Dead Rising 2 Reader Review
Dead Rising 2 leaps from tongue-in-cheek survival horror to the utterly maniacal. Ramping up the absurdity levels, the like only previously seen in Nicolas Cage's Deadfall. Once again you'll have to stock-up on food, drink and weapons, then prepare yourself to defeat zombies and any psychopaths who stand in your way.
You play Chuck Greene, loyal father to Katie and national motocross champion. Katie is a little ticking time-bomb; she's been infected with the zombie virus from a previous zombie outbreak. If Chuck doesn't get her the expensive drug Zombrex every 24 hours she'll turn, and become a pint-sized zombie too. Cripes! Chuck arrived in Fortune City to win big prize money in the television game show Terror is Reality, think Gladiators but with thousands of zombies milling about; and two twins (Funhouse!). But, oh, now what! Another zombie outbreak. The game show zombies have escaped and Fortune City is quickly over-run, swimming with zombie masses. The only safe place is somewhere called the "safe room." Sounds familiar? It’s officially called the Emergency Shelter, but nobody in that game calls it that.
Zombie outbreaks, if we've learnt anything about zombies, are not good. The word outbreak is not great. Zombie outbreaks in the Dead Rising universe turn previously normal people quite insane. Fortune City’s casinos, malls and strips are littered with zombies, psychos, looters and a poor bunch of innocent survivors, seemingly stuck in the middle of it all. On a related note, I found a female survivor who wasn't even aware there had been a zombie outbreak, oblivious to the zombies mooching about outside (/face palm). Get out.
Your character, Chuck Greene, is the man of the hour. He'll need to survive this disaster, saving survivors, fighting zombie hordes and trying to find Zombrex for his daughter. He'll need to survive 3 days in Fortune City before the military arrive to save everyone. Being a skilled mechanic and handyman he'll use his powers of invention to craft powerful combo weapons from items you'll have to loot (note: stealing is fine in times of zombie apocalypse). Items like the giant moose head looted from the "High-Noon Shooting Range" can be used to storm-charge through hordes of zombies. It is just one of hundreds of comical items which can be looted and used for zombie killing high-jinx.
As you clear thousands of these obstacles (sorry, zombies) you'll earn PP (Prestige Points) for killing them in fancy ways. Even more PP rewards for using combo weapons or using one of the numerous special moves like the "Smash grab" which you'll unlock as you level-up. Disappointingly certain moves like "zombie walk" and "zombie ride," present in the original game are absent here.
Chuck will level-up as you earn more and more PP. So it's a zombified cycle of rewardment (new words).
PP can be earned not just by killing zombies, but in many ways. PP can be earned by interacting with the environment, playing mini-games, killing psychopaths, finding/rescuing survivors and other activities, for example, if you've got some spray paint, then go ahead and spray that Zombrex poster for 1,000 PP. Or just bring back toys for Katie. What a guy.
There are 50 character levels to level through, rewarding you with more health slots, more skill moves, more inventory slots... just more. All geared towards making Chuck a double-hard bastard. Health is lost when zombies grab Chuck and you must try to shake them off. As it turns out the zombie bastards like to bite and eat people. You can replenish health by eating and drinking food items, and as was the case with the original game any two drink items can be mixed together if you find a mixer to make "combo shakes," of which there are nine and all have different health boosting benefits or effects. Food and drink are plentiful in the main areas of Fortune City, but in the more secluded areas and corridors you may need to find food & drink in the trash (bin). I don't recommend the spoiled hot dogs. Ovens seem to be absent from Dead Rising 2, so you'll have to eat steak raw, but if you watch MasterChef, you'll know its the "in" thing.
The combination weapons, a new feature in Dead Rising 2, are weapons you build from other items and weapons once at a maintenance room workbench. Items marked with the "wrench" icon indicate that item will combine with one other "wrench" item, which you'll have to figure out by experimenting or discovering it. For example, a box of nails and the baseball bat make a spiked bat. Don't worry, there are 49 combo weapons (odd number?) to build and discover and many are more interesting, but less obvious than the spiked bat. Many have a gory secondary attack too; I will say the combo weapons are fantastically designed and well imagined. I won't spoil them here, as half the fun is discovering these and working out what items you can combine. There are film posters dotted about to examine, which might give Chuck an idea on how to build another slicing, dicing, exploding, flambéing combo weapon.
These posters are not to be confused with the Playboy cover posters, which don't provide anything from what I can gather, beyond eye-candy and what I can only assume was some rather odd advertising deal with Capcom. Perhaps have Chuck stop to gaze at them, before jumping away from a lunging zombie. Maybe zombies just want to look at the Playboy posters too. Zombies are simply misunderstood.
