Dead Rising 2: Review
Love me, love my Dead Rising. That’s the first thing I say to all the girls. We’re inseparable. I bring a certain ranty something, Dead Rising brings fun in spades. I love its humour, its versatility, its powerhouse zombie-manipulating game engine. Dead Rising is, without question, a ten out of ten game. It crams in so much gaming goodness that yeah you can subtract a couple of points for niggles in the game, but only if you start your scoring from twelve.
However, Dead Rising first shuffled onto the Xbox 360 some four years ago. Survival horror has changed; it’s all flashlight wielding novelists and Silent Hill weirdness. Even Resident Evil 5 ditched all the zombies and instead played like Gears of Africa, so when Capcom announced Dead Rising 2 I was ready. And by ready I mean priasmic.
Then Crackdown 2 came along. Instead of breathing new life into an old favourite, it gave it a blood transfusion. From that jar labelled ‘F. Mercury’. It was bad times. No invention, no spark. Just chore and bollocks. Suddenly I was filled with a sense of inevitable disappointment. Would Dead Rising 2 show the world what Capcom are capable of four years later or would it just be the same game trotted out again?
In good time, readers. Firstly let me tell you about the plot. And by plot I mean ‘plot’ – with a sneer. Short version: you play as Chuck Greene, a refreshingly normal motorcross rider (none of this Pepsi Max ‘gnarly’ bollocks with Chuck) who rides to Fortune City (Vegas, basically) to enter a zombie-flavoured Running Man-esque game show in order to score some cash. He needs it to buy Zombrex, an expensive drug that fights the effects of zombie bites on living people, buying them an extra day at a time of not going straight to the BRAAIIINSSS section of the menu. This is because his daughter Katey is infected and needs more time to play her PSP or something.
After the inevitable tits-up moment where all the zombies escape, Chuck is framed for letting them out and spends the rest of the game searching for the real culprits while also rescuing survivors. In his way are thousands of zombies as well as a sprinkling of psychopaths (mostly a bunch of whining twats that are practically immune to bullets) that act as bosses in the game. So far, so Dead Rising.
Here’s the main thing though: the one thing I want you to take from this review is that this IS Dead Rising. You start in a security room, you leave through a vent, after a corridor you emerge into a shopping mall that leads to more shopping malls, a food court, a cinema and some tunnels. Sound familiar? No. Sounds identical. The only difference is that they’ve also added a few casinos. Unfortunately these are all identical and serve only to remind you that this game doesn’t really have any new ideas. Compared to the first game, everything here is as flat and featureless as Chris Brown’s girlfriend’s face.
The core gameplay mechanics are unchanged as well with the same controls and combat as before, although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are some refinements though and these will excite those people who thought Dead Rising was far too hard but serve only to alienate us Willamette veterans. Firstly, they relaxed the save system a lot; you now have three save slots and also the game will offer to save after Case File missions (these are the important story milestones that you need to complete to see the good endings).
Survivors are much, much easier to rescue now. At first I put this down to better AI or durability but when you’re out in the malls and casinos it soon becomes apparent that the zombies are just there to slalom around. It is much quicker to bob and weave past them than it is to twat them with weapons. They really don’t seem that interested and as a result you can easily escort multiple survivors with literally no risk.
I’ve now completed two playthroughs of the game – getting every possible survivor – and didn’t struggle at all. Well apart from the occasional cheap boss but then all you need to beat them is a couple of spiked bats and some decent food items. This ridiculously easy difficulty setting more or less kills any tension in the game and is the reason I can’t score it any higher than a seven. It feels like playing the original Dead Rising on a difficulty created by Make-A-Wish for Jade Goody.
Apart from that, the other new features include the ability to combine weapons to make other weapons. These can be amusing but the spiked baseball bat (available from just outside the safe area, and it respawns) is pretty much the answer for everything in the game. Guns are next to useless and most of the combo weapons are either too slow or not durable enough. Also, for a game that seems to want you to explore and try out new ideas, the time limits on all the missions don’t really encourage you to play in this particular sandbox. Oh and that prick’s trick of hiding away survivors and not telling you about them definitely rears its ugly head here as well.
A tight, if unnecessary, co-op mode is the only other notable addition and while this plays very solidly, the lack of difficulty in the game more or less invalidates the whole point of this mode. They’ve also seen fit to introduce a competitive multiplayer mode based on more Running Man style minigames. These are okay but this game is already pretty dead online which makes it tricky to get a match.
Presentation-wise not much has changed either. The graphics have a distinctly 2006 look to them (although the zombie count seems much highter now) and the sound is a mixture of okay voice acting and bad rap-metal music. There are still plenty of nice little comic touches here and there but nothing worth writing about. Also, the plot gets decidedly less interesting as it goes along, culminating in ‘Overtime’ Mode which is a tedious series of fetch quests topped with a shitty boss battle and an ending that I’ve already managed to forget. It’s worth noting that my second playthrough of the game was vastly improved over the first because I was able to skip the cutscenes guilt-free.
Those of you who haven’t really dabbled in the series should check out Case: Zero on XBLA as it offers a cheap way into the world of Dead Rising. If you like it, this is maybe the game to get as the original Dead Rising was nothing if not uncompromising. If, like me, you loved the original game and wanted another tight and tense game but in a fresh, new setting then I’m sorry to tell you but the rot has already set in.
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