Review – Dead Rising 2
Do you want a clean kill or do you want to send a message?
I’ve said it on this site before but it is worth reiterating that even after many playthroughs – some of which were botched by the unforgiving save system – of the original Dead Rising, it still holds a special place in my heart. It was my first Xbox 360 game (the reason I bought the machine actually), it gave me my first achievement and it remains one of my most satisfying maxes. It’s also one of the few games that I believe deserved ten out of ten review-wise, it was that good.
Following on from the recent XBLA release Case Zero, Dead Rising 2 sees likeable protagonist Chuck Greene arriving in Fortune City (which to all intents and purposes is Las Vegas) to enter a Running Man-style gameshow in order to earn enough money to keep his infected daughter Katey in Zombrex – a drug that halts the zombification process for a day at a time. You get to play his part in the show, chopping down zombies in an arena using a motorbike fitted with chainsaws, before the inevitable ‘all goes to tits’ moment that the zombies get out. To make matters worse, Chuck – who at the point of the outbreak is stuck in a lift – gets framed for the whole outbreak. The rest of Dead Rising 2 focuses on his attempts to clear his name while saving as many humans as possible.
Once all the exposition is out of the way, the game settles into a familiar pattern of case files missions and survivor alerts. These come Chuck’s way via a walkie-talkie, as with the first game, although Stacey is not nearly as demanding, or annoying, as Otis from the first game. Also, standard def viewers rejoice – the text is much larger this time around. However, this basic gameplay mechanic is one of many that combine until you realise the most important thing about Dead Rising 2: it is, in every way that matters, the same game as before.
You start off in a safe room. You enter the main game area via a vent. You emerge in a corridor leading to a shopping mall. There are several malls, a food court, underground tunnels and a large open area outside. The only difference now is that they’ve added three near-identical casinos as flat and featureless as Chris Brown’s girlfriend’s face. Given that the area is more mall than casino, you’ll soon realise that Blue Castle weren’t just using the original studio’s efforts as a guide but more or less a blueprint. This extends to all the humans in the game, with psychos following the archetypes from the original game (usually some guy whining, until he starts shouting and then settles into attacking you with a learnable pattern).
The original game’s detractors often whined their tits off at Dead Rising‘s uncompromising save system (although I’m in the camp that say it added tension to the game rather than ruined it) and this has been replaced with a three slot save system that makes it far less likely for you to cock things up. Survivor AI has also been upped, you can happily escort loads of them without having to control them with waypoints or even give them weapons. This may also be thanks to the zombies who, until late in the game, are basically no threat at all. Infact, killing them only really serves to slow you down. You can easily bob and weave past them.
With the altered saves and survivor AI this game is ludicrously easy. I easily completed the game, to an S ranking, without a guide and that was starting with a level 5 Chuck (your Case Zero character level is carried over). I’m now on my second playthrough and, at level 43, I’m basically untouchable. In my first play I didn’t miss a single call and completed everything thrown at me. I didn’t get the achievement for rescuing fifty survivors though as the game hides a few away, necessitating the need for a guide – a very, very disappointing design choice. Also, new missions are blocked they include a number of survivors that takes the number of active ones over eight. I got scuppered by this first time around and the game gives you literally no indication that it is happening.
Dead Rising was a fantastic game and one of the main reasons I got an Xbox 360 in the first place towards the end of 2006. Many didn’t like the save system or the difficulty but the need to replay the game didn’t bother me one bit, and the levelling up and fun mechanics make it still one of my favourite games of this generation.
Now four years later we have Dead Rising 2, being made by a different developer which didn’t fill me with confidence after the disappointment that was Crackdown 2. Still, if they keep the gameplay the same, make the other survivors a little more durable and maybe improve the save system a little then you’ve got a great game, right? That’s exactly what they have done, but it hasn’t necessarily worked out how I thought it might.
Dead Rising 2 is pretty easy. Maybe not when compared to all games, but compared to the original there is very little challenge. The time limits aren’t very limiting at all, the survivors are now tougher than you are and it’s only the bosses who provide any real challenge, but that feels more because they’re a little cheap and poorly implemented rather than because they’re a true challenge. Also, without the worry of a time limit or desperately trying to protect a survivor the game feels a little shallow, with the whole game basically boiling down to a series of fetch quests.
However, running around killing zombies is still as fun as ever, the introduction of a co-op mode, whilst bare bones, is welcome and the Gladiators style competitive multiplayer mode seems like a laugh, though I struggled to get more than a couple of games on it mere days after launch. Those who felt DR1 was a little too challenging for the wrong reasons may find the fun I had with that title here in the sequel. People who adored DR1 will enjoy the sequel, but they may hope that DR3 changes the formula a little.
Secondary Score: 7/10
One new addition (albeit it one seen in Case Zero) is the ability to combine items to make new weapons. There are dozens of combinations available and you are told about them via Combo Cards (awarded as you level Chuck up). Whilst these are amusing, the majority are pretty useless. Also you aren’t really encouraged to experiment given that you are always playing against the clock. The main problem though is that the first, and most easily accessed, combo weapon, the spiked bat, is good for 99% of situations you’ll find in this game (with the also easily accessed knive gloves being almost essential for one boss).
That’s the problem with Dead Rising 2. There’s a sandbox out there, waiting to be explored, but you just have no reason to do it. The game area is quite dull compared to the first game, the weapons are mostly unnecessary, the game is easy enough for you to not need anything other than a basic weapon and a few food items and there’s always a time limit to think about.
With all that said, it’s still a fun game, although it is telling that I’m enjoying it a lot more on my second playthrough now that I can skip the cutscenes. I still like the game mechanics and the combat (although some of the bosses are a chore), it’s just a shame that it’s so easy. There’s also no Survival Mode any more. They have added a very solid co-op mode though (literally the same as the main campaign but with two of you running around) and a bunch of mini-games that serve as the main competitive multiplayer mode (although this requires four players per game and is, just a week after release, dead enough to want your brains on a plate).
So while Dead Rising 2 isn’t taking the piss nearly as badly as the ultra-disappointing Crackdown 2, it’s still not living up to its potential. For Capcom to release a clone of a three year old game and then alienate the hardcore fans by dumbing it down for a bunch of pussyboys really does no-one any favours. However, there’s still a heap of fun to be had here and newcomers to the series who doubt their own skill may well want to start with this game rather than the first one.