Ready for a Little Bit of Revenge?
When you first start playing Dead Rising 2, the world feels instantly familiar. Sure, it’s been four years since the original Dead Rising debuted on the Xbox 360, but once you see those zombies rushing towards you in the game’s opening act, you know exactly what kind of experience you are in for. And that’s a good thing. However, as much as things stay the same in this game, there are plenty of new elements that will draw fans of the original back in to the game, as well as attract new players.
The game’s opening moments introduce us to new series protagonist Chuck Greene, who is a contestant on a reality show where the objective is to mow down zombies using a chainsaw-modded motorcycle in a caged arena. This first playable area is pretty simple to get through (the basic formula here is drive in circles, kill zombies, and win) but once you complete the game’s simple first objective, things get complicated.
We find out in very short order that Chuck’s life is rather complicated, as he has a dead wife, and a daughter who needs the super drug Zombrex daily so she doesn’t turn into a zombie. And to make matters worse, the zombies from the arena where the reality show is taped have escaped, prompting the entire metropolis of Fortune City to go into lockdown. But who could be responsible for unleashing the zombie hordes on this unsuspecting urban landscape? Well, it seems all fingers are pointed at our main man Chuck. Oh, boy.
Dead Rising 2 is definitely a more story-driven affair than its predecessor, and there are plenty of plot threads that are revealed both through the main “case” missions as well as the game’s numerous side missions. Although the plot isn’t exactly deep, the game’s b-movie approach really works in this case, and you’ll be interested enough to want to play “one more case” quite a few times before you’re ready to call it a night. And though the characters aren’t exactly three-dimensional, the game’s solid horror archetypes (manly lead, sexy camera lady, bookish second-in command) are all played up with enough cheese to amuse even the most stalwart gamer.
But despite all the awesome aspects of the game’s story, the real reason to play Dead Rising 2 is the gameplay. This is where Dead Rising 2 has the most in common with its predecessor, as you’ll be spending most of your time running around Fortune City killing zombies with various weapons. However, the twist here is that you have the added ability of creating your own weapons. The weapon creation system here is surprisingly deep, and it’s easy to get caught up searching for compatible elements that you can throw together (with the help of plenty of duct tape, I’m assuming) to achieve ultimate destruction. Some of my favorites include a dynamite-filled dinosaur head (which can lure zombies away from areas you need to explore), an electrified wheelchair, and of course, the ubiquitous chainsaw paddle– also known as the “paddlesaw.”
Even though there are plenty of weapons to make, these weapons are not created equal, and although some of them seem awesome at first, there are some mechanical issues that can cause you to trade down in some cases. For example, the paddlesaw I mentioned above is a brutal weapon in sparsely populated areas, as it dispatches 2-3 zombies at a time with ease. However, get in a big crowd with a paddlesaw, and you’ll see that the imprecise mechanics make it hard to direct the paddlesaw towards a single area with any accuracy, which can have deadly consequences. Although there is an “aiming mode” you can use with the left trigger, this mode is a bit sluggish in most instances.
Still, despite some control issues, combat in most areas is fluid and simple. Hammering on the attack button will get you through the tightest of situations, and using your custom weapons (as well as the occasional health or stat-boosting item) strategically will keep you coming back for more. Much like the original Dead Rising, you’ll find yourself running though shopping districts and outdoor areas that feature an endless parade of zombies that you can slice and dice.
However, you won’t often be chopping up these zombies just for fun. The game’s structure features several time-based elements, where you will have small windows with which to accomplish either story objectives, personal objectives, or rescue survivors. Although the story and personal objectives will result in a game over if failed, the survivor objectives are all completely optional. Those who played the first Dead Rising may breathe a sigh of relief here, as survivor missions were easily the most agitating aspect of the original game. But the good news here is that the survivors in Fortune City are a little bit better at taking care of themselves, and giving them a few custom weapons is generally enough to get them through most areas (as long as you stick reasonably close by and do your part to mow down a pathway paved in zombie blood.)
The gameplay in Dead Rising 2 is definitely reason enough to pick it up, but there are a few issues that hold this game back from being the ultimate zombie experience. First up, be prepared for some major loading times. In addition to 3-5 second loading screens in between cutscenes, each new area takes several seconds to load, and even the map screen takes a few seconds to load. Though I’m not normally one to complain about long waits for loading times, Dead Rising 2’s frequency and duration of loading screens border on egregious, and really take you out of the game.
Another issue with Dead Rising 2 in the technical department is the visuals. Though the amount of zombies on-screen at any given moment is certainly impressive, the game’s visual scheme overall takes a hit due to this aspect. Expect to see plenty of repetitive animation, clipping, and framerate slowdowns when things start getting a little hairy. Another small issue with the visuals is the frequency of stock cutscenes. Though the creation animation is cool the first twenty times you make a weapon, it gets a little annoying after a while, especially because the animation never changes, and it is almost always preceded or followed by a loading screen.
Though Dead Rising 2 isn’t a perfect game, there is so much fun to be had with this new entry in the series that its good points far outweigh its shortcomings. The game’s variety and huge amount of side-missions ensure that you’ll be playing it for quite a while, and its B-movie-style plot is definitely entertaining. The game also features a co-op feature that allows you to mow down zombies with a friend, which adds some new dynamics and strategic elements to the gameplay. All told, if you loved the first Dead Rising, or just need a zombie-killing fix, they don’t come much more brutal than Dead Rising 2, and you’ll love every ultra-violent minute you spend with this game.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
The amount of zombies in the game is impressive, but repetitive animation and some clipping hamper this game visually. 3.9 Control
Some of the bigger weapons behave awkwardly and can be hard to control. Driving in the game is almost a nightmare by itself. 3.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Background music and sound effects for the various areas are unobtrusive. Voiceovers range from decent to laughably horrible. 4.8 Play Value
Dead Rising 2’s biggest strength lies in its variety of both story and side missions. There is never a shortage of things to do in the game, and the co-op ability makes this a trip you can take several times with friends. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.