Dead Rising 2 Review

The first Dead Rising was a divisive game. Either you loved the time-based missions, unforgiving save system, and brutal difficulty which required multiple restarts as you leveled up Mr. Frank West, or you just hated everything about it. I am in the camp of loving the first game and I hold it in high regard as an important contribution to the gaming space.

No matter how you felt, the game sold well enough to earn a sequel, now in the hands of Canadian developer Blue Castle Games instead of Capcom. Dead Rising 2 does little to change the formula of the first game, opting instead to optimize some of the annoyances of the first outing and create a new environment for you to hack and slash some zombies in. Keeping the original formula was the best course of action, but in the process, Blue Castle Games has taken both a step forward and a step back with Dead Rising 2, creating a game that is fun, but leaves you wanting throughout the experience.

Dead Rising 2 takes place a few years after the Willamette mall incident that occurred in the first Dead Rising and humanity has begun to cope with living in a world where the dead can walk. Chuck Greene, a former motocross rider and all around handyman, is riding with his daughter to the newly built Fortune City. This is chronicled in the prequel, Case: Zero and when DR2 starts, Chuck is competing in zombie-killing game show "Terror is Reality" for money to buy his daughter Zombrex. A dose of Zombrex keeps an infected person human for one more day, with the victim needing a new dose every 24 hours. After collecting his money, an outbreak occurs and the zombies are released from their cages, proceeding to dine on the population of Fortune City. Chuck is framed for the outbreak and has 72 hours before the military arrives to clear his name and find out who is responsible.

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The mission structure is broken up into different "cases." Each case requires you to be in a certain place at a certain time, just as in the first game. Miss a case, and you run the risk of losing the ability to complete any other cases in that mission line. In order to get the best possible ending, you have to manage your time effectively and plan your outings to the casinos and malls.

The thing you’ll notice first about Dead Rising 2 is how it’s more forgiving with the amount of time you are allotted to complete your cases. The game is very generous with the amount of time you have to mess around, explore, or look for survivors before you are called back to participate in the story. It also keeps track of every mission you are currently working toward completing, showing how much time you have left. It’s a very intuitive system that keeps you on track, pointed in the right direction, and aware of your remaining time, eliminating any frustration of wasting precious time lost. It even goes as far as graying out missions that are not going to expire any time soon, relieving the stress of having a list full of missions and feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks.

Survivors, a notoriously idiotic element of the first game, have also been fixed. The new survivors you will find and rescue throughout Fortune City are smarter and actually follow your directions this time around. The A.I. rarely, if ever, got stuck on geometry in the environment or ran in circles. They would find the quickest path and push their way through the zombies, not stopping to become deadhead food for apparently no reason. If you choose to arm them, they become tools of destruction, since they never run out of ammo and will make educated decisions about who to shoot. It made me want to carry a group of survivors with me at all times as backup, a vast improvement over the first game where transporting survivors was a dreaded chore.

When you don’t have a posse of survivors as backup though, Chuck can make combo weapons to spill zombie blood and cut a path through the hordes. By finding combo items, which are designated with a wrench icon, and combining them, you can make more powerful weapons that grant more Prestige Points (PP) per kill, which is used to level Chuck. Item combinations like nails and a bat will create something simple like a spiked bat, while more complex combinations like a wheelchair and a battery will make an electric chair, letting you blow through zombies while electrifying them. Again, this is vastly more hilarious and fun than the photography of the first game. Discovering all the weapon combinations and making truly bizarre weapons such as the Dynameat or the Defiler is a real treat and makes you want to run out and try it out as soon as possible, like a kid who just got a new toy. You can discover these combinations on your own by experimenting, earning Scratch Cards that only record the combination, or you can earn Combo Cards, which grant a durability and PP bonus. You get Combo Cards by leveling up, rescuing survivors, discovering them in secret areas, or killing psychopaths.

DR 2

I finally come to psychopaths, possibly the worst and most frustrating aspect of the Dead Rising series, made even worse in Dead Rising 2. Psychopaths are boss characters, humans driven mad by the events around them, and are usually the gatekeepers to the best Combo Cards, most PP, and even Zombrex. They are also the most unbalanced bosses you will probably face in any game. Psychopaths are faster than you, stronger than you, and rarely become stunned, leaving you to fight a war of attrition as you chip away at their health. Even as I finished the game at level 36, I was still having trouble fighting these hellions. Most of this can be attributed to the sluggish controls and excessive attack animations that Chuck has to chug through, while psychos are moving as if they were on speed.

Aside from superhuman psychopaths, the game also feels like a step backward thematically and narratively from Dead Rising. The theme of unpredictability is lost. For example, in the first game, some survivors’ minds would crack and they would commit suicide if you armed them. It was a shock when you handed a gun to a person and they took their own life, but here, no survivor does that. That risk and constant surprise is not present here. It feels too safe. Infinity Mode is also absent, which was a brilliant mode that allowed you to play without the constraints of timed missions and would have been welcome here, since Fortune City is such a rich and large environment to explore. The story is also lacking. While Dead Rising kept you guessing constantly as to the cause of the outbreak and who was an ally or not, Dead Rising 2‘s characters and narrative are painfully transparent. I called who the traitor was 3 hours in, and the game continued to give off blatant clues throughout the story that just made me roll my eyes at the unoriginality.

Multiplayer is the new addition to the game, having four players competing in an episode of "Terror is Reality." You play through three zombie-killing minigames, with each match being capped off by a game of "Slicecycles." There are nine minigames in total, and the three you compete in are random in each match. The game show format is a nice touch as T.K., the host, does intros to each one and announcers provide color commentary as you compete. The minigames are dumb fun and the commentary is funny enough, but at nine games with fewer being actually enjoyable, it quickly becomes repetitive and there isn’t enough to hold your attention. You can bring the money earned in multiplayer into your single-player game as incentive to play it, but you’ll probably have more fun killing zombies in single-player or with a friend in co-op.

Dead Rising 2 is by no means a bad game. Compared to its previously released episode, Case Zero, though, narrative problems and shortcomings relating to the gameplay are more pronounced in this full-length experience, which doesn’t sem to offer the same value for one’s money. The polished survivor A.I., pacing, and super fun combo weapons in Dead Rising 2 make for an addicting zombie-killing game, but it has lost some of the charm of the original while also retaining some of its most frustrating aspects. If you loved the first game, you are going to be right at home with the sequel, but don’t expect to be blown away.

3 out of 5


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Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

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