Maintenance rooms are dotted about everywhere for easy access and different maintenance rooms will contain new items on shelves, tables or simply lying on the floor outside. Usually, with a quick bit of combining these nearby items will let you to build at least one brand new combo weapon. You will also receive a scratch card for your new combo weapon invention. Scratch it to match three Cherries and win £10. I jest. The scratch card depicts the ingredients or two items you've combined to make that combo-weapon. It's essentially like a marker to say "I built this" so you can reference them later, if you've lost your memory or gone stupid. Well that's it. However, as more fun bag reward combo cards will eventually supersede scratch cards for the same weapon. A scratch card will be replaced by its combo card as you level-up or as you meet survivors or psychos who own the combo card weapon. Combo cards are better than scratch cards as you'll get double-trouble-combo 2xPP when using that weapon because you're kick-ass or something.
The main story is propelled forward by cases (like story chapters). Lest we forget everything is timed in Dead Rising 2, the clock is ticking from start to finish and time management is the key. Events in Dead Rising occur whether you turn up or not. Failure can and does occur just by not arriving on-time in the right place. Punctuality failure happened to me on at least a couple of occasions. I found it helpful to visit the nearest zombie to discuss my frustration about this. You're provided with helpful timing sliders to indicate how long you've got to complete cases, rescue survivors or reach maniac psychopaths. Everything is optional and it's up to you what to do or don't do, but it will affect which of the multiple endings you get. Ideally the goal is to get the perfect ending. There is also a timer for Katie’s 24-hour Zombrex dose, which is fine as you weren't even really busy anyway. Zombrex can be bought at pawnshops for cash or acquired from certain characters; there are also hidden stashes of it for the exploring, climbing Chucks.
Unfortunately with the cases, especially mid-case, you'll need to be careful thinking you've got time to complete it as the next cut scene and playable section may not be the end of the case and the timer will continue ticking. So you maybe midway or in a boss fight and find that time doesn't magically stop and you'll fail if the case timer reaches zero and the truth about the zombie outbreak will vanish (again) and you'll fail the story. Hit a zombie if you're frustrated at this point, it helps and it's fun. You can continue to play the remainder of the game fighting zombies and psychos, saving survivors. Or you can save your character and restart the game with your new improved, leveled-up Chuck. Timing isn't particularly difficult for the story cases, but initially I found myself distracted with all the other fun things to do and explore in Fortune City, so I simply ran out of time. I eventually got through the case stuff later, in a much later play through.
Cut scenes nicely develop the story and cases, with a couple of twists and turns along the way. Your Chuck will appear in cut scenes wearing whatever garment or costume you've dressed him in, which can add unexpected hilarity or mockery to the events. It's really up to you if you want to steal and wear women's clothing; nobody is judging you or Chuck; or even commenting on his dress sensibilities. Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable. Cut scenes are nicely directed, however at one point a pair of heaving bosoms were shoved right in my face; there are also other noticeable lingering shots of top-heavy female leads which lack any kind of subtlety whatsoever. Perhaps these are included for the typical male gaming demographic or simply in preparation for 3D gaming. Psycho cut scenes are particularly overly-absurd, oddly sadistic and provide over-the-top gore in glorious Dead Rising fashion.
Some combo weapons make short-work of the psycho battles, with both melee and ranged useful, but most fights simply descend into hack and slash, often running away to replenish health, like Quest for Fire. It’s worth noting however, some combo weapons do not work at all against psychos. Some larger weapons have to be carried around and will not go into your spare inventory slots like smaller items or weapons. So you cannot put that vacuum cleaner combo in your pocket for later, and are stuck carrying it. A random zombie swipe will cause you to drop this, which is helpful and you’ll thank them.
Moving on, the basic idea isn't to look at boobs, but to earn PP and level-up, giving you an increased level character. You're also hopefully building up a mental map of the game, trying alternative routes and missions, perfecting timings, destroying the thousands of milling zombies on your way. Going for a perfect run on the first play through is nigh impossible. You should probably level-up a bit, have some fun, throw things at zombies, interact, examine the environment, throw some more things at zombies. Actually hit them, run them over, explode them, and implode them. They're only the walking dead. Hey, that's someone’s mum! Shit, is it? Explore the map, save a couple of survivors, play strip poker, find shortcuts, locate the very helpful perk-giving magazines dotted about the place. Perhaps drive that sports car into groups of zombies (a group of zombies is called a zompie). Go to rock a concert, maybe play zombie bingo, the possibilities are endless. Earn PP and level-up!
Magazines make a return in this sequel, which you can store in your inventory and you'll gain the perk they provide while in there. Some improve your luck, handy in a Casino resort; some improve how much health you get from food and drink items. One even improves your leadership skill for survivors in your party. With "leadership" slow survivors or survivors that would otherwise need carrying will now run their socks off. The usefulness of magazines should not be underestimated; it's helpful to remember where you find them for any subsequent play throughs.
