Dead Rising 4 Review – A Christmas Gory

With Dead Rising 4, Capcom’s curious zombie series has officially entered Saints Row territory.

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Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Format: PC, Xbox One (reviewed)
Released: December 6, 2016
Copy provided by publisher

Dead Rising has always been an unusual property. The original game was just plain weird whatever way you slice it. With its strict time limit, off-kilter characters, and devotion to utterly maddening escort missions, Dead Rising is the sort of game that takes effort to love, but even those who hate it would have to admit there’s nothing quite like it.

As the series has continued, it’s sanitized itself to a notable degree, incrementally removing all of its quirks and oddities to provide a more standard open world zombie game. At the same time, it’s upped the ante when it comes to ridiculous in-game content, attempting to provide sillier characters, ridiculous weapons, and more extreme levels of undead violence.

It’s an ironic twist that, as the series willingly pushes the envelope, it’s becoming more “normal” at the same time, and in a world where Saints Row already exists, it can be argued Dead Rising has stripped away its most notable and uniquely identifiable features without providing an adequately special edge in return.

Dead Rising 3 kicked off the shift toward a more universally appealing series with a time limit extended to the point of negligibility, the removal of distinct save points, and a lack of escort missions. In Dead Rising 4, there isn’t a time limit at all, with the returning Frank West having as much time as he likes to explore Willamette and tackle its missions.

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In keeping with this continued shift, the game has given up any pretense of taking itself seriously and has become a pure comedy game.

Frank has gone from irreverent to goofy, with comically bumbling behavior and endless one-liners. The austentatious combo weapons, already pretty over-the-top by Dead Rising 3, are borderline abstract in some cases, so ridiculous they make the premise of a zombie invasion seem mundane in comparison.

As for the overall story, let’s just say even George Romero – latter day, post-Land of the Dead George Romero – might find it a little too wacky for his tastes.

What I am describing may sound like a nightmare to some veteran Dead Rising lovers. A mechanically stripped zombie game that makes a joke of the series’ world? Truly, this is a travesty and insult to the name Dead Rising.

I sympathize with that mindset, I truly do.

However, I must confess I’ve never particularly cared for the first two Dead Rising games, as much as I admire them from a distance and appreciate the ways in which they tried to be different. The less constrained, more comic approach introduced in Dead Rising 3 appealed to me far more, which is worth keeping in mind when I say how much I enjoyed this new one.

No, it’s not the Dead Rising experience many will want. It’s a damn fine, damn fun, damn funny game though.

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The zombie virus that plagued America across three prior games is supposed to have been successfully stamped out thanks to vaccination, but a Black Friday catastrophe at an all-new shopping mall in Willamette has seen the return of not just the undead, but their more evolved, more aggressive offshoots.

Framed as a murderer by the government to protect its naughty zombie secrets, an aging and bitter Frank West is pulled out of hiding by the ZDC, who want him to go back to the town that started it all and expose what broke out at the Willamette mall all over again. At Christmas, no less!

I love that Dead Rising 4 is set during Christmas. You really don’t get to see many seasonally relevant games anymore, doubtless due to them wanting to appeal all year round. While this game isn’t so steeped in yuletide antics that it’s overbearing, it’s wonderful to see a snowy town environment with discarded decorations, trees, and appropriately sentimental music.

Though Capcom advertised this release by promising Frank was back, the replacement of Terence Rotolo as the legendary photojournalist makes this a very different West. His new vocal performer does a fantastic job – he’s got a witty delivery and a way of inflecting that makes even the stupidest lines amusing – but he’s somebody else entirely.

DR4 would have a different tone had Rotolo reprised the role, and it’s impossible to know if that tone would have been superior. All I know is that the new Frank West is great, though there’s a constant nagging feeling that he’s not Frank West at all. Performance matters, after all.

Along with the central mall, Dead Rising 4 expands Willamette to include the surrounding town, just as convoluted in its design as Los Perdidos from the previous installment – seriously, have better onscreen directions if you’re going to make streets so littered with blockades. Put a trail on the road or something, because vague onscreen markers don’t account for how specific some routes need to be.

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As one might expect, it’s filled with zombies to an absolutely stunning degree, often filling the screen. Additionally, an increased number of human antagonists are now on offer.

