With the tempting little bite-sized teaser offered by Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, I couldnâ€™t wait to dive into the full game. Now Dead Rising 2 has arrived and though critics might well be moaning about its lack of originality or that itâ€™s not enough of a departure from the original game, letâ€™s face it â€“ itâ€™s a sequel, it was never going to re-invent the wheel.
For what it’s worth though, Dead Rising 2 gets quite a lot of stuff absolutely right straight off the bat.
For starters, as with Case Zero, any dad worth their salt is going to easily identify with Chuck Greene’s plight. Scouring a zombie-filled landscape doing everything you can to keep your daughter from turning into â€œone of themâ€ plucked enough at my heartstrings to make me want to keep playing.
Strangely though, for such a human story of tragedy, thereâ€™s still that dark tinge of black humour bubbling under the surface of Dead Rising 2â€™s bloodthirsty gameplay. After all, can you think of any other game that allows you to dress your main protagonist in womenâ€™s clothing, wearing a giant Blanka head, while killing zombies with a bucket full of drills?
Of course you canâ€™t â€“ and that was also the appeal of the original Dead Rising. Thinking up ever more inventive ways of using the scavenged objects around you to chop, maim and dismember the shambling undead is exactly what keeps the zombie game genre alive, and Dead Rising 2 contains all the right ingredients that should be par for the course for any zombie game. There are (literally) buckets of gore to wade through, and itâ€™s impossible to go anywhere in the game without coming into contact with the infected so there are plenty of opportunities to wreak your bloodlust on the thousand of undead shuffling around the gigantic environment of Fortune City.
As with Williamette, the setting for the first game, there are plenty of retail outlets and casinos for Chuck to loot, to find the all important weaponry required for his mammoth quest. At the heart of it all though, the mindless violence takes second place to his priorities â€“ finding Zombrex (an expensive and hard-to-find wonder drug that can stop a bitten human from becoming a zombie) and rescuing hapless survivors caught in the zombie onslaught.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, it soon becomes apparent that Chuck is a tiny cog in a rather elaborate and complex machine put in place by nefarious criminals who had rather more in mind for Fortune City than just watching the place reduced to a zombie-filled wasteland. On first playthrough itâ€™s worth sticking as closely to the main plot as possible without bogging yourself down too much with rescuing survivors. In fact between the main plot and hunting for the all-important Zombrex for your daughter, you barely find time for anything else. Peripheral characters in the game are important though, and if you rescue a few, you may find that theyâ€™ll reward you in various ways so itâ€™s worth not being a completely cold hearted killer, so do the decent thing and rescue as many people as possible. Youâ€™ll feel better for it.
Gameplay wise, it seems a bit of a shame to lose the photography aspect from the first game, but in its place, the all important PP points go towards levelling Chuckâ€™s combat and health up, as well as often producing bonus combo cards for Chuck to use. Certain items found in Fortune City carry Spanner symbols on them, and if they do, you can often join them to other items in order to create a new (and often quite devastating) anti-zombie weapon. Thereâ€™s nothing like sticking a few nails in a baseball bat to make it a more potent zombie-killing weapon, after all.
Some combos can also be gained from just being observant. Checking out movie posters, even looking at whatâ€™s on sale in the local seedy pawn shops is all worth doing because itâ€™ll give you hints on what to try combining next.
Dead Rising 2 may look a little like a standard Xbox 360 title without much in the way of graphical polish, but it does a superb job of keeping the action flowing (despite some lengthy load times, and an excruciatingly slow interaction with any of your storage devices while loading / saving) . Itâ€™s great to see a literal sea of zombies stretching out as far as the eye can see in some locations (even better if youâ€™re riding them down on a chainsaw-equipped motorbike at the time).
There are tons of nice little Capcom “in jokes” in the game and also plenty of cool little pop culture references to everything from movies like Robocop and Escape from New York to bizarre products that look a lot like their real-world counterparts.
Some annoying elements have still been carried over from the original Dead Rising. Youâ€™ll still need to visit specific locations to save (though thankfully this time round there are a lot more â€œfacilitiesâ€ around Fortune City than there were in Williamette so you never get caught short). The time-critical quests are also still in place so unless you keep multiple saves itâ€™s quite easy to miss a deadline and end up either with a zombified daughter, or a knackered main story quest that canâ€™t be completed. Thankfully you can stretch your game across three save slots (more if you use memory cards or external drives on your 360) so you can hopefully get the most out of the game without the tiresome pain of having to re-play huge sections of it.
All in all, Blue Castle Games have produced a relatively â€œsafeâ€ sequel that doesnâ€™t radically depart from the original gameâ€™s quirky charm.
It’s tough at times, and some moments will have you gnashing your teeth in frustration in the early stages of the game when Chuck has less health and inventory slots to play with. But stick with it, and soon youâ€™ll be sucked into a world of zombies, sinister plots and downright good gory fun.