It’s been five years since Frank West was snapping photos of zombies in Willamette, Colorado. The story strays from the photojournalist and follows an ex-motocross champion, Chuck Greene. Chuck is a participant in the controversial show “Terror Is Reality” and is taking part in its latest iteration “TIR XVII: Payback”. The driving force behind his involvement in the series is that winners are rewarded with large sums of money. The money aids him in his never ending search and acquisition of Zombrex, the temporary cure for the zombie virus. Chuck does not need the medicine for himself, but instead for his daughter Katey to keep her from becoming one of the undead. Katey was infected years prior to the current events which is revealed in the prologue Case Zero. After Chuck’s performance in TIR XVII: Payback someone unleashes the recently detained undead and frames Chuck for the incident. From here on Chuck must prove his innocence by getting to the bottom of everything whilst simultaneously scouring for Zombrex and survivors within a 72 hour time limit.
After over four years since the first Dead Rising the sequel has made it into eager fans’ homes. Blue Castle worked closely with developers from Capcom who worked on the first game. They’ve maintained many popular (and unpopular) features that made the series what it is in order to keep gamers happy while avoiding tarnishing the Dead Rising name. Let’s take a look at what improvements the team made and what still needs improving.
Dead Rising 2 layers its primary and secondary missions in a way that constantly keeps the player moving. You will rarely find yourself with down time as time between the story related cases is primarily used to complete the side/survivor objectives so that you can start your next case with a clean slate. The reason behind the lack of down time is due to the fact that every mission, primary and optional, is restricted by an ever depleting timer. If the player fails to save a survivor or defeat a psycho before their timer expires, then that mission is lost for the remainder of that playthrough. If you are unlucky enough to miss a main story mission within the time constraints its pretty much game over and you will receive one of the unsatisfactory endings. Since Blue Castle lightened up the core mechanics a bit the timers don’t seem to provide as much of a threat as the first game. This is further aided by the more forgiving save system that has been implemented. Most of the time they are generous with the time they allot you which is always appreciated since you can rack up five or six side missions in quick succession. Some people may believe that the time limits would detract from their ability to explore and have fun with everything the game has to offer, but the truth is that these missions take you to nearly every corner of the map. This leads to the discovery of objects, locations and helps players get an overall better grasp of level layouts which will aid them down the road.
What could be worse then a flesh hungry zombie? How about a chef gone mad into believing that cooking people will create the ultimate entree? Psychopaths easily left their mark on the Dead Rising series with their unrelenting brutality and sadistic backstories. This aspect of the game has gone unchanged for the most part. In fact, the psychos this time around may be even creepier than the first set. Ranging from mailmen gone postal to malicious mascots the psychotic cast is sure to keep you entertained. Although the player’s approach to each psycho may feel like trial and error at first each victory is as satisfying as the last. The feeling of satisfaction is only further enhanced when Chuck gains access to a combo card after the battle, but I’ll go more into that in a second.
One thing that sky rocketed the first Dead Rising’s fame was the fact that EVERYTHING was a possible weapon to put down the undead once and for all. Expanding on that idea Blue Castle has not only upped the number of random objects to lay the beatdown with, but they have included the ability to combine certain items to further boost your bloodbath. For most, the first combo weapon that will be stumbled across is the baseball bat and nails. It is a simple and common combination, but very effective. It is possible to create every combo right away as you experiment to see what works, but that can be very tedious. As Chuck levels up he is not only awarded with health, speed, and item slot boosts, but he is also given combo cards from time to time. These combo cards reveal weapon combinations to try out. What point would there be to these if the player could just figure out what to combine on their own? Combo cards not only tell you what to combine, but they give access to the secondary, and usually stronger, attack that the ultra weapon is capable of unleashing. For example, the Auger can be made using a pitchfork and a drill motor. The result is a deadly spinning pitchfork. Without the combo card Chuck would only be able to swing it around, but after attaining it Chuck can gore zombies onto the pitchfork and left them twirl on it till all of their limbs fly off. Usually the secondary attacks are unbelievably brutal and award the player with more PP. So it is in your best interest to get those cards as quickly as possible. Leveling up is not the only way to obtain these sought after items however. Psychos reward them upon defeat and certain posters give Chuck ideas for new weapons such as the dynamite bow.
