Game: Dead Rising 2
Developer: Blue Castle Games
Available On: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Dead Rising (released in 2006) was most certainly a divisive game, loved by some (myself included) and hated by (a lot of) others. With some quirky and rather old fashioned examples of game design it was no surprise to see it fall on neither side of greatness nor ruin. The downloadable game “Dead Rising 2: Case Zero” showed us that whilst the game has moved away from some of those archaisms it still retained some of the less popular features from the original title.
Does Dead Rising 2 get it right or is this another title to divide opinion? Read on for the full review.
STORY: Chuck Greene’s story is like any other ex-motorcycle hero turned widowed father of an infected 7 year old girl really! To earn money to keep his daughter alive via the miracle 24 hour drug “Zombrex” he takes part in the ultimate reality show called “Terror is Reality” and this is where the story begins in Dead Rising 2. Your first action in the game will be to ride a motorbike with dual chainsaws attached to the handlebars and attempt to win a game that involves driving around a “bowl” against three other competitors to see who can kill the most zombies and thus get the most points. Dead Rising 2 is that kind of crazy.
Shortly after winning the competition all hell breaks lose in a similar manner to the first game and you have to get to a safe house where the similarites between Case Zero and the first Dead Rising start to mesh. It turns out that there is a Zombie loving group called “CURE” who are for the ethical treatment of Zombies (seriously!) and the news is reporting you, Chuck Greene, as a member of this “terrorist group” who are being blamed for the Zombies taking over Fortune City. Chuck wants to clear his name and along the way save numerous survivors in the city whilst keeping his daughter alive, returning to her every 24 (in-game) hours with Zobrex to temporarily cure her Zombie infection.
GRAPHICS: It’s safe to say that Dead Rising 2 isn’t exactly a graphical powerhouse and it’s clear that graphical fidelity has been sacrificed in order to keep a steady frame rate whilst there are absurd numbers of the undead on screen. The characters aren’t amazing to look at but they aren’t terrible either, mostly made up stereotypes (the women are either dowdy, fat, attractive and scantily clad) and containing the odd idealistic kink. For example, Chuck’s daughter Katey is wearing headphones with no cable, even when she is talking to people or playing her handheld games console that looks suspiciously like a pink Sony PSP, but altered just enough to be able to get away with appearing in the Xbox 360 version.
SOUND: Everything is as it should be, splatter noises, chainsaw revs and zombie moaning are all present and correct. The voice acting isn’t bad either and, as with most of Dead Rising 2, the game seems to have retained the campy sort of feel to it. However, besides the cut-scenes there isn’t much in terms of people talking, most of the missions are dealt with via on-screen text and although sometime the characters will say something like “Nice job!” whilst the text reads completely differently.
GAMEPLAY: Not a lot has really changed from Dead Rising and if you have played the more recent XBLA exclusive Case Zero you will know exactly what to expect from Dead Rising 2. Rather than the photography mechanic that Frank West enjoyed in the original title, Chuck Green gets his “PP” from his particular skill which happens to be “general handyman”. Apparently Chuck can “fix anything” and you will use this to great effect in the game combining certain items together to make insane combinations (drill bucket anyone!?), which in turn give you some form of bonus like a multiplier to your PP when killing zombies.
It’s great fun to attempt to make new weapons and the game gives you a helping hand by having 2 different icons before you pick a weapon, one that shows it isn’t possible to combine and another that tells you the opposite. If you’ve played Case Zero though, you’ll already know all this and there’s not much more to learn, just more combination and more weapons.
The basic premise of the Dead Rising universe applies here again, there is a main story that is timed (in this case there is 3 days until the military arrives to quarantine and rescue), but you will have side (mostly escort) missions along the way. Dead Rising 2 mixes this up slightly by adding Katey into the mix and you have to return to her every 24 hours or she will die. For a guy trying to save everyone, clear his name and keep his daughter alive, Chuck Greene sure does move slowly…
The similarities to the first game outnumber the additions to the series, the beginning of the game is nearly a carbon copy of the first with Chuck instead of Frank finding a “hidden” way out of the safe zone and then the story kicking off. Just like the first game you have a new friend with a radio telling you what to do and where survivors are from the safety of the control room. Again, just like the first game if you fail or die you get the option to restart from a save point or restart the game but keep your current level. The upgrade system returns as well, as you rank up you unlock new abilities, health upgrades, inventory space upgrades and this time around you also unlock the combo cards that give you bonuses when using the weapon combination featured on said cards. Remember the really frustrating part of Dead Rising where there were pyscho’s in a jeep in the middle an area shooting at you? Thankfully that isn’t in this title…instead, and far worse, it’s a pyscho on a motorbike with dual chainsaws running you over at every opportunity!