Obscuris mercenaries and warped bandits are in conflict with both the undead and Frank himself, making for a more dangerous environment.

They’re joined by new strains of mutant. “Fresh” zombies have been newly turned and are faster, more aggressive alternatives to the classically sluggish ghoul. “Evolved” zombies, meanwhile, are even tougher to put down, and notably smarter than their kin.

West has access to the usual assortment of improvised weaponry lying around the world, and can combined various types to create exotic and exaggerated gear. Classic combo weapons, such as the electric axe and “blast from the past” explosive sledgehammer return, joined by an new combos that officially take the piss – in a good way.

Christmas ornaments and accoutrements heavily influence a lot of the new stuff. Electric wreaths that can collar zombies and zap their surrounding brethren, nutcracker soldiers that can be fitted with guns to protect Frank’s back from ambushes, Christmas bell gauntlets that ring in the holidays with every punch, the game’s many thematic combos are a real laugh to use.

Combo vehicles make their welcome comeback, allowing Frank to craft ludicrous death-dealing machines of various sizes. Size is important here, because the smaller the vehicle, the better it is to watch old beefy Frank squatting in it. The first combo vehicle on offer, for example, is a child’s go-kart that can deliver electrical shockwaves – because of course it is.

Some slight alterations have been made to improve combat. Finishing moves earned by chaining hits together are often designed to clear crowds this time, rather than simply take out a single zombie in some spectacular fashion. While the latter result is common for standard weaponry and special cases, most of the combos now feature large area-of-effect attacks that take out surrounding enemies with impressive bombast.

Firearms, often an afterthought in Dead Rising, are both effective and surprisingly fun to use this time around. Combo guns are some of the most devastating and satisfying items in West’s arsenal, with the Blam-bow – a crossbow that shoots fireworks – being my personal favorite (though the swordfish launcher is a very close second).

By far the biggest addition is the introduction of the Exo Suit. Deployed by the shady Obscuris force, these robotic suits grant temporary access to enhanced strength and durability, allowing Frank to become a zombie-punching machine until the armor powers down. In addition, he can use new heavy weapons, such as miniguns and blocks of concrete with parking meter “handles.”

Should Frank find very specific objects, he can absorb them to change the nature of the suit in a manner somewhat similar to Mega Man. Should he absorb a vacuum cleaner, for example, his exo will transform into a piped air-blaster that sends whirlwinds and tosses zombies about like paper.

It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, and the final sign that Capcom’s just gone ahead and embraced how utterly stupid this series can be.

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Shelters have been changed to allow for leveling up, and now feature merchants who’ll trade food, weapons, clothing, vehicles, and map information for scrap. Scrap is earned by searching containers and slaughtering zombies, and there’s plenty to go around, with golden coins flying all over the place (because scrap is, naturally, made from shiny golden coins).

Leveling a shelter requires rescuing survivors who, as in Dead Rising 3, simply need a helping hand after spawning at certain map locations. Once the zombies around them are cleared, they’ll make their own way to safety. The more survivors saved, the higher a shelter’s level, and the higher a shelter’s level, the more stuff available to spend scrap on.

Since Frank’s ostensibly back, so too is his camera as photography returning to the series. Capturing scenes of particular brutality are the best way to earn those ever-precious Prestige Points required for upgrading Frank’s abilities, with photos graded and sorted into genres according to what’s shot. As an added bonus, West can take selfies and even sneak on zombies to get a shot of himself posing with their rotting mugs.

For the most part, Dead Rising 4 plays like its predecessor, which I personally enjoy, but one major change is a notable disappointment. The “Psychopaths” of previous games – humans who went off the rails and provided challenging boss encounters – have been replaced by “Maniacs” that, while serving similar purposes, are dramatically reduced in terms of impact.

Rather than offering standalone battles, Maniacs come in groups overseen by a named leader. Their appearances are interspersed throughout the campaign, but they have no real relevance or are treated with importance of any kind. There are no introductory cutscenes for them, and fights against the leaders require no special tactics or interesting nuances.

A big part of the entertainment of Dead Rising has always been encounters against the cracked survivors who provided some twisted flavor to the world. As Maniacs, these survivors are little more than just another enemy type, which is a shame because the dialog and costumes they wear demonstrate some serious squandered potential.

