When I first heard about Dead Rising way back in 2006, my imagination cooked up thousands of ways to have fun in the game. I mean, zombies in a mall where almost anything could be a weapon… What more could any horror/gaming fan ask for? Unfortunately, the reality of the situation was that, despite being an enjoyable game, the first Dead Rising was not my ideal Dawn of the Dead simulator.
Well, four years have passed since the first Dead Rising hit and I have to say it’s good to know that Capcom is willing learn from their mistakes. Dead Rising 2 still isn’t at a place where I’m ready to call it perfect, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Taking place five years after the events of the first game, Dead Rising 2 sees gamers take on the role of Chuck Green, a washed up motocross racer who is forced to participate in a bizarre, futuristic gameshow (much in the vein of Running Man or Rollerball) called Terror Is Reality. You see, Chuck’s daughter has been infected by the zombie virus and is only able to hold onto her humanity through the use of a scarce drug called Zombrex. At various points throughout the game, you will be prompted to fetch some Zombrex for Chuck’s daughter. Whether you do so or not is your call.
Aside from providing some convenient motivation for our hero, this Zombrex mechanic allows for some interesting quest opportunities. You’ll understand what I mean when you are fighting a disgruntled postal-worker or swimming through hoards of zombies to save a paramedic just so you can get your hands on some Zombrex.
I should mention that Dead Rising 2 has an absolutely ridiculous story. The characters are more like caricatures, with the females spouting innuendo every other line. It is almost like a middle school student penned the script. At several points it got so embarrassing that I actually had to put the game down for fear of my roommates overhearing and giving me crap.
That said, the story isn’t really the focus of the game. For those of you who haven’t had any experience with the Dead Rising series I feel like I should tell you what it’s all about. Dead Rising is an action oriented RPG. You are given a strict time limit of 72 hours before the military arrives, and at which point the game ends. The thing is, there is no way to do everything before the time limit ends. What is cool is that you can restart the game at any point, keeping all the character progression you’ve achieved.
While this may be a turn off to some gamers, I found this mechanic extremely beneficial. It allows you to focus on one particular aspect each play through. You can choose to complete all the main missions, try to hunt down all the psychos and looters, or just try to rescue all the survivors you can.
Personally, I found that I was spending a majority of my first playthrough just exploring the massive Fortune City. While I couldn’t find an exact percentage as to how much bigger Fortune City is compared to Dead Rising’s Willamette Parkview Mall, if feels significantly larger (3x or so). At first I was in awe of how massive the new location was, but after poking around for a few hours I found that there was little variety in the stores.
Another issue I had with the new location was that it takes forever to get from one end to the other, which can really kill your progress if you’re not paying attention. Nothing feels worse than realizing you only have 30 (in-game) minutes to be at the other end of the City in order to activate the next mission. I should mention that you can unlock shortcuts through completing various missions, but those are entirely optional and Capcom never tells you the reward until it’s complete.
Earlier in this article, I just touched on the fact that Chuck will level up as you play. As Chuck gains more experience he will unlock new abilities, more inventory space, an extended health bar, etc. At first players may get a little frustrated because a lot of the game’s difficulty comes from the fact that Chuck doesn’t have a lot of life or inventory room. If you find this is the case, I’d suggest that you save a few of the easier survivors at the beginning of the game and then start the game over. Sure it may feel a bit grid-y, but it will make the main game so much more enjoyable. Nothing is worse than finding a weapon that would been really cool to combine with something else, and not having the inventory space for it.
Speaking of weapon combinations, I probably should discuss some of the improvements from Dead Rising to Dead Rising 2. One of my biggest complaints about the first game was that there was no crafting system. Luckily Capcom fixed this second time around. Now gamers are able to pick up almost any item and combine it with another to make some ridiculous weapons, so long as you have access to the various maintenance rooms strewn across Fortune City. The really great thing about this is that it captures the zombie movie feel of making do with what you have. Also, the recipes are plentiful enough that you can just stumble upon new weapons. For example, I had a fire extinguisher and a squirt gun. Put the two together and you get an ice gun that freezes zombies, allowing you to shatter them for bonus experience points.
The cool thing is that this crafting isn’t limited to weapons. After completing certain missions, you can gain access to a garage which lets you modify vehicles – nothing tells these zombies that you mean business like riding a “Slice-Cycle” (a motorcycle with chainsaws attached to it) through a hoard.
Another major improvement from the first game to the second is the newly added multiplayer component. Based around the Terror Is Reality game show featured in the single-player game, the multiplayer is a collection of American Gladiator-esque mini-games where players compete for money that is usable in the single-player. Some examples of these mini-games include: riding Slice-Cycles through hordes of the undead,to see who can rack up the most points, bull rushing zombies while wearing moose antlers so that you flip them onto a scale so that whoever has the most weight wins, and duking it out with other players to see who can skewer the most falling zombies on a spear.
All in all, the multiplayer is a fun little side project, but it won’t replace Halo: Reach or MW2. There is a co-op feature, but unless you know the person you’re playing with, it really isn’t that much fun. My experience with the public co-op was plagued by the typical Xbox Live kiddies we all despise.
That said, Dead Rising 2 is a fantastic game, so long as you approach it the right way. While playing the game for review, I found my marathon sessions ending abruptly mostly due to frustration with the mission structure and my own neglect to save properly. I found that I was having the most fun when I took it in small doses; focusing on one task at a time (be it rescuing survivors, collecting items to craft, etc.).
Ultimately, it’s a fantastic sandbox game for sandbox gamers. If you’re in the market for a strong single-player story-based game, I’d say look elsewhere. However, if you like to play games in short installments or are just a completion-ist (as the game has tons of unlockables and achievements) give Dead Rising 2 a look. There’s enough fun and laughs to be had that it should keep you occupied for weeks if not months.
There's no denying the graphics are pretty, I just wish the script was a tab bit more mature.
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Dead Rising 2 brings back the same great formula seen in the first one with the added bonuses of a superb crafting system and a high level of polish.
The soothing mall music matched with the groans of the undead will transport you back to your first viewing of Dawn of the Dead.
Thanks to the 72 hour time limit and the ability to restart keeping all your character's progress, it will take you weeks if not months to see all of Dead Rising 2's content.
Dead Rising 2 is a fantastically fun title, so long as you approach it from the right point of view.