It’s been four years since players found themselves locked in a shopping mall with a group of survivors, psychopaths, and oh yea, a horde of the undead. The much applauded Dead Rising came out for the XBox 360 under the simple premise of almost everything being a weapon and everything that isn’t a weapon is trying to kill you. Now, changing scenery (sort of) in Dead Rising 2, players take the role of Chuck Greene in a world following the events of the outbreak of the original Dead Rising on both the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Sometimes, there is a complaint about the repetitive nature of sequels not changing it up enough from their original. That is not the case in Dead Rising 2. Just like Grand Theft Auto 3 had endless hours of appeal in the idea of driving down the sidewalks crushing pedestrians and killing hookers to get your money back, Dead Rising 2 has a near endless appeal of running through the streets, casinos and mall of fortune city grabbing everything possible to slice and dice through the never-ending zombie horde. The game’s leveling system keeps things interesting as it takes some time to turn Chuck into the ultimate zombie slaying badass like Woody Harrelson in Zombieland.
Also adding to the fun is the new concept of combination weapons. Players get combo cards by performing certain tasks in the game such as defeating psychopaths, finding posters and leveling up that show them combinations of items that can be duct taped together to create devices of maximum slaughter. Some of these are just way more fun than people should have by killing off zombies. Instead of just blowing up a gas canister, now a box of nails can be taped around it resulting in an explosion of shrapnel that takes out anything undead in its vicinity.
Another addition to the game is the use of multiple save slots. While players can use this to be able to replay various specific spots in their game, it isn’t really necessary to the carry-over structure of the save file.
Returning to Dead Rising 2 is the very strict timing and mission structure of the first game. For those who didn’t play the first, in Dead Rising players were given time limits to make their way towards certain main story and side missions locations. If they didn’t, they would not be able to complete the game, save certain survivors or fight specific psychopaths. While some complained this is too restrictive, it instead feels more like it encourages multiple playthroughs of the game alongside the uber-specific achievements. Activities such as wearing every item of clothing in the game and using every weapon can take up an entire four day time span for Chuck.
Another drastic edition to the game comes from the addition of both competitive multiplayer and co-op. In competitive multiplayer, people square off in a series of zombie killing events from the Terror is Reality show seen in single player. Some of the games include Ramsterball where players collide with each other to take the power which allows them to score points by rolling over zombies in a giant hamster ball or Slicecycles where players mow over hordes of undead in chainsaw mounted motorcycles. There are six different playlists for different combinations of these games and a mutliplayer game can be enjoyed in just about fifteen minutes. The best part is the money earned from this carries over to the single player game which can be used in pawn shops to buy important items like Zombrex or keys to the car sitting in the mall.
Co-op was a great last minute edition to the game. As fun as single player is, it gets amped up tenfold tearing through the game with a buddy. Certain tasks like escorting survivors, especially those who need to be carried through, become much more manageable. On the same token, tearing through the undead hordes with two different lunatics armed with ridiculous weapons becomes increasingly fun with each moment.
One feature of gameplay that was not improved was pretty poor character A.I. Boss battles are more reminiscent of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out by just figuring out patterns and dodging appropriately instead of being fluid changing and challenging experiences. The survivors are also huge pains to drag around as they don’t do a very good job of avoiding zombies or your own attacks. One would think there would be something built in to them that if they got hit with a sledgehammer they would think to move away from it but sadly that is not the case.
Story and Presentation:
It’s hard not to talk about aspects of Dead Rising 2 without talking about the original game or the downloadable title that acts as a prequel to it. Taking place years after the events of Dead Rising, Dead Rising 2 leaves a lot of questions to be answered. Though it looks like some of these will be answered in Dead Rising 2: Case West which puts Chuck Greene alongside original protagonist Frank West, there is still a lot of mystery about how the virus reached the epic proportions it does by the time of this game.
The story itself of Dead Rising 2 feels much like a classic horror film, including strong stereotypes and lots of overacting. But, because of the way the game presents itself, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as much as it is a necessary concession from the player to be able to enjoy it. Chuck Greene has a daughter infected with the zombie virus after being bitten by her own mother and he is willing to do anything he can to get her the medicine to keep her from turning. As a result, he enters as a participant on Terror is Reality, a gameshow where extreme sports enthusiasts butcher zombie hordes for prize money. Not surprisingly, something goes wrong and there is an outbreak. Chuck and his daughter get to the city’s only safe house only to find out that video has been leaked making it look like Chuck is to blame for the outbreak. The game follows Chuck who must simultaneously keep his daughter alive, save survivors and find the truth behind the outbreak that lead to the undeaths of thousands and clear his own name.
One of the best parts of Dead Rising 2’s overacting and melodrama is the unintentional comedy it leads to. Almost ever cut scene featuring Chuck around the main story is incredibly serious and plagued with consequences but it becomes hard to not giggle watching it play out when he has neon blue hair and Groucho Marx sunglasses on. On the other side of things, the horrific psychopaths are such overblown examples of real world lunacy that they are hard not to laugh at when in action, even if it is only from just being uncomfortable around them. A great example is the internet sex addicted virgin clad in bondage gear wearing what looks to be a pig face fanny pack who is forcing women to marry him so he doesn’t die a virgin. It’s creepy and funny at the same time, but mostly creepy.
Graphics and Sound:
Like many things in Dead Rising 2, the graphics haven’t changed much since the first title. Unfortunately, Dead Rising wasn’t the prettiest of titles on the system and sometimes experienced slowdown in framerate or clipping on textures during cutscenes when too many characters and effects were happening on the screen at the same time.
There is also a surprising similarity between the scenery of Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2. Though it takes place in a Las Vegas clone, they still managed to have a portion happening in a mall area. This feels like a little bit of a letdown to have such a lack of difference in portions of the game.
That being said, Dead Rising 2 has a great art style behind it. There are tons of great and varied designs behind the zombies and it doesn’t feel like the player is ever inundated with repetitive clones. Though not drastically different enough to stand out from one another, they also don’t look like exact copies. The game shines with the designs of the psychopaths however. Each has their own rather unique set deranged attributes that stand out. The game was also able to stray far enough away from the designs in the original so the psychopaths still feel new and fresh in their looks.
The sound in the game is well done and though there is no licensed music in it, there are some very familiar songs heard going through the game’s casino areas that scream Vegas. The game also has great ambient music between the moaning of the undead horde compared to the high energy of the slot machines paying off. The weapons and their effects on their targets are also well chosen and add a very visceral feel as players go through on their rampages. The voice acting in the game often comes across as campy and melodramatic but it plays well with the story as this game doesn’t apologize for being one.
Dead Rising 2 is a game with multiple levels of fun. Jumping in for a competitive minigame experience is a great complement to the sandbox violence of cooperative play. Players can experience single player and be as good or as bad as they want to enjoy it any way they see fit. Though there are small bits of polish that could be added to computer AI and the graphics, the game still plays great and is just as addicting as the original.
Anyone who played the first and enjoyed it should give Dead Rising 2 a chance and those new to the franchise should give it a go just based on the premise alone. It’s surprising that a game that was such a success hasn’t even spawned any imitators. There is some special magic that Capcom has captured in this series that no one else has come close to yet.
XBox 360 (Also available on PlayStation 3 and PC)
Developers: Capcom, Blue Castle
Price: $59.99 (Standard Edition), $79.99 (Collector’s Edition), $89.99 (High Stakes Edition)