Other tweaks are more welcome, such as melee weapons, firearms, thrown items, and food each getting their own separate inventories with associated D-pad assignments. Not only does it improve the fluidity of gameplay, it’s simply more convenient for the player to have specific slots for each type of item.

Controls are still a bit of a fight, however. Trying to get the item you want when it’s surrounded by dozens of others on the floor – all obtained with the same button press – is a hassle, while combat can still be frustratingly sluggish at times, leading to instances of zombies getting their cheap hits in.

Also, somebody really needs to find a better way of pulling off finisher moves than smooshing one’s thumb over two diagonally-opposed face buttons.

04

While there are some disappointments and archaic clunkiness, Dead Rising 4 is a great time that makes smart improvements over Dead Rising 3. The comedic beats are surprisingly well executed, especially early on in the campaign, and while the conclusion may be hugely disappointing to some, I can’t fault the series its boldness.

Those who remain saddened at the series’ removal of key features will likely not find themselves happy about DR4, and the return of Frank will be a poor exchange given the overhaul of not just his voice, but his character. Those looking for an enjoyable zombie-smashing romp, however, will find a choice example in this Christmassy take on the Dead Rising franchise.

It’s put me in the holiday spirit, at any rate.

8/10
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148 Comments on "Dead Rising 4 Review – A Christmas Gory"

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Anthony Lindo
Guest

What I wanna know is why did they remove the ability to combine food and drink items? I thought the combo food system in DR2 and DR3 was pretty awesome. Although the DR4 is incredibly easy so I guess the combo food thing was not necessary.

Maniate
Guest
Time limits in DR force decisions. Do I save this survivor or that one? Can I take a shortcut through here and risk a psycho spawning? DR without time limits is a shitty musou game with zombies. I will never understand how Japanese devs can write American characters and the dangers of Western mass consumption better than Canadians. Even the psychos in DR1 are more human than anyone in the later games. Seeing this game, it feels like the devs didn’t even understand Dead Rising. It wasn’t the wacky zombie killing adventures of Frank West. The beauty of what the… Read more »
RocketSparkle
Guest

No, time limits are awful and I’m glad they are gone. I’m just sad they removed story co-op.

ThinkerT
Guest
You’re both right – and wrong. Time limits can be an effective plot tool – it makes no sense in a lot of games (e.g. Skyrim) that effectively say “You’re the hero and unless you do this the world will end! But feel free to screw around with side quests until you get around to it.” However, the time limits in the original DR were outrageously restrictive. Those combined with the limited save points basically allowed you to get trapped into a no-win situation because you had no idea how long things would take. (Having the clock continue to run… Read more »
Dimas Arellano
Guest

I agree with you, Saints row is silly and weird while Dead rising 1, 2 and, some parts of 3 is very serious about the situation, I don’t mind the time limits, but they decided to remove it and ruined the fun that made dead rising what it was, now it’s an apocalypse version of Saints Row even though the game’s finished (I think), and Frank West isn’t Frank West anymore.

P.S. Sorry for the rant, but Capcom please stop make a game that’s similar to dead rising.

supercrotchinator
Guest

It’s “ostentatious”, Jim. No such word as “austentatious”. Unless it’s a UK thing.

Llyander
Guest

Maybe he was referring to the Jane Austen stage show? 🙂

Jiryn
Guest

I love the series and this game, but the only set back I found is the fact that Overtime Mode and the 2nd, real ending to the game is locked behind a DLC Pay Wall.

For those getting this game, Overtime mode is not included, it has to be purchased with the “Frank Rising” DLC pack which will be released at a later date.

Alex Ashe
Guest
Dead Rising 1 is my second favourite game of all time, and I despise the third game, because it’s too gritty. It’s too much of an action flick, it’s too flamboyant. It’s too tonally serious, and it seems too easy. Granted, I’ve never played it, but personally I think that DR 1 feels more vast, and has more depth, without using half as much space. It was clunky, but in my opinion it was the best zombie game of all time. On the other hand, this game could be okay. I don’t like that they completely remade Frank, but I… Read more »
CogInTheWheel
Guest

Didn’t even notice this review til now. Sure reads like a fun time, I’m glad the timer isn’t in the base game.

