It has been a little over four years since gamers were trapped inside the Willamette, Colorado shopping mall battling hordes of zombies and rescuing survivors in the original Dead Rising. For those of you who enjoyed that game and its quirks, here is the good news: you will most likely enjoy Dead Rising 2. If you hated the original, chances are you feel the same about this sequel from Capcom and Blue Castle Games.
Dead Rising 2 is an interesting game. Just like the first, there is a lot to love about killing zombies in the numerous ways the game allows, the cheesy B-Movie story and setting, and just the sense of humor in some of the outfits and items available to you. But all those entertaining aspects are balanced out by annoying gameplay elements that could completely ruin your enjoyment of the game.
If you hate games with strict time limits, limited inventory management, and no such things as checkpoints, you should steer clear of this game and the frustration it will cause. But, if you are willing to work around and accept these odd and outdated gameplay mechanics, you can find an enjoyable sandbox-type action game.
Now for those of you still interested, you play as Chuck Green. This former Motocross champion is less of a personality than Frank West from the original, but his motivation of caring for his daughter and take-no-nonsense attitude make him an intriguing character. Since Chuck is not a photographer, the leveling system is no longer tied to taking photos as we did playing with West in the first Dead Rising. Instead, the photography element from Dead Rising has been replaced with combo weapons. Find two combinable items and a maintenance room, and you can create some very entertaining weapons to killing zombies. The more the elaborate the weapon, the more PP Points, the game’s form of XP, you will earn.
Duct tape together a cement saw and some dinner plates, and you will get a plate launcher that slices zombies in half. Or simply add nails to a baseball bat and form the most common combo weapon, the spiked bat. These weapons offer some great motivation to explore the large environments in order to find some rare items and combinations. The only negative aspect of this system is that since most of these kill regular zombies in one hit, you could be stuck using the same common combo weapon over and over for the majority of the game if you are not willing to seek out the creative ones.
Visually, the amount of zombies on screen is extremely impressive, but otherwise the graphics are completely unremarkable and sometimes ugly. The human character models look fine during gameplay, but during cut scenes the camera can get a little too close and the lack of detail on them is very noticeable. Canned animations and a few other minor issues like item clipping occur frequently.
While it has some charm to it, the way Chuck gobbles down pizza, pasta, pies and almost anything kind of food with the same animation is kind of cheap and distracting. One drawback from the amount of zombies in the game’s environment means you will see a lot of load screens in transition from one area to another. The game also has a loading screen before and after each cut scene which can get extremely annoying. The way this game loads could have definitely used some streamlining. Less load times would make the Dead Rising 2 more seamless and offer less chance of taking you out of the experience. Nothing destroys the sense of urgency when you make it to your daughter and give her the medicine she needs at the last minute, but you have to sit through a 15- 20 second load screen before the scene can play.
On the gameplay side of things, one major improvement Dead Rising 2 has over the original is how rescuing survivors has been changed. In the original Dead Rising it was a struggle to rescue a single survivor. Thankfully, in this game the survivor AI and their ability to defend themselves have been greatly improved. The survivors in the game can wield weapons and they use them semi-competently, which means you do not need to constantly clear a path or babysit them. There are a ton of survivors in this game and dealing with them is less of a hassle than the first Dead Rising.
Aside from the single player tweaks like the improved survivor system and multiple save slots, the other major addition to the game is multiplayer. Two players can play the story cooperatively in a mode that while fun, seems sort of half-baked. The second player who joins plays as a second Chuck, just with a different outfit, and the only thing they get out it is PP Points and any money they pick up. The joining player can’t advance their own story, but this does offer a handy way to grind levels and earn cash without worrying about messing up your own mission progression. In this mode the two players have the ability to revive each other and the ability to double team the tough bosses can make it handy to use in certain situations. There is no story explanation or attempt from Blue Castle to fit in the other player; it is just a welcome addition to the game.
The other multiplayer option is the four-player competitive “Terror is Reality” (TIR). This futuristic Running Man meets American Gladiators game show has the four human players competing in nine different mini games to earn the most points by killing zombies in some creative way. One of the nine events that stands out is the Zomboni. In this event the players drive over zombies to collect blood which then needs to be shot into a container. The player with the most blood at the end wins the event. There are eight other different events the game randomly selects for a four-event tournament when you enter a Ranked Match.
One welcome aspect to this mode is that all money earned can be cashed out to the story mode. In the games I played, I was consistently earning around $50,000 for each Ranked tournament. So if you are looking for an easy way of purchasing some of the more expensive items in the story mode, just hop on a few rounds of TIR. The game show cut scenes and small number of mini games limits the replay value if you are not doing it for the cash, as the events can grow old quick.
Overall, Dead Rising 2 is a tough game to judge. Killing zombies, creating combo weapons, co-oping with friends, and exploring the game environments are a blast. But, the limited item management, lack of checkpoints, and brutal boss fights that encourage restarting the entire game, make this a title that not everyone will enjoy. There is a lot of potential with this series; I just think it is dragged down by unnecessarily frustrating and outdated mechanics. While Dead Rising 2 is certainly easier and more forgiving than the original and Blue Castle has made some welcome tweaks to the formula, it is still a game that will frustrate you like nothing else on the market.