Dead Rising 2’s 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: that’s the price of progress, folks.
I’m only half-joking – because, while at roughly three hours for a single playthrough, Case West may only be the same size as Zero, it’s also a step forward for the series; an add-on whose improvements to the zombie-splatting formula might well have bumped up its predecessor’s Metacritic rating a few notches.
It starts with a surprise – at least for those who got the ‘best’ ending for Dead Rising 2, as evidently Capcom is treating that game’s 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.
Naturally, the factory setting isn’t as visually interesting as the dilapidated Americana of Case Zero’s Still Creek, but it’s more fun to explore, not least because of the new weapons you’ll find lying around. The sickle makes a welcome reappearance after its conspicuous absence from the second game, and it’s just one of several new ingredients which Chuck can use to build a handful of fresh combo weapons. Dead Rising’s 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 won’t really care. And that’s before we get onto Chuck’s 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 West’s story won’t necessarily mean much to anyone who hasn’t played the previous games. Case Zero’s 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 – one in particular – requires a bit of foreknowledge. If you missed the first game, a quick Wiki flick is recommended.
That said, there’s 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 scientist’s hairdo.
As an AI partner, Frank’s almost a little too handy in the fight, steaming into kills with relish and providing more than ample backup when you’re surrounded. Give him a half-decent weapon at the start and he’s set for the rest of the game. Frank’s return also means a return to the photography element of the original, though it’s a little undercooked here, used purely to earn bonus Prestige Points by snapping special areas or objects within the facility.