Too bad the ending wasn’t as good, but that’s a small price to pay for varied zombie smashing :p

Putang Inamo
Guest

Huh, I didnt even know that this was an Xbone exclusive.

Brandon Mack
Guest

I guess this is a skip for me. DR3 became a chore to finished and the double down isn’t for me.

Rafael R Piñero
Guest

Okay, but what about the rumor, and since I haven’t found a credible source yet it is still a rumor, that the games “true” ending will be payed DLC?

Maf
Guest
I don’t understand why they can’t just have two modes: Hardcore and Casual. Casual would play like DR3/4 where there are no time limits, you have plenty of inventory space and possibly more hp and Hardcore can play like DR1/2 where there are time limits and resources are scarce. I mean it wouldn’t even be that hard to implement, its mostly just adding in timers and tweaking gameplay. If they wanted to get fancy they could make it so Casual mode survivors are saved when you clear the zombies around them and Hardcore mode survivors you have to lead back… Read more »
fire lion
Guest

That would require them to stop chopping the game up for DLC.

Antigonius
Guest

So…any reason why should I play this and not, for example, State of Decay?

Michael Alexander Seiler
Member

They are kinda different games though. Sure both got zombies in it but SoD is closer to a classic survival game, with ressource management focused to keeping people alive and stuff while Dead Rising´s stupid fun time zombie bashing.

Antigonius
Guest

That’s the problem I thought that DR1 and 2 were…serious game. Silly at times, yes. But not….this…now I’m sad.

Michael Alexander Seiler
Member

I wouldn´t really say they were serious. They had serious undertones.

Maniate
Guest

The story in DR was played completely straight and it was dark as fuck. All the fun was in the gameplay. This is the wacky zombie killing adventures of Frank West.

Chad
Guest

So strange… Watch Dogs 2 beating Dishonored in score and now Dead Rising 4 beating The Last Guardian. 2016 has been full of surprises!

Nejo Goldsmith
Guest

Well don’t forget, this is just one man’s opinion. It really depends on each person’s preference. I’ve seen many people praising The Last Guardian, and many disliking it. I usually trust Jim’s opinions, but I don’t ALWAYS see eye to eye with him. Neither should anyone with any critic.

Chad
Guest

For me, Jim is the only reviewer I listen to anymore. I cannot stand IGN or the other big reviewers anymore. Jim’s reviews just feel… human to me. They speak to me because he calls games out on their bullshit and I love him for it. Thank god for Jim.

Lloyd
Guest

Words cannot express how glad I was that they (basically) got rid of the escorting of survivors. Escort missions are second only to QTE’s of my most hated game mechanics so to be Frank (har har har) I’m fine with the direction the series has gone, from a stressful aggravation to something far more enjoyable. So I’ll happily give this a shot too, plus it will give me a reason to turn on my Xbone again.

fire lion
Guest

They should get rid of the health bar. Dying kept me from enjoying the game.

Chris Wallace
Member

Didn’t one of the Arkhan games happen during Christmas Eve? Origins maybe?

Arella Jardin
Guest

Yes, but who would want to play BA Origins?

Michael Alexander Seiler
Member

I do…

Henriette Gaston
Guest

It’s really not bad once you’re past the bad intro and before the save file gets corrupted.

Michael Alexander Seiler
Member

Well, judging by how some people rant about Origins having your save file corrupted is like a blessing in disguise.

Spurious K
Member
I had to stop and think about what’s putting me off DR4. I’ve only played DR2: Off the record before in the series, I believe it was technical problems with DR3 on PC back when it launched that stopped me getting it. But the more I look at DR4… I think it’s the tone that’s doing it. To continue Saints Row comparisons that have been made, DR2:OTR has a surprisingly similar tone to Saints Row 2 in that there’s wackiness, most of it is kinda low-key or just built into the setting in a fairly typical action movie way, where… Read more »
Maniate
Guest

That’s a great comparison. The initial DR and SR games played the stories mostly straight and had the craziness in the game play. Subsequent titles were the wacky antics of the Saints or the wacky zombie killing adventures of DR protagonist.

