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Review: Dead Rising 2


When the Xbox 360 fist launched five years ago one of the teased games from Capcom was Dead Rising. From the trailer all one could discern was a fairly ugly reporter walking around a supermarket amongst hundreds of zombies. When the final product arrived however we were treated to a free roaming zombie playground with a seemingly endless motley of ways to dispose of the undead menace set against an interesting (if B-movie quality) storyline with franchise potential.

With the zombie gaming craze seemingly reaching its zenith though does Dead Rising 2, coming from a Western developer now, complement the well-established genre?

I�ve Covered Wars Ya Know
In the aftermath of the Willamette, Colorado incident, the world has changed in response to the existence of zombies. Public opinion is split between disgust for the infected and those who seek to cure them. The one general consensus though is that zombies are not regarded as citizens and can be considered property. As such, zombie killing has become an unofficial sport with the flagship source of entertainment being Terror Is Reality, a pay-per-view show where contestants compete in American Gladiators-esque events for cash prizes.

Enter Chuck Greene, professional motocross rider, handyman, and father of one. During a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas Chuck lost his wife to the infection. He was able to escape along with his daughter Katey who was unfortunately bitten in the process. Katey is now dependant on Zombrex, an anti-zombification drug developed following the Willamette outbreak that requires strict regular doses. The drug however is expensive and as such Greene does everything he can to prevent the loss of this daughter.

That means he has to go where the money does. Needing to purchase more of the drug, Chuck competes in an episode of Terror Is Reality in Fortune City, the go-to alternative now that Las Vegas is gone. When leaving the event to pick up his daughter, an explosion rocks the arena elevator and knocks Chuck unconscious. Awakening to chaos, Chuck realizes that the arena�s zombies have escaped and are quickly turning Fortune City into an undead paradise. Chuck finds Katey and escapes to an emergency shelter before the doors close. After fetching some Zombrex and giving Katey her required shot a news report frames Chuck for the outbreak. With only three days to clear his name before the army comes into town and arrests those responsible.

Chuck�s story unfolds in the same manner Frank West�s did in the original Dead Rising. Told through a series of �cases� that occur over the course of those three days, players must meet the deadlines in order to discover the truth of the outbreak. Miss even a single event and it�s game over so time management is something of a necessity. The pacing of the story is far more generous this time around and actually develops in a far more interesting way than what was experienced in Dead Rising.
That being said however there are several problems with the game�s story. For one, apart from having a main character being a dedicated father and having some pun-tastic lines during cinemas, Chuck really isn�t all that interesting a character. There�s a lot to be said in that Chuck is meant to be a blank slate character for players to customize or dress-up but when you don�t include moral decision making you�re not allowing this to take place.

Another problem, and probably the most predominant one in the entire game, is the design of the overall story. Even if you haven�t seen any of the trailers or pre-release marketing for the game you pretty much know from the first time you see a character whether they�ll be good, bad, or end up dead. Many of these roles too are cookie-cutter in design and are almost completely see-through. The survivors that you rescue have roughly the same amount of character that Dead Rising�s ones had so there�s been no growth in this department. It would have been nice to be able to recruit survivors to go out there and help you rescue others but once they enter the safe room they pretty much aren�t leaving.

It is also worth noting that the game, like Dead Rising, has multiple endings based on how you progress through the game. Players who go the distance and make certain decisions will unlock Overtime mode. Overtime mode plays out in a similar manner to that of Dead Rising�s in which you are pretty much alone and have to accomplish certain objective to unlock the best ending for the game. Despite it being the �true� ending to the game the end results are pretty much anti-climatic. You beat the final boss and walk into the (zombie-filled) sunset without any resolution to many of the questions that come up later in the game. These questions will most likely be answered in the upcoming Case West epilogue but it would have been nice to have some closure, especially for those who will not be able to purchase this piece of downloadable content.

