Dead Rising: Case West (XBLA)

Review – Dead Rising: Case West

Survival Horror

So West,what kind of medicine are you involved in?  Death.hrtag

Adam

Adam

Dead Rising stands out of being the oddest exclusive I’ve played for the Xbox 360. A single save slot; and an aggressively unattractive hero in Frank West; a thoroughly Japanese indictment of American consumer culture remake of Dawn of the Dead; a levelling system that mandated multiple playthroughs; and a sandbox structure that required strict timekeeping. It was a unique experience that could certainly be improved, but only in ways that would reduce the things that made it unique. That was my main concern about the outsourced sequel, Dead Rising 2.

Apparently the sequel did, in fact, retain almost all the things that were right/wrong about the first. Everything except Frank. So I passed on it – I’m that petty. So if, like me, you eschewed the exploits of some Canuck getting drugs for his daughter and just want to find out what happened to Frank, after he was last seen screaming on a tank surrounded by zombies, then Dead Rising: Case West – a £7 downloadable, online co-op-enabled, expansion pack – should be like a sweet, sweet dose of Zombrex.

caption1

And then he threw a fire extinguisher into the crowd.

Come out west, we’ll kill some zombies, have a few laughs…

The game picks up after one of the endings of Dead Rising 2, and sees protagonist Chuck Greene being rescued in the nick of time by the sudden appearance of everyone’s favourite photojournalist and Dan Aykroyd-lookalike, Frank West. Together they escape Fortune City and head to an Umbrella Phenotrams facility, chasing a tip from an anonymous source. It’s this source who’ll be providing you with missions throughout the game.

There is no zombie outbreak this time, with the facility operating like a zombie enclosure or petting zoo. Any humans you encounter are either heavily armed and armoured zombie handlers or stray Phentoram’s employees who presumably got ambushed on the way to the bathroom.

Similar to World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, this expansion starts you at a high level, so you can enjoy some of the fun of grinding, but none of the hassle that accompanies starting out with low health and a small inventory. As someone who spent a lot of time in the original game killing zombies purely for experience, I appreciate this feature. Unfortunately, the developers have failed to provide an adequate challenge for one high level character, let alone two.

You’re a little high-strung for a guy who’s covered wars.

Case West shares PEOWW’s primary complaint against Dead Rising 2: it’s too damn easy compared to the first game. While I was downed a few times in co-op, the eon of bleed-out time combined with the resuscitative powers of a packet of crisps meant death was never the threat it should’ve been. Nor was the time-limit, and without the need for multiple playthroughs to get the good ending, the replayability goes out the window.

dead rising case west

Death by candyfloss.

You’ll still require a second playthrough to hit the level cap, but considering that one of the new combo-combo weapons gives you about a thousand experience points when fired into a dense enough herd of zombies, you’ll reach it in no time – which is incidentally about the amount of time it takes to finish the game. It’s a shame that Dead Rising‘s Infinity Mode, in which you have to survive for as long as possible, while requiring constant food, wasn’t included, as the game could certainly use some extra challenge and longevity, while the addition of a second player would’ve created an interesting dynamic.

As for the location, if you thought Vegas was a dull place for a zombie apocalypse, wait until you get of load of the underground pharmaceutical facility. Although it does at least give the game a Day of the Dead vibe. In fact the game appears to take almost as many cues from that film as Dead Rising took from Dawn of the Dead. (aka ALL OF THEM) Zombies are so unthreatening as to be almost sympathetic, while human opponents are much more aggressive and dangerous. Especially the ones with jack-hammers for arms.

gareth

Gareth

Secondary Review

In I enjoyed Dead Rising 2. It gets a lot of grief from people who loved the original Dead Rising because what little it does change isn’t necessarily for the better and the major new features don’t live up to expectations (co-op is too unnecessary and the Gladiators style online mode’s matchmaking simply doesn’t work), but I still enjoyed it. Killing zombies is fun and Case West is a stand alone XBLA game which is banking on that.

Whereas DR2 failed to make the co-op anything special, here it is the most important aspect. Frank West is back to join Chuck Whatever on this adventure and whether you’re playing in co-op or not is there constantly. Luckily he finds his own weapons and is invincible so there’s no need to worry about him at all. If a co-op partner joins in then they will take control of Frank (‘Player 1′ only ever gets to be Chuck) and then you must share weapons and food but there is so much of both that this is no problem. In fact, nothing in Case West is a problem. This is a problem.

Like its retail release cousin Case West is just too easy. Now you don’t even escort powerful survivors around, you just complete whatever task they ask of you and then they leave. There is no safe room to return them to and very little juggling of tasks which was one of the things which made Dead Rising so tense and unique. You start at level fifty so you’re already pretty tough and those ten levels you can gain are incredibly easy to get but actually make little difference to your play style.

Still, as I said at the beginning, killing zombies is fun and if you were holding out on DR2 but fancy a bit of co-op zombie killing then this is more fun and focused than its full price cousin in that respect. However that is mostly because there is so little else to do other than killing to fill the time between missions. Blue Castle has yet to find the right balance of difficulty or activities and I’m beginning to question whether it’ll actually be possible to improve on the original without a major makeover, Resident Evil 4 style.

Secondary Score: 6/10

I’m the Punjabi Juggernaut, bitch!

The saving grace of the game is definitely the co-op, allowing a second player to drop in at any time and take control of Frank. That person will save any PP they earn and gain access to a few exclusive combo weapons. Unfortunately only the co-op client will be able to play as Frank. If you’re on your own, he makes up for it by being a surprisingly competent, not to mention invincible, NPC.

Whether you’re accidentally repeatedly running over your partner with a Segway, spraying them suggestively with whipped cream, or simply throwing stuff at each other faces while waiting for the next mission to begin, having an audience makes this already silly series that much sillier. Even when playing solo, the bitchy banter between competing protagonists, Chuck and Frank, is great to listen to and I hope future instalments maintain the pairing.

In terms of new additions, the game’s sole Psychopath now feels like a proper boss, as opposed to a regular enemy with lots of health. (don’t worry, there are plenty of those, too) Survivors no longer require escorting, presumably because they know their way around their workplace. This removes the annoyance of having to depend on brain-dead A.I., but also takes away one of the few mid-mission distractions. Photography has returned, but the lack of grading system makes it a bit pointless. There are much easier (and gorier) ways of earning PP.

The world needs a Frank West.

If you’ve already completed Dead Rising 2, you’ve probably exhausted your enthusiasm for zombie genocide. The small, uninteresting location, paltry few fetch-quests missions and single boss (who is, admittedly, amazing) barely justifies the 800 Microsoft Point price-tag. It appears Capcom are banking on the fact that there’s a large contingent of Frank West fans out there on Xbox Live, and as one of those people/suckers, I can’t say I entirely regret my purchase. I just hope the inevitable Dead Rising 3 is an experience more worthy of the man.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆6/10

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