Endlosung
Guest

So on the PC this is a Microsoft store exclusive right? Mr. Jim “Fucking” Sterling could you specify if a game is exclusive to a PC store under format in your review? I was going to go put this on my steam wish list only to find its not on steam, and i will be damned before i support the Microsoft PC store.

Anton
Guest

Timed exclusive. It will be on Steam in spring 2017.

ATBro
Guest

The timer was always the thing that sort of defined what set the DR games apart from others, but it has always been the thing I hated about playing them. The tight time limits stressed me out and drained the game of all fun, for me. Couple that with a terrible gameplay “feel” and they just didn’t grab me at all.

Arella Jardin
Guest

I agree, I hated the time limits. In fact, the time limit felt out of place with the core gameplay. They give you these environments to explore, tons of zombies to smash, and lots of fun ways to do said smashing…. but then tell you to stop playing around and get the next objective as quickly as possible? It’s counterintuitive.

Charlie Koszulinski
Guest
I was reading the comments of another article where someone was explaining that Dead Rising is similar to a rogue like. You’re supposed to keep going as far as you can until you fail. From there, you start a new game plus with your current level and all your upgrades and abilities. I never put it together that way before but reading it actually made sense. I never had a problem with the time limits. In fact, I loved the time limits and escorting survivors. It added a sense of urgency to the game. Without a time limit, it just… Read more »
Jason Zuke
Guest

You can avoid rescuing survivors to give yourself way more time though, while still being able to complete the main story and explore the mall. I always appreciated that playing DR “optimally” was insanely difficult, but that you could also just mess around while enjoying the story.

Brandon Mack
Guest

I never understand the stress people get from the earlier games.

Chris
Guest

I think some people (like me) have a mindset that they might only be able to play through a game once and want to do everything on their first play through.
Note. Never played DR1 since I didn’t have a 360 🙁 but I watch game grumps and now I’m kind of glad because it looks really clunky.

Charlie Koszulinski
Guest
It was a bit clunky, but the remaster is only $20 and I can’t recommend it more. There’s so much I love about Dead Rising, from the story to the mall to the psychos all the way over to the “everything’s a weapon” gameplay. Plus, you could just fail the main story and enter the free roam from there. There will still be psychos and survivors to rescue, but you would need to start the game over to continue the story (which is how it was meant to be played anyway). Or, there’s the survivor mode with no story, no… Read more »
Jack Trevor
Guest

I don’t care how much of a departure it is from the series, this sounds like ‘Die Hard’ the zombie game. Also sounds like a decent way to restart interest in the series.

MJC
Guest
“Truly, this is a travesty and insult to the name Dead Rising.” Yep. I don’t care how good this game is on its own merit, I’m not spending $60. I’m not going to reward them for homogenizing the franchise to be like every other open world and/or zombie game by buying this game at full price. Maybe in a year or two, when this game is on sale for $5-$15, I’ll pick it up to have fun with it for what it is. But $60, right now, which would send the message that I support what they’ve done? Fuck no.… Read more »
Anton
Guest

Playing DR1 on PC right now. It takes an hour or so to get used to again (the jank is real), but after that it’s just as glorious as I remember it, all at 60fps and whatever resolution you set it to. Plays very smoothly too, but I have an overpowered PC and so can’t speak for everyone.

Jack Trevor
Guest

Welp, that’s too bad.

Because the “homogeneous” market out numbers the niche market. Which is what you’re part of.

Charlie Koszulinski
Guest

Yeah, the game hit the top of the charts, so any protest you do now is moot. Might as well just buy it and sell it for less than half the price.

bloodspray51
Guest

Thanks for your incredible insight!

Fiery Muffin
Member

So only slightly worse than uncharted 4?

Vohaul86
Guest
Played DR2: Off The Record some time ago (bought it in the Halloween sale), and I soon came to understand why people love the old Frank so much. (I actually bought the original DR2 first before I realized I’d bought the “wrong” version. Damn how Chuck was bland…) I also liked the time limit (even though that forced me to restart Day 1 before I learned to manage the time Frank had in each Case), and after beating the game I played in the sandbox mode – and that was boring as f*ck. The time limit pushed forward and set… Read more »
MJC
Guest

You… You get it. I like you. 🙂

Ernesto Prishker
Guest

So Dead Rising developers listened to the fans. What fans? I don’t like all the changes and other people I’d consider Dead Rising fans seem pretty pissed about them.

