‘Killer Klowns from Outer Space: The Game’ – Listen to New Main Theme from the Movie’s Composer!

Horror

In 1996, Japanese gaming company Capcom set the gaming industry on fire with the release of Resident Evil and in turn gave birth to the survival horror genre in gaming. In 2002 they released a highly regarded remake, and in 2005 they rewrote the survival horror genre they invented with the action focused Resident Evil 4 … and the rest is history.

But in 2006 things were changing. With the rise of HD televisions and next generation gaming hardware such as the Xbox 360, Capcom wanted to go back to the drawing board and present a different side of zombies that was essentially the inverse of their widely popular Resident Evil series.

Enter Dead Rising.

Originally starting development as a sequel to the Playstation 2 title Shadow of Rome, Dead Rising was specifically developed with western audiences in mind. The game would be a non-stop action game in a familiar setting with a level of interactivity that was only possible on next generation hardware. Dead Rising is set in the fictional town of Willamette, Colorado and follows photojournalist Frank West as he investigates a mysterious military quarantine in the town. When he arrives he’s inadvertently thrown into a full blown zombie apocalypse and holes up in the local mall with other survivors; he has three days to investigate what’s behind the outbreak.

If that premise sounds a little familiar, that’s because it’s heavily inspired by George A. Romero’s seminal film Dawn of the Dead; or the 2004 remake directed by Zack Snyder, if you prefer. The similarities were so apparent, in fact, that copies of the game in its initial release featured a disclaimer that the game was in no way shape or form related to the film. 

Right off the bat Dead Rising starts off with a bang introducing us to Frank and the photo-taking mechanic. Being a photojournalist, Frank uses his camera to take photos of the carnage he finds over the course of the three days. Players are encouraged to take photos of gory, funny, or downright strange happenings. In return they’re rewarded with player points (PP) that will upgrade Frank with health, moves, inventory slots, and the tools needed to survive.

Once inside the mall, players are introduced to a zombie game like no other.

Whereas Resident Evil took place in confined spaces with limited resources, players here are encouraged to explore the mall to the fullest extent. Being the resourceful man he is, Frank is able to interact with many items in the mall. See that golf club? Pick it up and swing away. Need a health boost? That jug of orange juice on the shelf is a good pick-me-up. Find a sketchy magazine? Best keep that in your inventory for stat boosts. The massive mall is quite literally your playground to live out your zombie slaying fantasies.

A zombie game isn’t a zombie game without the titular threat, of course, and with the massive power of the Xbox 360 at time, the developers were able to render up to a whopping 800 zombies on screen at any given time. Gone were the days of only tackling one or two zombies in Resident Evil; Dead Rising offered players the chance to mow down a crowd of zombies with a chainsaw or even a lawnmower, Dead Alive style. The only limits set on the player were the time limits inherent to seeing the story or one of the game’s multiple endings play out.

That leads me to the probably the biggest point of contention amongst players in the early days of Dead Rising: the time limit. At its core, the first Dead Rising is a pretty hardcore experience by today’s standards. You are timed for EVERYTHING. Want to grind for PP? You better not take too long as some story missions might disappear. Find a survivor that you need to escort back to the safe room? That might take away an opportunity to fight an optional boss. Doing just the story? Congratulations, you won’t see the best weapons/items the game has to offer.

Dead Rising asked its players to value and prioritize their time by only having an infinite time mode unlocked after experiencing the game’s true ending.

Dead Rising also features optional bosses in the form of Psychopaths, people who’ve reached the point of insanity caused by the outbreak. These can range anywhere from a group of convicts driving around in a military jeep to a clown that juggles and uses chainsaws. All of these are brought into the game with over the top and often humorous introductions, and usually reward Frank with an insanely good item and/or copious amounts of PP. If you happen to miss any of these boss fights on a playthrough you’re encouraged to face them on repeat playthroughs (get Adam’s chainsaws with a particular magazine and thank me later).

The question is, was Capcom’s experimental zombie game a success? You betcha. Players were enamored with the concept of full interactivity and freedom in a zombie outbreak. The game went on to sell 3 million copies and was considered to be one of the first killer apps in the new generation of consoles at the time. It spawned a highly successful series that unfortunately lost sight of the ideas and design philosophies that made the first game a success. As a result we haven’t seen a release in the series since 2016.

Does it hold up? I can safely say that indeed it does. Capcom hit something special when they let their horror ideas off the leash. As I found myself replaying the PS4 remaster this last week I was surprised to discover new content and characters that I had never experienced when I first played the game all the way back in 2006. There’s also something oddly cathartic about putting on a podcast or new album on a pair of headphones as you grind for PP using Frank’s various abilities. I think that if Capcom ever goes back to this series they need to remember why we fell in love with it in the first place: an unprecedented amount of freedom with a dash of over the top humorous antics.

Capcom has proved before that they can go back to the drawing board and remember what made a series so great (Resident Evil VII: Biohazard comes to mind), and I can’t help but hope that they give Dead Rising that chance by bringing it back from the dead.


Tales from the Console is a series looking back at some of your favorite horror or horror-adjacent video games and the legacies they leave behind in a scary modern gaming world.

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