Zombies Man, They Creep Me Out
Dead Rising set up a new model of zombie-based gameplay four years ago and hearkened the beginning of the zombie game craze we�ve been experiencing since then. Utilizing a sandbox yet linear story experience, Dead Rising answered the question of how to properly do a zombie game while giving the player a sense of what it�s like to be in the middle of a full-scale zombie outbreak. There really hasn�t been a game to come along and add on to this style in the four years since the original game�s release so Dead Rising 2 doesn�t have much to compete with.

Fortunately though, despite not having competition to breed innovation with, Dead Rising 2 is more of a refinement of the original formula rather than a reinterpretation. Retaining the same formula, in-between case events you are pretty much free to do whatever you please and while Frank West had plenty to do in the first game Chuck Greene has just as much if not more to do. Luckily the pacing of the game is far more generous this time around and allows you to accomplish far more between cases than before.
One of the staple events of the case system is the mandatory event that occurs every morning at 7:00am. With Chuck�s daughter Katey being infected, she requires a daily dose of Zombrex in order to prevent her from changing from a cute seven-year-old Mega Man addict to a shambling not-so-cute brain eater. Zombrex is something that is not at all easy to come by: you can buy some at a pawnshop located in many parts of Fortune City but the price increases by the day and it ends up being more cost effective to find it on your own instead of trying to save up enough to buy some. Some psychopaths and survivors you come across will have some but if you want to go the distance and earn the best possible ending it helps to go explore and find more.

While I don�t rightly understand why it is that some people go crazy in the Dead Rising series, Dead Rising 2�s selection of psychopaths is a nice complement to the original game�s collection. Many of these are supplements to the villains from Frank West�s adventure, such as Dead Rising 2�s version of the chainsaw juggling clown Adam with child mascot Slappy whose weapons are just as ridiculous. Even still there are plenty that are completely original such as the bizarre wife-seeking Randy and the praise-seeking cannibal Chef Antoine. Many of these psychos can be completely skipped if desired and some can actually join you as a survivor if you meet certain conditions. While preparing for some of these fights are a must, thanks to the game�s save system trial and error the eventual defeat of psychos is assured.

Survivors in Fortune City are probably the scene of one of the greatest and most important improvements made in Dead Rising 2. While certain survivors were easy rescues in Dead Rising, the majority of them ended up being one of the hardest exercises to do as not only was the AI intent on not following Frank or his instructions they were also prone to simply being too dumb to be allowed to live in a zombie apocalypse. Luckily this time around the AI has been dramatically improved. Not only will survivors fight alongside you in a competent manner they will actually follow you and do what you demand of them. This makes it possible to actually rescue multiple survivors across the map, something that was nigh impossible in the first game. Thank you Blue Castle for getting this right.

Frank West�s story in Dead Rising was that of a reporter discovering a zombie outbreak and living to tell about it. As such, photography was a big part of the game�s original formula. This time around Chuck doesn�t have that ability. What he does do well is kill zombies and does so in creative fashions. Replacing the photography aspect of the game are combo weapons which offer increasingly more creative means by which to dispatch the undead horde. Though the premise of being able to combine two ordinary objects to create an instrument of bloody death seems at first to be a kind of lousy way to replace such a popular game mechanic but it certainly grows on you. With fifty different weapons you can create and utilize, the combo weapons system is certainly a fun mechanic, though not without its problems. The durability of these weapons is questionable and usually only last long enough to give you a taste of their abilities before they die off. Some of them are hit or miss affairs as well as many of the weapons will almost never be utilized by a player. Certain staples to try out are the Paddlesaw (kayak paddle with a chainsaw), the Defiler (fire axe plus a sledgehammer), and the Heliblade (toy helicopter with a bowie knife).

Fun for Not Just One
One of the largest, and arguably the most desired, feature added to the Dead Rising experience is the addition of multiplayer. Multiplayer was sadly missing in the previous game but Dead Rising 2 gives the player roughly everything they�d want and more in a multiplayer experience. The first half of the multiplayer comes in the form of full drop-in, drop out cooperative play. Though limited to online-only play, co-op allows you to drop in your Chuck that you�d been building in your campaign (story elements are not saved for the joining partner) ala Borderlands and help someone else out in their campaign. Having a partner significantly decreases the trial and error nature of the game and makes for a more entertaining experience all around but there still is something to be said for experiencing the campaign alone.