This time around the story and characters are easier to dive into and provide more of an emotional attachment. From the start Chuck Greene’s predicament is filled despair and struggle. Unlike the oddly shaped Frank West it is a more natural feeling coming from the player as they sympathize with his problems at hand. The other characters include your basic supporting characters for these types of action settings like a sexy news woman looking for the ultimate scoop (female West?). One of the game’s other primary characters is Katey, Chuck’s daughter. Mainly she acts as an extension to Chuck as a reminder that he is only human and the ongoing struggle he must deal with each day. The story itself won’t win any awards, but it definitely feels like a step up from the last game. Like I mentioned it feels more personal and, therefore, the player enjoys following the story. With Frank West you were just a guy who covered wars wandering a mall taking pictures of zombies. Players should find a lot more depth and interest in the sequel.
Blue Castle has gone above and beyond by adding this feature to Dead Rising 2. Now players can have a friend drop in or out of their game in order to help them meet deadlines, defeat psychopaths, or just slaughter thousands of zombies for fun. Some people may see this feature as too much of a detraction from the single player’s story focus, but it actually comes in handy. Once you’ve started up your second playthrough (and trust me you will replay it) the cooperative portion only gets better. This time you can stop focusing on the story and trying to learn everything and just enjoy all the tools of destruction with a friend while dressing up in odd costumes. Imagine you’re fighting off zombies with your flaming boxing gloves when you notice your friend pass by on a tricycle in a tube top. Then shortly after that odd sight he returns moments later on a wheelchair decked out with machine guns mowing down the zombies all around you. The laughs and entertainment will rarely end when you and your friend put your minds together online. The options are limitless and it is only something you can truly understand once you’ve experienced it first hand.
Now that we are well into the next gen era we all are aware that the average price of video games is $60. Gamers around from the PS1 and earlier have obviously noticed the increase in prices as time has gone on and evolved the video game industry. That is why replay value is one of the most important factors in games nowadays. What good is throwing away $60 for a game you will play once and then trade in weeks later for a fraction of the price? Luckily, Dead Rising 2 has massive replayability. The game seems to always have something new to offer you. Whether that comes in the form of new moves (Ex: the DDT) or combo cards the player is sure to become addicted to filling out their arsenal to the fullest with every deadly invention out there. Even if one finds that they have reached the level cap of 50 it never gets old throwing a friend into the mix to double up on the carnage. This is a game that deserves multiple playthroughs in order to fully appreciate all the game has to offer.
Open world games have become a huge trend over the years and their constantly pushing the limits. Gamers sat in awe of games like GTA IV that nearly eradicated load times and had a constantly streaming world. Unfortunately, Dead Rising 2 didn’t take that step. The areas are large, but when you’re running to or from objectives chances are you will hit numerous load times before reaching your destination. These load times can end up being kinda lengthy for a next gen game which is disappointing. It takes you out of the action when you’re pumped and ready to slice through hordes of zombies. The wait is usually worth it, but it doesn’t change the fact that they deter from the overall experience.
Never assume and always go prepared. This is the best advice I can give to help avoid this annoyance. When it comes to a psycho fight it is not always obvious that you are about to fight one. Other times you may go to save nearby their location before the fight only to find out the save point is inside the area that activated the psycho battle. These issues usually lead to Chuck stumbling into a difficult fight without the necessary supplies. With the timers constantly decreasing it can also strand players since they won’t have time to search for weapons/health items before returning to finish the fight. Also, missions may begin to overwhelm players as they continue to stack up. Since Chuck’s running speed is that of a leisurely jog in the early levels it can be very tiring going back and forth. You would think a guy who has so much to do in 72 hours might try and sprint a little. I digress. With numerous missions counting down on you and accidentally running through psycho zones while on your way to get survivors (or currently transporting them) players may find themselves between a rock and a hard place. These problems can be somewhat avoided with the help of a friend, but those without internet connection (or friends) may find that they have to start over in order to complete everything on time.
Dead Rising 2 has improved on the original formula in many ways, but it is still not without its flaws. The characters and story are all more engrossing and easier to relate to. Psychos have maintained their disturbing factor, along with their difficulty, which keeps each encounter intriguing as you learn what transformed them into a creature far more horrifying than any zombie. Cooperative play was a brilliant decision and adds nearly unlimited additional hours to the game as you and a friend explore every crevice killing the undead in thousands of ways. All great games have flaws though. Dead Rising 2 is no exception. The frequent long load times detract from the immersion and flow of the game. Coupled with that is the random difficulty spikes that can severely punish unprepared players. All in all Dead Rising 2 is a great sequel with many new features and toys to play with. Fans of the first game or zombies in general shouldn’t overlook this game.
[Editor’s Note: Dead Rising 2 was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 hardware. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Dead Rising 2 Review,