Vehicles including bikes, cars and maintenance carts are spread across the map for transport and zombie splattering. Rarer is the hilarious hamster ball found in the underground maintenance tunnels. Some vehicles, particularly the carts, don't last very long before an outpouring of smoke and a nice explosion, zombie parts smoldering in the grill. Again, magazines exist which improve the durability of vehicles, both "4 wheel" and "bike" mags are hidden somewhere in the city for the more curious, every nook and cranny gamers. Bikes can also be customised with certain weapons, items and paint spray if you unlock the bike trailer by defeating a particular psycho.
In the original Dead Rising the journalist Frank West carried with him a camera to take snaps, which also built into the PP dynamic by rewarding photographs containing exotica, horror or humour with PP bonus points. Chuck Greene, our hero here, carries no such device. But he can peddle really, really fast on a tiny pink bicycle. Personally, I'm glad there are no PP stickers to photograph, however the inclusion of a camera would have been fantastic for capturing great moments in the game, especially in the new online co-op mode. It also would be nice to take snaps and upload them somewhere online. I'm quietly confident the camera may return in Case West, the epilogue to Dead Rising 2 which will see Frank West return to help Chuck Greene in man love co-op. Just bring your camera and invaluable war knowledge, Frank.
Full story online co-op was implemented into Dead Rising 2 later in its development. However Blue Castle seem to be above the bar and up to the challenge and have actually implemented co-op superbly into an otherwise single player story. So the game contains full online working co-op. You and an online buddy can play through the complete game from start to finish together, having done so now umpteen times. You can quickly join a friend’s game, they will even receive a call in-game with your request to join, once accepted you can drop-into their game for co-op hilarity. Dead Rising 2 is a blast to play through in co-op, the extra help is very useful in psycho battles and escorting survivors, especially once I'd stopped accidentally shooting our survivors. There is however an issue with saving in co-op, which will kick you out from the game host when they save their game, luckily on being kicked out you can save and quickly re-connect, but it can become annoying. This was supposedly fixed in a patch, but this still has not worked for me. A workaround which definitely does work is if the host player saves to a USB stick the other person will not be kicked from the game. I don't know why this works. It just works. Like Toblerones.
Saving, a big issue in the original Dead Rising with just one lonesome save slot has been improved by providing a very generous three save slots and there are plenty of bathrooms dotted about to save your game progress throughout the game. Save options also appear during the story cases, at one point a female character actually took me too the restroom to save my game, asking me if I wanted to take a rest, which was nice. A bit weird.
The other multiplayer mode in the game is the online game show Terror is Reality. This fits in actually quite well with the main story, as this is the game show where the outbreak in Fortune City initially begins. You play as Chuck in an episode of this online television game show; each episode consists of 3 mini-games and a finale. 4 players play online (playing either ranked or unranked) trying to score the most points in each game, the total points after the 3 mini-games decides the time penalty in the finale for players in 2nd, 3rd and 4th. The arena finale "Slicecycles" (riding motorbikes with attached chainsaws) sees you zooming around and mowing down as many zombies as possible for the most points in a set time. The time delays are mostly pointless as the mega-point bonus zombies sporting pink exploding lollypops in their heads do not appear until well after everyone has started. So the person who gained 1st place from the previous 3 games really doesn't gain much advantage on their rivals.
Mini-game highlights include "Zomboni" a Hungry Hippo style game with modified Zamboni ice resurfacers hitting zombies, gathering zombie blood and then having to bank this blood by shooting it into giant, mechanical mouth opening zombie-clown heads (no, seriously). "Pounds of Flesh" has you charging at zombies with the moose head to flick them onto a weighing machine. The person with most weight wins. Other games involve sniping, exploding, dressing-up or otherwise messing about with zombies.
Terror is Reality lacks longevity, providing only really a couple of hours of diversionary fun with a couple of achievements linked to it. However your online winnings can be cashed-out for use in the main game to purchase items from one of four pawnshops. The real success for Dead Rising 2 is the fantastic online co-op mode, which along with achievements, award much repeated play.
The original Dead Rising blended a western mall setting mixed with quirky humour and very specific time keeping mechanics where the player was involved in a clock-ticking world of zombie apocalypse. Blue Castle have been entrusted with a difficult act to follow. Keeping the essential core gameplay so many fans enjoyed, while tweaking, improving and adding tons of new, quite frankly fun, comical additions they have succeeded. In Dead Rising 2, Blue Castle and Capcom have delivered Dead Rising to a new, brighter and more fascinating location with their tongues still stuck firmly in cheek. Together they have produced most definitely my favourite game of 2010 by a explosive longshot.
Welcome to Fortune City. Enjoy your stay... or die trying.