It’s a situation that has been played out countless times in many horror movies. A horrible zombie outbreak has occurred, and our hero is stranded in a large shopping center surrounded by all kinds of undead monsters. The situation is a true test of human nature which seems to bring the worst out of everyone. Whether it be the crazy old lady who decides to completely disregard the safety of everyone for the sake of her doomed poodle, or the mall’s resident clown gone mad after witnessing countless horrors, it seems like there may only be one truly sane person able to cope. While I’ve seen this plotline many times, I’ve never seen it in such a humorous and twisted fashion as in Dead Rising: Chop till you Drop for the Nintendo Wii.
The game follows the exploits of Frank West, a somewhat overzealous photojournalist who is trying to head behind enemy lines, and find out the details behind a town’s quarantine and apparent undead infestation. Once Frank is dropped into action - from a helicopter no less - in a boarded up shopping mall, the fun begins. Using an arsenal of real and makeshift weapons, Frank carves, shoots and soccer balls his way through mounds of decaying flesh to find the truth behind the whole situation. That’s right I said "soccer balls", one of the many weapons at your aid. This list also includes park benches, shopping carts, lightsabers, frying pans and lawnmowers. Frank has now been dropped deep into a vast conspiracy including homeland security agents, insects and animal testing that has created a possible zombie apocalypse, and Frank now has just 72 hours to get his scoop and leave with his own skin intact.
The characters in CTYD are very well thought out and seem to be a very different breed than most Japanese games. Frank West, for instance, is seemingly the exact opposite of most Japanese action game heroes. Instead of youthful feminine looks on the manliest of men (I’m looking at you Dante and Leon) Frank looks like an unshaven frat guy you might see at a bar. After Frank there are many atypical characters for this type of game including Brad and Jessica, a couple of DHS agents who reluctantly fight alongside Frank and help unravel the mystery.
Aside from the main characters, you have tons of unique survivors all with some sort of quirk. One of the most annoying was a guy that was obsessed with eating, and wouldn’t follow you to the safe house until you led him to the food court and cooked him a steak. These survivors seem over the top, but are not too far distant from characters from a George A. Romero zombie movie, the source material this game is obviously based on. Frank must also deal with a bunch of insane folks who have either gone mad due to the zombie outbreak or are otherwise corrupt or evil, and who serve as the game's bosses; this category includes the aforementioned clown, who juggles chainsaws.
Dead Rising: Chop till you Drop is both intentionally camp and hilarious. One of the first instances where you can really put this to good use are the costumes Frank can wear. Pretty much any clothing store he happens to lumber into can be raided for its goods. This might include a pair of sunglasses, a new hairdo, or my personal favorite: Frank wearing the creepiest full-on drag you have ever seen. If seeing a 30-year-old man wearing a dress isn’t your thing, various unlockables include a Mega Man costume and even Mega Man’s sister Roll. Aside from dress up, much humor can be found in many other ways. Personally I got a sick pleasure from killing zombies in the dumbest ways I could think of. These might include kicking a zombie to death with a soccer ball, running a zombie over with a bike, chopping a zombie poodle up with a lawnmower and, my personal favorite, putting a giant toy head on a zombie – then killing it. For the most part the Wii version of Dead Rising has fewer objects to use than the 360 version, but most of that comes down to redundancy. For instance, the 360 version had a 2x4 and a baseball bat, but both are essentially the same. The Wii version has fewer of these, but it's no big loss really.
One thing you will immediately notice when playing CTYD is that it uses the Resident Evil 4 engine. Because of this the game plays almost 100 per cent differently than the previous game. You have the off center third person shooter camera we all got to love with our old buddy Leon, and a similar inventory system. In fact, CTYD plays almost exactly like Resident Evil 4, if it took place in a mall. There are a few notable differences though. In RE4, each area was somewhat small and sometimes claustrophobic. In CTYD, Frank is running through a huge mall, so the game definitely seems way more open ended and gives it the sandbox game feel that it strives for.
Another carry-over from the RE4 engine is the use of many types of firearms. In my opinion the aiming control using a reticule is infinitely easier than the shooting controls in the 360 version. The Wii version capitalizes on this by emphasizing more gunplay than the 360 version. In fact, early on in the game you have to save the owner of the mall’s gun store - thereby opening up a slew of guns and other firearm based goodies. This gun shop owner acts exactly like the weird traveling salesman in Resident Evil 4 except he stays in one place. Once you have opened up the ability to go to the gunshop, you can also visit it at any point using Otis’ co-workers shortcuts.
