It's not often that you arrive at a preview event with no idea what to expect [it is if I commission you - Ed]. Publishers tend to save their surprises for new announcements - once a game's out there in the public consciousness, there's a steady enough drip-feed of information to ensure that nothing comes as an enormous revelation. When Capcom's Keiji Inafune confirmed multiplayer for Dead Rising 2, I assumed we'd have co-op or ordinary zombie-killing competitions. I certainly didn't expect to be rolling a motocross racer in a bright yellow suit around a zombie-filled arena in a giant hamster ball whilst an enthusiastic commentator made comments about oral copulation with my mother, before donning a pair of moose antlers and tossing obese zombies onto a giant set of scales.
Terror is Reality, as Dead Rising 2's multiplayer component calls itself, is a four-player gameshow composed of four increasingly ridiculous mini-game rounds with increasingly ridiculous names. It's a gleeful lampoonery of everything zombie-related, an orgy of competitive comic violence - brightly coloured, bombastic and utterly barbaric. It smacks of the TV show Gladiators, both in the enjoyably ludicrous presentation (each player has their own primary-coloured motocross-suit onesie) and the content of the games themselves. It features an incredibly loudmouthed presenter with an obsession with sexual innuendo and a propensity for wearing sunglasses indoors, who provides the introduction and the between-round banter. (Hopefully he'll be skippable - most of his jokes wouldn't be funny more than once.)
The first round, Ramsterball, puts each contestant into a Gladiators-style metal cage ball. Everyone rolls around squishing zombies and smashing into each other whilst blood splashes around the screen and everyone competes for the right to activate zombie crushers for extra points. You ping pinball-like between each other and the crushers dotted around the arena, trying to smash into as many of them as possible before someone rams you and steals the power to activate them. The controls are slightly skittish, which admittedly feels appropriate when you're rolling a giant metal hamster ball over a messy pool of dead flesh, and the game's more a matter of sheer enthusiasm than skill, but it's nonetheless fun.
The next round, Headache, is rather less hectic. Picking up attractively colour-coded blender hats from a platform in the middle of the stage, you then jam them onto the heads of as many zombies as possible before legging it over to a big red button that makes all of them explode. It seems like you get more points the more heads you manage to explode at once, but with other players and a timer putting pressure on you and a horde of zombies trying to stop you from hitting the big red button, you have to balance score potential with practicality.
Practicality goes completely out of the window for the third round, Pounds of Flesh, which gives you a massive pair of moose antlers and gets you to toss as many zombies as possible onto a massive set of scales in the middle of the arena, pressing another great big red button to reload your zombie pool. You get more points for tossing fatter zombies. It's possibly the stupidest thing I've ever seen in a videogame. I spent so much time laughing at it that I lost the considerable lead I'd built up over the two Japanese journalists and token American I was playing against in the previous two rounds.