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How Dead Rising 4's Frank West is the new George Bailey

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Zombie slasher looks to deliver a cheery message

If good ol' George Bailey ever wielded a chainsaw, you can be certain he'd read the manual, understood the safety procedures and took care to avoid the kickback zone.

Dead Rising 4’s Frank West, on the other hand, only ever uses a chainsaw to cleave zombies in two, generally prefers the one-handed, swinging approach and has even been known to dual wield while whirling.

If George's forte is carving the Christmas loin of beef, Frank is happiest carving up undead hordes.

So how can It's A Wonderful Life's mild-mannered banker be compared to daring slayer Frank, whose current kill-count dwarfs the entire population of Bedford Falls?

Dead Rising 4

It's all about warm-hearted Christmas messages, at least according to Dead Rising 4's executive producer Bryce Cochrane. "What is Christmas really about?" he said in an interview with Polygon. "Christmas is really about loving your family and being good to others. It's not about excess. But the season has become about consumerism."

Cochrane points out that the Dead Rising series has always poked fun at consumerism, right back to the first game in 2006. It took its lead from George A. Romero's 1978 horror flick Dawn of the Dead, and made a shopping mall its setting.

Although subsequent games have ranged far and wide (and have featured different protagonists) Dead Rising 4 takes place in a mall, with Frank West, the hero of the original, back against a zombie plague.

The game's main thrust is collecting and crafting weapons that will best cut a swathe through masses of groaning, animated corpses. This is definitely a grisly prospect, but humor and satire are a big part of the mix.

Dead Rising 4 Capcom Vancouver

"Frank is an everyman," says Cochrane. "He always acts like he doesn't care, but deep down inside he cares the most. He's willing to put everything on the line to stop this [apocalypse] from happening because he sees what’s going to come out of it."

There are no zombies in It's a Wonderful Life, only an angel and some alternate universe shenanigans. George believes his life has been a total waste of time, but an angel shows him the terrible world that might have existed, had he never been born. Although George refrains from eviscerating his enemies with weapons made out of ironing boards, he is forced to roam a nightmare world of consumerist outrages.

Both Frank and George go on a bit of a bender when things don't work out for them. But they sober up fast when it's time to put things right.

In It's A Wonderful Life's bad universe, people are mean and selfish, corrupted by a system that cares only for wealth. In Dead Rising 4, the zombies are juxtaposed with Christmas' most grating excesses, a slavering horde not unlike those witnessed during Black Friday store sales.

"Consumers in the mall fighting for the best presents, that's just not what the season's about," says Cochrane. "The zombies represent that in a lot of ways but it's tongue in cheek."

Dead Rising 4 is a violent game, in which players are encouraged to create the most malevolent weapons they can, using consumer goods and Christmas junk. But Cochrane says its main thrust is humor and Christmas cheer.

"Frank West is bringing a cheery message. It's over-the-top fun that you get from a holiday. This is just about the ridiculous laughter that comes from crafting a really great weapon and having fun with it, all the while with Christmas in the background.”

Dead Rising 4 will be released for Windows PC and Xbox One on Dec. 6. Look out for Polygon’s review.