The other half of the online experience is the Terror is Reality game show Chuck participated in at the start of the game. Consisting of eight different events, up to four players can compete to earn cash that can be used in their own campaign. The most notable ones are actually vehicular in nature with the biggest standout being Ramsterball which has you squishing zombies by the horde from within a giant hamster ball. Though there is very little reason to actually play Terror is Reality other than to accumulate extra cash it is a fun diversion from the singleplayer antics.

Network issues are abound right now but given that this is launch week we can probably look forward to a fix for these soon.

Send More Paramedics
Dead Rising was a first year title for the Xbox 360 and as such as limited in scope and design. The first game to utilize Capcom�s MT Framework engine, it was still a pretty looking game with, well, an ugly protagonist (though Frank�s final design was a significant improvement on his original). With Dead Rising 2 however Blue Castle decided to utilize a custom engine (MT Framework has been restricted until recently to in-house development teams). The results?

For the lack of a better pun, the new engine hits the classic Dead Rising feeling dead on. Though the camera has been drawn in just a bit it is dynamic and can shift away from the player in certain situations such as being surrounded by a pack of zombies. Animations in the game look exactly like they did in the first game though admittedly Chuck at first is a bit slow and lumbering. This changes as you level up the character but it does give the impression that he is slower overall than Frank was. The on-screen zombie count, amounting to a strong eight hundred at a time in Dead Rising, has been upped to a tremendous seven thousand in the new game. Though you never see anything near that number you do get a sense of the engine being capable of that, especially when playing in an area at night.

With every custom engine though come some quirks however and Dead Rising 2 is no exception. Certain sections of the game can chug along at strange parts of the game and there is noticeable pop-in but it is certainly not gamebreaking. One issue that has afflicted this writer is that, upon installation to the Xbox 360 hard drive the game tends to take as much as ten seconds before initiating loading and saving operations. In game this isn�t a problem when loading up individual sectors of the map but at the main menu it can take a noticeable amount of time. Despite multiple reinstallations the problem still persists. This is probably an isolated issue but it makes me question whether the game was optimized for hard drive installation versus disc streaming.

Chop Till You Drop
Dead Rising 2 is a game with almost no competitors when compared by gameplay formula. In an age in which zombie games are becoming as commonplace as World War II games were less than a decade ago it is still surprising that no one has developed on Capcom�s original formula. Despite that, Dead Rising 2 is a great refinement on the first game and is a near-required play for zombiholics. It is fair to argue that Dead Rising 2 is to Dead Rising what Assassin�s Creed II was to Assassin�s Creed and if you understand how much an improvement that game was then you most certainly understand how strong a product this is.

And now your Spoiler Alert:

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About Chris Davisone of us since 6:13 PM on 04.27.2010

Hi there! My name is Chris and I'm a writer and editor for Hooked Gamers as well as an aspiring game and tech journalist. I've been writing for years but only recently have I started to post my articles on other sites like Dtroid. I graduated from Austin Community College with an associates degree in Journalism and am currently undecided on my continued education plans. What I do know is that I enjoy writing for sites like Destructoid and, though I may not post on my Dtroid blog very often I do share articles and reviews here that won't appear on my other sites.

I can be found primarily at Hookedgamers.com and 4playerpodcast.com. I've also started up a personal blog (Slackerwerks.com) where you'll see all of my future articles posted.

You can find me most of the time on Xbox Live and occasionally on Steam under the same Gamertag. If you need to reach me I use the same ID wherever I go so please don't hesitate if you have any comments or questions you'd like to throw my way.

Thanks for stopping by!
Xbox LIVE:Slackerchan
Steam ID:Slackerchan


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