Bright lights and burst heads
Upon firing up Dead Rising 2, I’m greeted with many a stirring image. A tentative and innocent eyed young girl assisting her father fixing a bike. A diamond encrusted pimp-a-like holding the future of said girl in the form of sky-rocketing amounts of dollar bills. A legion of motorcycles with chainsaws tied to the sides weaving majestically with each other in a sea of gore. Two women mocking my penis (which they haven’t yet seen…). With all this occurring before any signs of a major zombie outbreak, it seems that my dignity amongst slapstick is a bigger concern than the mouldy bowels on my jacket.
Despite the best efforts to eliminate the zombie outbreak in the previous game, Dead Rising 2 lands us straight into another undead hell; Fortune City. Though practically acting as a Lidl based version of Las Vegas, it’s managed to build a community full of joy upon the foundations of rotting flesh thanks to ‘Terror Is Reality’, a new breed of reality gameshow where killing hordes means hordes of cash. With his daughter Katey desperately in need of a drug named ‘Zombrex’ that’ll keep her from becoming one of the hungry gnashers, Chuck Greene enters the competition in hopes that he can win and pay for the highly expensive and controversial medicine.
Though Chuck’s stay is initially meant to be a short one, it nevertheless divulges into a plot that frames him for releasing the malicious zombies back onto the streets of Fortune City. It’s here where those familiar Dead Rising staples begin to stick hold. Chuck is given 3 days to kill some time, kill some zombies, keep his daughter from becoming a member of the undead and clear his name.
Walking into the rabid mess that is Fortune City, you soon realise that the place does have a lot of resemblances to Willamette, the town that has already succumb to the zombie virus. Practically anything in the vicinity can be picked up and thrown, smacked and inserted into any of the fleshy mounds that shuffle towards you. Hundreds of zombies can populate the screen at any one time to attempt to tear you to pieces, yet there are clear graphical hitches in some design aspects that have pushed aside quality in order to facilitate the mass amount of undead at a steady and consistent framerate.
This minor sacrifice does work in the favour of Dead Rising 2, however. Players of Dead Rising 2: Case 0 and even the original would notice how clunky the controls would get after a while, as if protagonists were attempting to slowly do the robot in an effort to die retro. Chuck manoeuvres in ways which make it easy to weave through and around undead and slays smoothly. It’s by no means flawless, yet it’s a control scheme that does result in less torn joypads.
Though chainsawing through the dead is fun, it’s a lot more fun with two chainsaws…strapped to a large paddle. Through levelling up and sleuthing in Fortune City’s nooks and crannys earn ‘Combo Cards’, detailing some bizarre and exceptional weapon combinations that only serve to deliver more hysterical nonsense to the proceedings. Finding the appropriate items to spawn such devilish creations can be a nuisance, yet Chuck earns more experience from the inventive kills, so finding them proves for a much more tactical advantage…and is a barrel of laughs.
It’s hard to see the change of hands amongst all the neon lights they’ve added on
Learning what items spawn where in the large playground of Fortune City is key to the survival, yet it’s easy to be somewhat enthralled by the landscape that surrounds you. Those who are inventive with their surroundings will be able to use what’s on offer to their advantage, even a life size game of craps allows for some head bashing with gigantic dice. Though an environment that bears more of a resemblance to a linear action adventure, the sandbox of Fortune City offers many a secret and blood curdling execution to discover. The large scale doesn’t however favour Chuck in his most valuable asset and deadliest enemy. Time.
With the game taking place over the course of 72 in game hours, time truly is of the essence. With certain events taking place in the plot at certain times, none can be revisited if Chuck decides to slack off a bit. A careful arrangement of save files can avoid any regretful decisions not to get a move on, but for newcomers, it’s difficult to judge how long it’s going to take to move to certain destinations, especially if no shortcuts have been uncovered. Though his daughter, general well-being and good name rests on a countdown, Chuck doesn’t exactly move like it. A slight jog is all he thinks is necessary to pace himself around the city, as I plead and beg for his next attribute to level up is his speed. This doesn’t bide well when it comes to Chuck’s second favourite outbreak hobby; Saving civilians.
Though time feels too short to do absolutely everything Dead Rising 2 has to offer in one playthrough, time between missions feels deliberately long in order to be padded out with some gory extra-curricular activity. Taking fellow survivors under your wings doesn’t exactly feel rewarding, and the prizes on offer only just about make up for the hassle of trekking across the city with them, yet the AI has made a drastic improvement from the original. Survivors will constantly be keeping an eye on you, actually listening to your shouts of aid and will wield any weapons you give them well to form a posse of warriors. Having said that, I didn’t exactly feel comfortable enough handing any of them a sub-machine gun…
Save points are sensibly distributed across the open-world map, and it’s constantly drilled into players brains to turn the ‘auto-save’ switch that’s been firmly glued for years into the off position. Death causes players to go back to the last save point they visited, and if they haven’t been sensible or have just plain forgotten, the only way they can get back to their point of death is by waiting that amount of in-game hours once again. This is especially frustrating if you die (and you will) upon a psychopath encounter. Dotted around the map at certain intervals are psychos that have con all kinds of wacko thanks to the stress and civilian side missions that practically act as boss encounters. Many of these are incredibly tough to defeat on a first try, and often the simplest yet more annoying alternative is to simply run away and leave them to fester, knowing that area will never be safe. There’s still a bloody tiger pouncing about in my rendition of the city that I’m just too cowardly to tame the damn thing.
If things get too tough, a friend can always drop in to your city for a co-op session of fun and gore. However, the real entertainment comes in the form of competitive multi-player. Those who wish to go head to head with each other can take part in the game show ‘Terror Is Reality’ as some nameless schmo in order to win cash that can be used in the game. Taking part in either ranked or unranked matches will throw players into randomly generated Gladiator style mini-games. It’s a shame that no one can actually take a pick in what to play, as there is a clear divide in which are the good and which are the bad. For every ‘Ramsterball’, a game where you must knock down several zombies travelling in a giant ball on a seemingly m
assive pinball table, there’s a ‘Master Shafter’, a mini-game which basically plays as a glorified quick time event. The good game outweigh the bad ones, however, and so fun to play against friends that it could spawn a knock-off party title for the Wii somewhere in the near future.
Although Dead Rising 2 does things bigger and better than it’s predecessor, it isn’t entirely a revised addition to the franchise. Roaming Fortune City on your down time can lead you to earning a Duke Of Edinburgh awards, and there’s a horrible habit of the bullets from firearms bouncing off zombies. Equip yourself with the right weapons, however, and your time in Fortune City turns out to be a complete blast. Considering this isn’t made by the original development studio, Blue Castle have done a great job re-enacting the first Dead Rising that it’s hard to see the change of hands amongst all the neon lights they’ve added on. It may not be perfectly polished, but Dead Rising 2 is a huge blood bath that’s well worth diving into.
The Bad: Not exactly polished in terms of graphics or sound, Chuck moves incredibly slowly for someone on a countdown, Players may be put of a replay by being dictated by the clock
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