Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dead Rising seems to have a tractor beam-like hold on me, which may be due to the massive praise I keep seeing heaped upon it by another, better blogger. While I can't argue the validity of any of the substantive points Bill Harris makes, I feel like the experience I'm having with the game could not be any more different. Partly, it's just a matter of taste. In general, I like a tighter, more linear game than you get with Dead Rising. In this case, though, I'm not sure that that's what bothers me. Instead, it seems like the unorthodox design choices that Capcom made, which Harris praises so highly, keep coming back to bite me in the worst way.

Of course, it all comes back to the save system. The first several times I tried the game, my biggest problem was forgetting to save. I'd power through boss battles, find badass weapons, level up, and then lose it all. You can always restart the game with your stats saved, which is a cool feature, but the fact that you have to restart the game several times in order to make any meaningful progress is ludicrous. I've restarted four or five times by now because I keep running into dead ends.

The latest: after defeating Adam the clown, I started to escort a guy who knew a shortcut back to the maintenance room. Since I had one bar of health left, I ran to the nearest save point I could find. My save happened to coincide with the guy's death, so there was no way I could save him. Maybe I still could have found the route he was going to show me, but still being so low on health I decided to make a run for a nearby grocery store. Finally I made it, saved again near there, and saw that I was close to a gun store. I reached the gun store again low on health. As soon as I walked in, there was a cutscene that showed me with an ally I had never seen before. Obviously I had jumped way ahead in the storyline. My ally and I were both murdered in the course of about five seconds.

What are my options now? My save point has me so far up shit creek that I likely have no chance to succeed in the current game. I've stumbled into a portion of the game that I'm not nearly powerful enough to survive. I'm seeing cutscenes that make no sense in the context of what else I've already seen. The game is so open and offers so many different ways to play that you can actually play it wrong. All I can do is start over. And that, ironically, is not giving me the choice to play it my way.

In the final analysis, I don't see what is gained by the system Capcom went with that would have been lost with a more traditional system. I'd argue that allowing multiple saves provides more of an incentive to explore and to try new things, because you know you won't be penalized so harshly for making a mistake. Would Dead Rising be less tense if you had that escape hatch? I'm not sure. It could be. But it would also be a lot more fun.

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