The game actively encourages you to save regularly (in an early mission one of the female characters literally stops and asks if you need a break) and is once again based on multiple playthroughs. You’ll find it very difficult to achieve everything you want to do on your first play of the game and if you aren’t careful you might end up frustrated if you do indeed take on too much. Make no bones about it though, this save system will still annoy people and you will lose progress as a punishment for not saving every time you pass a bathroom in the game. Due to the nature of the game and the sheer volume of enemies you’ll occassionally accidentally hit people you are escorting because they are so close to you. If you do this too often they will turn on you and actively attack you, which caused me to lose 30 minutes of progress at one point which felt especially unfair as it wasn’t my fault the person I was escorting had decided to stand on top of me whilst I swung at a group zombies with a machete.
An addition to the title that should be a positive (and for the most part succeeds) is the mini-games from the “Terror is Reality” gameshow, but there are no tutorials for these and since you have to pay in game currency to play them you’ll probably get annoyed by at least one of them the first time you play it. It’s nice to be able to play these mini-games, but they are far more entertaining to play online with friends than on your own in the single player campaign.
Sadly, Dead Rising 2 is plagued with load screens, some short and some long, but because the game is based on you moving around the area a lot you will see the load screens far too often. Every time there is a cut-scene the game has a load screen before and afterwards. People who didn’t find it a problem in Case Zero probably won’t find it a problem here, but be warned, you will get acquainted with seeing “Loading…” in this title.
To enjoy the game you will need to be happy to multi-task and be on the clock all the time. The game is permanently on a timer, be it a countdown until Katey needs her next dose or a countdown until the military arrives, the clock is always ticking. Adding to the stressful nature of being constantly timed, all the escort missions are also only available for a certain length of time, and as mentioned earlier, they will pile up and you will not be able to do everything in one playthrough.
The multiplayer consists of the gameshow from the start of the game fleshed out into a proper full on competitive mode and of course the game is also playable in co-op, but you’ll want to be the host as the visitor doesn’t get to keep any of the story progress they gain and the way the co-op is visualised is in the form of another Chuck. You can differentiate by wearing different outfits, but it’s kind of a shame that there isn’t a second playable character of some description.
LONGEVITY: Dead Rising is a game built on replayability, so much so that if you die you get the option to return to the start of the game and keep your current level and abilities. As mentioned, you’ll need to play it at least twice (possibly more) to see everything the game has to offer.
The multiplayer is fun, but it seems unlikely that it will stay the distance as not much does these days. The addition of co-op keeps it slightly fresh, but the fact that only the hosting player keeps PP and upgrades hurts this mode quite a bit.
VERDICT: If you played Case Zero then there is a very real possibility you will have already had your fill of the gameplay within Dead Rising 2 and the story is certainly not going to win any awards. Dead Rising 2 is fun though, no question about that, and mowing down zombies with two chainsaws strapped to an oar doesn’t get boring very quickly. It has a decent amount of replayability and a multiplayer that is fun amongst friends.
It does get a little bogged down at times with loading screens and repetition though. There is certainly enough fun to be had to back up the positives, but sadly the game is so stuck in its ways that for every moment spent enjoying killing endless numbers of zombies there will be another moment that annoys. Blue Castle Games have definitely “got” the idea behind Dead Rising, but unfortunately they have dragged everything people didn’t like kicking and screaming into this sequel. It’s a compliment to Blue Castle Games that you’d never know the game wasn’t made by the original team, but that is sadly to the detriment of the player.
Despite really enjoying the original title, it’d be hard to not tell someone to spend 400 Microsoft Points on the Case Zero prequel before deciding to buy this title. As for PS3 users, no such “try before you buy” option exists, so perhaps just a small word of caution needs to be advised. Yet again Dead Rising will divide opinion but this time around, 4 years on, surely it can’t be given such an easy ride.