Dead Rising 2: Case West

Allow us to be Frank.

Dead Rising 2ís playable prologue, Case Zero, was released at the end of August for 400 Microsoft Points, selling half a million copies by the end of September. Just four months later, its epilogue, Case West, arrives exclusively on 360 for double that cost. Austerity be damned: thatís the price of progress, folks.

Iím only half-joking Ė because, while at roughly three hours for a single playthrough, Case West may only be the same size as Zero, itís also a step forward for the series; an add-on whose improvements to the zombie-splatting formula might well have bumped up its predecessorís Metacritic rating a few notches.

It starts with a surprise Ė at least for those who got the Ďbestí ending for Dead Rising 2, as evidently Capcom is treating that gameís Ending A (rather than the proper Overtime denouement) as canon. Professional Thomas Jane impersonator Chuck Greene is rescued from a future of moaning, shuffling and unusually protein-heavy dietary requirements by original protagonist Frank West, and the two set out to infiltrate a facility belonging to evil pharmaceutical nutjobs Umbrell- sorry, Phenotrans.

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"Hi, Iím Johnny Knoxville. Welcome to Jackass."

Naturally, the factory setting isnít as visually interesting as the dilapidated Americana of Case Zeroís Still Creek, but itís more fun to explore, not least because of the new weapons youíll find lying around. The sickle makes a welcome reappearance after its conspicuous absence from the second game, and itís just one of several new ingredients which Chuck can use to build a handful of fresh combo weapons. Dead Risingís combat system may seem inelegant at times, but when one swing of a deadly sickle/katana combo leaves an average of 12 bloody body parts scattered around your feet, you wonít really care. And thatís before we get onto Chuckís constructive (if medically inadvisable) use of a set of defibrillators and a metal tray.

Despite being made available as a standalone release rather than DLC, Case Westís story wonít necessarily mean much to anyone who hasnít played the previous games. Case Zeroís plot worked as a self-contained story as well as an intriguing lead-in to the events of Dead Rising 2, but here the significance of certain revelations Ė one in particular Ė requires a bit of foreknowledge. If you missed the first game, a quick Wiki flick is recommended.

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Security guards and zombie handlers offer a different kind of challenge Ė and plenty of PP if you decide to take them out.

That said, thereís some nice interplay between Chuck and Frank after their initial uneasy alliance. Again, the barmy plot is played totally straight-faced, which makes it all the more enjoyable to subvert. Chuck shaking his head at a particularly inept bluff from Frank is much funnier when one of our less-than-dynamic duo is wearing a shower cap and the other a mad scientistís hairdo.

As an AI partner, Frankís almost a little too handy in the fight, steaming into kills with relish and providing more than ample backup when youíre surrounded. Give him a half-decent weapon at the start and heís set for the rest of the game. Frankís return also means a return to the photography element of the original, though itís a little undercooked here, used purely to earn bonus Prestige Points by snapping special areas or objects within the facility.

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