MJC
Guest
By fans they clearly meant the total opposite: people who weren’t fans. People who were bitching that they didn’t like the game and it needed to be changed because heaven forbid they just not play something they don’t like. And instead of being a niche title, Capcom abandoned the core of the franchise to appeal to those assholes who still aren’t going to pay attention anyway because they already decided they hate Dead Rising. Ugh. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bitch at the creators of Gran Turismo that I hate racing sims and they need to… Read more »
Sammich
Guest

Of course they listened to the fans: fans of GTA, saints row and dynasty warriors.

Anton
Guest

By “fans”, they mean people complaining that DR1 was not the same as other open-world games. And in their defense, there actually are probably more people like that than DR1/2 enthusiasts.

John Ryan
Member

The only DR game I tried was 3 and I quit the second I saw the timer. I cant stand any open world game that gives you a finite amount of time to explore it. It defeats the purpose to me. Same reason why I never got into Majora’s Mask. So good on them for removing it. Then again I started hating Saints Row when it got over-the-top goofy. So I’m torn on this one.

Charlie Koszulinski
Guest
Honestly, I payed the sandbox mode in Dead Rising: Off the Record and was thouroughly bored within an hour. Without any survivors or bosses, it gets old real quick. I can slay zombies all day long with all these different weapons. Ok, what else can I do? I could partake in some mediocre mini games and reach for a high score. Pass. What else? You can… um… well uhhhhh… that’s it. As far as Majora’s mask goes, you’re depriving yourself of one of the best Zelda games ever made. The game revolves around the timer. The whole world of Termina… Read more »
Solipsis
Guest

This! So much this. Any explorable world with a time limit shatters my enjoyment so fast it’s not even funny. I might actually try Dead Rising now that it isn’t time-gated.

Sammich
Guest

You’re effectively saying that you might try dead rising now that it isn’t dead rising anymore. I know it wasn’t for everyone, but it was a fun game and it stinks to see it homogenized into something else.

Solipsis
Guest
First of all, I am saying that..somewhat, however I disagree that it’s not Dead Rising anymore. This notion of change making something ‘not itself’ any longer is a goofy one at best. Whatever the devs decide to do with an IP, as long as it carries the title, it still remains that title despite what disgruntled fans might say or think. FF15 is still an FF game even if it’s action-based combat and not turn-based. Resident Evil 7 is still an RE game even though it is a first person shooter now. The title is what matters here, and while… Read more »
FlamingoJet
Guest
Actually, had you actually played any of the previous games besides 3, you would know, understand, and learn that the timer that everyone bitches about, which frankly I’m getting really sick of, was key to the ENTIRE experience. Everything was built around knowing how much time you had left. Where to go, fastest route to get there, who you could save, where were the healing items and weapons at; all while trying to get to the bottom of what was going on. The games were designed to be played multiple times, they were designed to teach you that failing or… Read more »
Solipsis
Guest
I personally think that one of the laziest ways to make a game worth learning as you suggest, is by putting a stupid time limit on everything. Like I said in my post. I respect the fans that want the timer, I just do not and I do not want to play any game that has a time limit on everything. It is not fun for me. I also said I appreciate the fact that this isn’t what fans wanted, nor did I claim to say that this is the game we SHOULD HAVE. I’m simply saying, it is up… Read more »
FlamingoJet
Guest

“it is up to the devs to decide what the game is, not the fans.”

Only thing that you said there I can actually agree with.

Donald Milliken
Guest

I’m glad to hear that the game is pretty good, though I still can’t help but wonder why Capcom would bother to bring Frank back only to change him so much. It just makes no sense.

Donald Milliken
Guest

I mean, he’s supposed to be older and more grizzled and yet is somehow younger and prettier. Explain that one. Off the Record, where he was depicted as gross and out of shape, seems truer to the character to me.

Jed Whitaker
Guest

By Saints Row territory, do you mean this game features the glorious crooning of one Aerosmith?

I hope so, that and zombies together in the same gane will make this a must buy!

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