- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Here’s a look at some software to delight the ghouls in the family:

Dead Rising, from Capcom for Xbox 360, rated M for mature, $59.99. A visit to the local mall usually does not induce a panic attack, but try shopping among legions of bloodthirsty zombies. Luckily, it’s only a video game — I kept repeating that to myself — as the company responsible for the Resident Evil franchise tops itself with a violent third-person simulation that pays homage to George Romero’s favorite buddies.

As photojournalist Frank West, the player must survive a 72-hour blitzkrieg of horror living among the undead and trying to solve the mystery of their origins. Through very open-ended play, the game demands that a player roam around a mall, embark on rescue missions, defeat homicidal maniacs and take some nifty photos of his adventures.

The player will constantly make life-and-death decisions as he straddles the line separating hero, nosy journalist and survivor through unbelievable levels of interactivity.

Within the mall, stores are open and a wide range of goods are available to help the player battle the zombies, eat a hastily prepared meal, read a book to enhance powers or stock up on supplies.

The key to the game is to stay alive long enough to appreciate all of its nuances, including the cinematic presentations, zombies that get stronger at night, the use of books as power-ups, and multiple endings along with extra story levels defined by a player’s success during the three-day ordeal.

Of course, weapons play a major role in the fun.

My first battle had me swinging a plasma television and a bench. Fights can get more traditional with pistols and knives, or a visit to the hardware store can make things a bit twisted as chain saws, sledgehammers and hedge trimmers make a gooey mess out of the rotting opponents. If Frank is caught without a weapon, the player can perform some slick combat moves or simply try to shake off the menaces.

Without a doubt, the level of grossness involved in the zombie kills will stagger anyone not used to seeing this type of carnage on a television screen. The entire experience is a workout for the emotions and cardiovascular system as anxiety levels creep up while time runs out and blood pressure pounds at every undead encounter.

Dead Rising is one of the most immersive and slickly designed titles I have ever played. Despite its appeal to just a small segment of the population — basically mature adults who own an Xbox 360 and a big-screen television and have nerves of steel — it will stand as one of the best game experiences of the year.

For players who find the tasks too much to handle, I suggest buying a copy of the Brady Games strategy guide ($15.99), which does a fantastic job of spelling out Frank’s goals and the arsenal at his disposal, including a helpful layout of the mall and where to find more than 60 survivors.

Supernatural, from Warner Home Video for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, not rated, $59.98. Those who need to lose more sleep to nightmares after a go at Dead Rising will find extended horror as they use their Xbox 360’s DVD capabilities to watch the first season of the WB’s scariest television show.

A 22-episode smorgasbord of ghost-busting greets viewers in six discs as the Winchester brothers explore the country to look for their father and hunt down and destroy every type of supernatural entity that threatens mankind.

A helpful navigation menu allows quick access to deleted scenes and commentary tracks and provides the ability to turn off the recap of the previous show — a real timesaver during a marathon viewing session.

When the sixth disc is loaded into a PC, it provides a bland interface to access a special Web site containing a video preview of the new season by creator Eric Kripke, a draft of the pilot episode of the show (also introduced by Mr. Kripke), limited access to a hunter’s blog area, and a link to the official “Supernatural” Web site (https://supernatural.warnerbros.com).

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]).

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