Dead Rising 2: Case West Reader Review
With Dead Rising 2, Chuck Greene traded in Frank West’s photojournalism for outright barbarity with his ability to combine weapons and while the opportunity to bludgeon heads with baseball bats lined with 9 inch nails was welcomed by everybody with a functioning sense of humour, the avenues those combo weapons opened up only augmented the necessity to be able to capture the very best moments on film. Something the sequel lacked.
And so finally – after much fan clamouring - we have Cast West. By hauling Frank back into the fray this second episode of downloadable content heralds a potential merging of the best of both the former title and last year’s sequel. So, how does it fare?
We rendezvous with fashion connoisseur Chuck Greene some time after the conclusion of Dead Rising 2. Doe-eyed munchkin Katey is nowhere to be seen – leaving Chuck free to do as he pleases - and in an ill advised move he’s chosen to reenact Haye vs. Klitschko with a brain-dead cannibal.
Much like Case Zero, West begins with a showering of laughably protracted cut scenes which could easily be abridged into one ten-second cinematic of two men saying: “hi there, let’s become BFFs and hit zombies with machetes."
But Blue Castle like their cut scenes and so here we are. Chuck’s en route to a Phenotrans facility in search of the furtive evidence that will clear his name to the 72 breathing people remaining on earth - he’s still public enemy number one having been framed for unleashing the zombie virus on Vegas in Dead Rising 2. Inches away from becoming chow and leaving dear Katey an orphan he’s rescued by everyone’s favourite journalist Frank West. The titular hero just happens to be in the same room as Chuck because he himself has a bone to pick with Phenotrans. Frank’s still investigating connections between the evil corporation and the Fortune City outbreak from the former game.
Despite the misleading title you won’t be playing as Frank unless you join an online game. Played alone, Journo Man accompanies you through the three-day campaign and considering the series’ jaded reputation for friendly AI he does a semi-decent job of aiding your cause (in no small part due to the fact that, in single player, he’s invincible). You’re awarded points for kills Frank makes on the various special enemies and he’ll happily ride shotgun in a golf kart. Sadly though, as far as real co-operation in single player goes, there is none; a missed opportunity if ever there was one.
Dead Rising’s worlds have always been one of its fortes, the original mall lending itself superbly to the formula with its zany arcade of shops, Case Zero with its eerie desert town and the second game its sprawling Vegas playground. With each you learned the world not out of necessity, but because being a tourist was damn good fun and it was always worth exploring new territory if not for any other reason but for the prospect of a new and ever more sadistic weapon (or a spanking new outfit).
Case West takes place in a Phenotrans science facility, some way out in the Nevada desert. You start out in a nondescript warehouse connected to a series of equally banal zombie holding bays and science labs with the few modestly exciting areas arriving at the back-end of a four-hour campaign – the lab geeks’ living quarters proving particularly fruity. You'll explore it all on account of the story but compared to playgrounds past, it’s a pretty dreary affair.
The great thing about Dead Rising is that you’re free to two-finger salute the “story” and just set about reeking havoc on the day-to-day lives of the undead and you could argue it doesn't matter what colour the wallpaper is when it gets down to the good old-fashioned genocide (it's going to be red eventually).
Case West brings with it six new combo weapons, the best of which is an unlikely marriage between a defibrillator and a medical tray. There’s also a medley of familiar combo weapons and together they remain the lifeblood of the game.
It’s all too easy to trade in Frank’s desperate attempts to expose Phenotrans and Chuck’s frenzied desire to clear his name and return to Katey for some hectic zombie bloodletting. But you’re free to return at the end of one campaign with the very same character – rank, special moves and all – and go about events a different way.
Should you choose to heed the story – which, as ever, is relayed through a series of cases - you’re forced to adhere to some reasonably strict time limits but there's more than enough downtime in between to stain the sterile Phenotrans labs with blood as well as rescue a few of the moronic survivors.
These helpless nobodies no longer demand to be escorted to a distant safe room. Instead you free them from their personal enclave of zombies before they dart off – presumably having remembered how to fend for themselves or simply having lost the will to live. More often than not however, they'll refuse to escape certain doom before you’ve acquired them some obscure and utterly useless item. A kidney, for example. But by eschewing the old safe room recipe, the last bastion of challenge has been removed from an otherwise farcically straightforward game. Missions are simply tales of: go here, go here, go here and go here.
Although you don’t get to play as Frank, Chuck does have a camera of his own. By tapping RB while aiming you enter camera mode but there’s little in the world worth committing to film. 10 PP stickers scattered throughout the labs only help reinforce the sense that Blue Castle have wasted a decent opportunity to capitalise on something the community has been pleading for since Case Zero. The lack of survivors willing to pose or embark on ludicrous killing rampages means Frank’s return is – to the lonely gamer – wasted.
Co-op as a whole is fun but never essential with Blue Castle missing so many basic opportunities to craft a memorable two-player experience. Stray items like wheelchairs scream out yet haven’t been modified to accommodate the antics of two people each with a working brain cell. There are several vehicles abandoned throughout the labs but, inexplicably, poor old player 2 is resigned to inactivity while the driver has the time of his life swerving through the swathes of the undead.
Ultimately you can't escape the stink of squandered potential lingering through the dreary warehouses and samey science labs that form the fabric of Case West. So frequently are chances to capitalise on both Frank’s return and co-op integration frittered away that it’s a wonder this final act is any fun at all.
But it is fun and that’s entirely due to the still sturdy mechanics steaming away beneath the nonsense story and pasty world. One day lopping heads off with a katana sword strapped to a sickle will get boring, but that day isn’t today. It's probably not going to be tomorrow either.