good zombie game has been released. Resident Evil 4, the latest of the Resident Evil series, had amazing gameplay but few zombies to speak of. Mostly, you were killing cultists and evil beasts from hell. Stubbs the Zombie had enough humor and fun to make it worth a rental, but the game wasn\'t really that long and the satire was mostly a reason to make fart jokes.

My favorite zombie game has actually been one of the earliest. Zombies Ate My Neighbors for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Genesis, was a one or two player action game and a throwback to horror movies of the 50s and 60s. The gist was searching for treasure, keys, and whatnot while rescuing idiotic neighbors who cannot recognize the zombie threat. The great satire in Zombies Ate My Neighbors was that after going through 50+ levels of fighting undead and other monsters (giant worms anybody?) the player becomes more accustom to the zombie menace than the leisurely neighbors who lounge around like mindless dolls, the zombies constantly hunting for brain sustenance--cue over-the-top screaming. Zombies Ate My Neighbors did for video games what Dawn of the Dead (the original, not the remake) did for horror films. By Juxtaposing humans and zombies players/viewers could see not just the differences between the two but the similarities.

But while zombies have made it into other games (The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and Half-Life 2 for example) the real meaning of the zombie in those games has largely been ignored, having the walking corpses be just another obstacle in the way. In the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a game of such immense size that gamers still lose their minds thinking about it, zombies are merely tools of Necromancers; in Half-Life 2, the critically acclaimed shooter from Valve, zombies are people who have been taken over by merciless Head-Crabs (think face-huggers meet puppet masters). Zombies are all over the place in one form or another, but their mythos is largely ignored.

It\'s Your Brains They Want

George A. Romero had the right idea-zombies can tell us more about ourselves than we think. He states: \"My zombie films have been so far apart that I\'ve been able to reflect the socio-political climates of the different decades. I have this conceit that they\'re a little bit of a chronicle, a cinematic diary of what\'s going on\" 1. In other words, Romero asserts zombies are a mirror of how society and politics works through different decades and in different countries. Consider this: his conceit can be extended to zombie movies from different directors. For instance, both Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later tell vastly different stories of the UK from what Night of the Living Dead and Land of the Dead tell about the United States during their respective eras.

So why have zombies become commonplace in cinema, games, and books? It might be because we just love watching and reading about them. The zombie mythos focuses around the fear of being alone in a place with slow-moving, murderous creatures: sure, they really can\'t catch you if you try, but the fact is that the zombie never stops moving, making the hunted always uneasy, unable to rest. Something about always being hunted and no longer on the top of the food chain appeals to us consumers. We like to be taken down a pedestal or two every now and again, presuming it\'s by a fictional undead creature with the vocal capacity that of a whiskey bottle.

The Dead Always Rise, Why Must the Dead Always Rise?

Why Dead Rising has me on needles preceding its release probably has something to do with an irregularly large medulla oblongata centermost in my brain, or perhaps I have a chemical imbalance in my ear, forcing me to see the world askew where everything and everyone can be made sense of with either literary criticism or a really big chainsaw. Or maybe my brain isn\'t abnormal at all. Maybe the idea of being stuck in a mall with thousands of walking corpses really does sound like fun in a sick & twisted way. I don\'t know, exactly. All I know is that killing zombies makes for one hell of an entertaining video game: always has.

Dead Rising plays with the zombie mythos in a way that borders on horror (at times) but mostly is satire clothed by a shawl of action. The real treat is that Frank West is a photographer who, through the focused lens of his camera, distances himself enough from the stupefying atrocity happening around him to actually become, in many ways, as dead inside as the zombies he fights. The only difference is that he wants the Pulitzer, not brains. Frank shoots first, asks questions later; he marches into hordes of zombies punching and kicking; he raids shops and changes into clothes that don\'t quite fit, but - why not - they\'re just going to waste; he eats junk food; he takes pictures of people being mutilated and doesn\'t bat an eye. Frank gains PP (Picture Points, which allow him to upgrade) by taking pictures of the atrocity around him ? the more horrifying, the better ? and in this way being a heartless bastard is in your self interest.

But Frank can also rescue the survivors in the Willamette Parkview Mall. He can have a heart, forget about the award, and go out of his way to be an upstanding, respectable human being. Luckily, Capcom leaves the question of whether he does this or not entirely up to the player. This is another reason Dead Rising has so much appeal: open endedness in a game that would traditionally be linear. Similarly, finding out means of dispatching your hungry, undead foes also rests in the player\'s hands. Chainsaw? Check. Soccer ball? Check. Throw propane tank into legions of undead then shoot it with a Glock? Check and check. Don\'t forget to take a picture, as the more horrifying the picture, the more PP, the faster you upgrade.

Will Our Hero Survive the Horror?

Dead Rising plays like a mix between Grand Theft Auto, Pokemon Snap, and The Bouncer. While you have no real boundaries of what you do and where you go, the game tries to keep you taking pictures and creating more havoc. And as you upgrade you acquire new hand-to-hand abilities to kill zombies. I only hope that the final product is as fun to play as the demo from E3 2005 (God rest its soul), but from current impressions, changes from then to now have all been for the best. The week following August 8 we will have initial impressions of the final build and then, shortly after, the review. Until then, I, like a good zombie, will be practicing my shamble.

1 Biography of George A. Romero ? The Internet Movie Database

Click images for larger version

Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger.