Hands on with Dead Rising 4, the next big zombie game coming to Xbox One and Windows 10

One of the games Microsoft announced at its E3 press conference is Dead Rising 4, the latest in Capcom's series of zany zombie beat 'em ups. Dead Rising 4 is coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 this December. We played a special build here at E3 in order to bring you these firsthand impressions.

Jingle bell crunch

Dead Rising 4 E3 2016 screenshot

Dead Rising 3 launched alongside the Xbox One as an Xbox exclusive back in 2013. At the time, naysayers criticized the game for running at 720p resolution, not to mention its darker color palette compared to previous Dead Risings. But Dead Rising 3 still featured the series' trademark fun combat, overwhelming numbers of zombies on-screen, and some amusing and gory ways to decimate the undead. It's worth checking out.

Whereas Dead Rising 3 featured new protagonist Nick Ramos, Dead Rising 4 sees the return of original hero Frank West – a photojournalist who has covered wars and survived more than his share of scrapes with zombies.

16 years after the events of the first Dead Rising, Frank once again runs afoul of zombies during the holiday season at the Willamette Memorial Megaplex Mall in Colorado. Willamette holds evidence of a government conspiracy behind the original zombie outbreak.

Our hero will have to contend with other forces seeking out that evidence, including a rogue military operation, a former student with unknown intentions, and even a new breed of smarter zombies. Let's hope he can pull it off before Christmas, because the holidays are not looking jolly in Willamette!

Busting zombie heads

Dead Rising 4 E3 2016 screenshot

The E3 demo drops Frank into a city blocked filled with zombies rather than the Megaplex Mall itself. Shops line the streets, abandoned but mostly in good repair. This outbreak is a recent one. The demo takes place at night, but the color palette still seems a bit brighter than that of Dead Rising 3.

Frank has three primary methods of battling the undead: melee, projectile, and throwing objects. Each of these is assigned to a specific button to allow players to mix up attacks on the fly. Weapons always wear out or run out of ammunition in Dead Rising; Frank will automatically switch to another weapon of the same type if he has one when this happens.

Additionally, our hero can drive certain vehicles in order to plow through zombies en masse. The E3 demo included an off-road buggy with a chain gun mounted on top. Anyone who discovered this elusive ride racked up huge kill counts with ease.

I didn't get to drive the buggy myself, but I still wielded a number of cool weapons during my playtime. On the melee front, the demo gave everyone a two-sided battle axe charged with electricity. It has a huge swing radius that sends zombies shocked and flying. In the final game, players will craft weapons like the electric axe using the traditional Dead Rising crafting system.

The electric axe really shows off Dead Rising 4's combo system. As your kill combo increases (regardless of the method used for killing), you'll build up a special melee move. The axe's special move involves Frank holding it aloft and firing bolts of electricity all around him. Moves like that can really take the heat off as zombies swarm you from all sides.

Another fun melee weapon I discovered was a ball of holiday decorations, sort of like a Christmas tree wrapped up into a sphere. Striking zombies with the holiday ball makes ornaments and decorations fall off comically, which is a fairly jolly method of dispatching pesky undead.

As for projectile weapons, the demo started us off with another crafted weapon: a crossbow that launches fireworks. Each time one of these rockets hits a zombie, its explodes into a delightful fireworks display. There's no more festive way to kill a group of zombies with one shot.

Suiting up

Dead Rising 4 E3 2016 screenshot

As I played the demo, I encountered an enticing purple box within a construction area on the outskirts of town. To reach it, I had to run and jump across a ramp. Due to the nighttime setting, I didn't notice the gap between the ramp and the platform on my first attempt. Falling down below puts you near the unfinished building's foundation, where teams of ravenous zombies await.

After trying again and making the jump, I opened the box and discovered one of Dead Rising 4's new features: a mechanical Exo Suit. As you'd expect, the Exo Suit boosts Frank's strength to superhuman levels. His punches and kicks will send hordes of zombies flying, and he can pick up environmental objects like parking meters and pipes that would've been too heavy before. And the Exo Suit's super moves are especially gory – Frank lifts zombies into the air and pulled them apart at the torso, blood flying everywhere.

All good things must come to an end though, so eventually the Exo Suit runs out of energy and disappears. Luckily I found a chain gun right next to it, and used that to take down a few dozen zombies with ease. Dead Rising 4 is all about the fun of killing zombies, as opposed to the horrific elements of series like The Walking Dead. If you're stuck in a bleak setting, you might as well have some fun with it.

More Dead Rising to love

Dead Rising 4 E3 2016 screenshot

Like the previous game, Dead Rising 4 takes place in an open-world sandbox environment. Players can explore at their leisure, looking for crazy vehicles and weapons or side missions to complete. Sometimes Frank will run afoul of the living residents of Willamette though, including the military organization mentioned early. I came across a group of them standing on top of an 18-wheeeler truck, firing at zombies below. They did not discriminate with their fire, shooting me several times as I ran by.

Dead Rising 4 features far more zombies on-screen than ever before, running at a higher resolution than the last game. That includes two new types of zombies: the Fresh and the Evo. The Fresh start as infected humans who turn into zombies in your presence. Newly zombified, they have more strength and speed than the average undead. As for the Evo, they have the most strength and mobility of any zombie type and will chase Frank like a predatory animal.

Dead Rising 3 featured 2-player campaign co-op, as well as a separate 4-player mode released as downloadable content. The new game ups the ante with seamless 4-player co-op. Players can join their friends to complete missions and work through the game, or use matchmaking to find new zombie-hunting partners.

Zombies coming soon to Xbox One and Windows 10

Dead Rising 4 E3 2016 screenshot

Like Dead Rising 2 and 3, Dead Rising 4 will have a PC version. But this time, the PC game will be released through the Windows 10 Store rather than Steam. Capcom promises the Windows 10 version will look better than any Dead Rising before it, thanks to the Forge engine and Direct X11.

Windows 10 versions are always good news, but Dead Rising 4 does not appear to be an Xbox Play Anywhere title. Microsoft and Capcom made no mention of crossbuy or crossplay, so the Xbox and Windows 10 versions probably won't interact in any way. And speaking of platforms, Dead Rising 4 is a timed exclusive – not a full exclusive. But at least it comes to Xbox One and Windows 10 first.

Dead Rising 4 will arrive on Xbox One and Windows 10 on December 6, just in time for the holidays. Are you guys excited about this new chance to mow down a few thousand zombies?

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!