The only thing that keeps it from having a 100% open ended feeling is the new mission structure, new to the Wii game. In the X-box original, each play through was a mere six hours long, making consecutive playthroughs a necessity. This has been drastically changed, and my opinion for the better, with a more linear style. The game is more mission based, similar to No More Heroes. At the beginning of each 'case' Otis, your old timer janitor friend, will give you a few missions. These missions range from the standard fetch quests and escort mission we all expect in a game like this. Once you enter the mission you are timed (usually ten minutes) and are graded for performance. You can obtain rare items, weapons and other perks by doing well on these missions, so Frank needs to stay in good shape. This new structure allows for a much longer and more story filled game than the original.
During your progression of the game Frank can do many things to make himself stronger. Much like a RPG, Dead Rising has an experience based leveling system. As you kill a zombie you are awarded with a little bit of experience that slowly fills a green gauge on the HUD. Once this is topped off, Frank is awarded with stronger attacks and other perks including more carrying capacity. There are also many books laying about that, when collected, give you some sort of status altering effect. One of the earliest you obtain makes you far more efficient with a lightsaber, for those who want Frank to be a Jedi.
Aside from the new firearms proficiency, Frank also has to deal with a few new villains this time around. Exclusive to the Wii version are rampaging packs of zombie poodles and parrots, presumably from the mall’s pet shop. These new bad guys are really fast and get the better of you even with the strongest of weapons sometimes. Frank gets used to it though, as all of the zombies seem to be pretty fast. Some zombies can now run - a feature not present in the original game - and spit acid at you. This makes even the dumbest of zombies pretty lethal. Add to that a few huge zombies like a fat cop with tazers or zombies that carry guns, and Frank could be in trouble. To balance out the additions to the game, you know something had to be taken out. Unfortunately that was the picture taking minigames from the original game. Since you now level using zombie kills, this isn’t necessary, but it would have been cool to have it in there.
The controls for CTYD are pretty straight forward and pretty good. When wielding a gun, an onscreen reticule guides your aim. Other uses for the Wiimote include a bit of waggle to ward off zombies or swing blunt melee weapons. You use the A button to attack with your subweapon in place of the waggle and the swinging actually makes the attack stronger by increasing the backswing, much like a super punch or kick in a fighting game. Aside from the WiiMote you will need to use the nunchuk attachment. The nunchuk is used primarily for movement, by way of the thumb stick. The only bad thing I can say about the controls is that in order to pick stuff up you have to press both the Z and A buttons, which is unnatural. I can see why they did this, because having your attack button the same as the 'pick something up' button is a gripe I have about a lot of games, but the two button method is not satisfactory for me either.
The sound in CTYD is pretty nice for immersion, as it mostly contains cheesy real-life mall inspired muzak. You know the super monotonous soothing, yet undoubtedly boring music that plays in shopping malls and grocery stores. This helps amp up the humor, as you are mowing down zombies to that goofy music, and keeps the game fairly lighthearted in the scares department. The other music in CTYD consists of licensed songs from some bands that I have never heard of, and really help to make the boss battles more intense. The other aspect of the game's sound presentation - the voice acting - is also done fairly well. While somewhat wooden, and a little cheesy, the storyline is conveyed well by the actors Capcom chose. I don’t mind the cheesiness because the game is based on an old zombie movie, and much like the original Resident Evil or the Grindhouse film it helps the illusion.
For me the major low point of CTYD is the graphics. Unlike Resident Evil 4, where the levels were broken up into sections a lot, this game spans a huge area at all times. This makes it a lot harder for it to have all of the textures and details found in a lot of good-looking Wii games. There is a lot of pop-in at relatively close distances (40 or 50 feet) and this usually consists of respawning zombies. While not a game-ruining experience, it is kind of weird to see nothing then suddenly 50 zombies pop up. Speaking of zombies, depending on the difficulty level you are playing on there may or may not be too many. On the easy modes the zombies are a bit thin, but on hard I’ve seen maybe 80 zombies on screen at a time. This isn't bad for a Wii game, but compared to the 360's hundreds on screen at a time it is a bit disappointing. The game developers tried to remedy this by adding some debris every once in a while so that the zombies are more concentrated, and it really helps.
One good thing about CTYD is that even though the 72 hour limit game mechanic is out of the game, the game is full of replayability. You can replay the game to get a better grade on missions and see new things including new missions, weapons and clothing items. There are also a ton of special add-on missions called 'Odd Jobs' and 'Second Amendment' bonus missions. These are the missions where you'll fight stuff like huge zombies, invisible zombies and marathon running zombies. If you are a completist and want to get everything this game has to offer you can play this game for a long, long time.
The bottom line is that Dead Rising: Chop till you Drop is a fun yet flawed game. In the move from the 360 to the Wii a few things had to be removed like the camera minigames and the zombie count was lowered. In place of this we got an updated gun repertoire, better controls, and a longer game as well as more replayability. Because of this I really liked Dead Rising: Chop till you Drop and urge zombie fans to check it out. You can’t really go wrong with the forty dollar budget pricing either.