With the introduction of the Xbone, Playzone 64 and Wii DS, we have the first glimpse at the first wave of the next generation’s games. Among these games is the unexpected, but expected, third entry into the Dead Rising franchise which should have me bouncing off the ceiling with excitement. Alas, upon seeing the game’s trailer, I became immediately dismayed and ultimately disappointed. It is the latest (and definitely won’t be the last) game to fall victim to the fastest growing trend in games: Gritty Reboots.
In my opinion (and probably everyone’s opinion) Dead Rising built a name for itself on campy humor. Sure it is a quite addictive zombie beat ’em up that is hours of zombie-smashing fun, but in the end the mountains of satire and humor is what made it special. It took a typically bleak and serious setting of a zombie apocalypse and made you wish you were there, smacking a zombie in the dick with a giant Sno-Cone or something.
Unfortunately, someone felt that Dead Rising wasn’t serious enough for the mainstream gaming world and decided to give it the ‘ol Gritty Reboot. The colorful world of Dead Rising has been replaced with every imaginable shade of dirt, with a smattering of red for the Mature rating. Granted we haven’t seen much of the in-game antics, it can be expected that the entire game will forego all humor and camp to try to mimic a serious, blockbuster zombie flick. Which is total BS.
Why do we need to strip a franchise of all the things that made it great? Well it’s an effort to create universal appeal, and that is what has been dumbing down and killing the hobby we all hold so dear. It seems like everytime I hear about a newly-rebooted franchise, it’s always followed by “gritty first person shooter.” Thankfully it’s still a third-person beat ’em up, but who knows about what wacky stuff will make up Dead Rising 4.
The Gritty Reboot can be ultimately traced back to it’s origins in Hollywood. I’d say that Batman Begins kick-started the whole Gritty Reboot revolution, and it’s just trickled down endlessly in the gaming world. Hollywood effectively reset the cinematic Batman universe in an attempt to revitalize the franchise in theaters. Their efforts were not in vain, as Dark Knight has been continually hailed as the best “comic book movie” of all time and has the money to back it up.
Batman Begins worked out about as well as anyone could have possibly imagined. It took a fairly ancient franchise with a number of past releases, and completely brought it back to the absolute top of the entertainment industry. A franchise that was once thought to be completely dead in the cinemas was brought back to life. It went from Batnipples to billions of Batbucks.
But why did this formula work? How did they manage to get this franchise back on top? Well they took the original source material, and fucking stuck to it. The Batman comics are pretty much all doom and gloom, pretty much as gritty as you can get. Writers and artists have been portraying the dark side of Batman for ages, the movie world just never took it seriously. All they had to do was believe in a “nerd medium” and they weredelivered greatness across three films. The results were boat-loads of cash, and a few great films to boot. Everyone won.
You may notice I’ve focused a lot of my words on the finances of the recent Batman movies, and you are correct. I also know exactly who is looking at these figures, and that is the games industry. The general thought in mainstream entertainment is just ripping off successful formulas until you make some money, and games have done so since Pong. Now since games are getting closer and closer to CG film level quality, the games industry has scrambled to basically rip off Hollywood in an attempt to sell a bajillion copies. The results are typically super-inflated budgets, and disappointing sales figures, which somehow make a 6,000,000+ selling game a failure.
It’s been proven time and time again that huge budgets and Hollywood flash do not make a great game, and it’s been proven time and time again that great games make great games. There have been some great games released in the last few years that aren’t super gory, visceral, hyper-realistic murder games. For instance, Ni No Kuni is basically a playable Ghibli anime and it is wonderful. As far as franchise continuation goes, Bioshock steered further away from hyper-realism with a colorful, almost cartoony art style all the while keeping it’s brutal violence. And let’s not forget Borderlands, a game that would 100% be terrible if they removed the humor and art direction. Granted those last two examples are shoot ’em ups, they set themselves apart from the gritty shooter genre in their unique ways.
I’m not saying that some games don’t benefit from a grittier perspective. The most recent Tomb Raider release rebooted the franchise to take a different approach on Lara Croft. In this case, it’s not a bad thing as her character has always been tough and it’s not straying from the original source material, only adding to the experience. I would say in cases such as this game, a gritty reboot doesn’t negatively affect the outcome of the game. From the looks of the response toward the game, it has served the franchise well.
Dead Rising doesn’t need the gritty treatment. It doesn’t need a serious tone. It doesn’t need a more Hollywood-flash centric presentation, as it’s roots pull to 80’s and 90’s b-movies. It’s a lighthearted romp through a zombie apocalypse, and that’s how it should always be. It’d be like taking Borderlands 2, and making everything look realistic and removing the humor. The experience wouldn’t be anywhere near fun, it’s just be another shooter game with a shitload of guns. Taking the humor and life out of Dead Rising will basically kill the franchise.