Dead Rising 2: A Review
Ah! The Zombie! We at Rely On Horror love our zombies, whatever shapes or sizes they come in, be they slow moving or able to run, be they dumb or be they smart, be they Headcrab infested or suffering a bad case of T-Virus! We particularly like making messes of zombies, especially when they’re in large numbers.
So it’ll come as no surprise that when presented with the opportunity to play Dead Rising 2 from Capcom, the modern masters of the Zombie Horror, I giggled happily like a school-girl. Then, I hit my first snag. I’d never actually got around to playing more than a few minutes of the first, as it was released long before I got my 360, and had then slipped down the list of games I wanted by the time I got it. Thankfully, a kind mate was on hand to lend me a copy of the 2006 Zombie-Shredding classic (Thanks dude, you know who you are!).
Only, the problem here was that…well…(DISCLAIMER: The opinions that follow are that of Liandri, not Rely On Horror as a whole. In other words, please don’t blame the whole site for my feelings, Dead Rising fans!)…I didn’t find it a classic at all…I spent a few days prior to my copy of the sequel arriving playing it feeling that I really should have been enjoying it more than I was, and wondering whether I was missing something that everyone else was seeing in it.
I don’t like to bring up a game’s age, it’s something I generally ignore. I mean, I’ve still got my PS2 hooked up and quite regularly play through my older Silent Hill, Resident Evil and other games from the PS1 and PS2, but the first Dead Rising game felt old. It was as if it was a PS2/Original Xbox game that arrived at the party too late, so went, got cleaned up a bit and went straight back out. I know Capcom also made Shadow Of Rome, and it was very much like the combat system in that: Slow, sometimes clumsy, but passable. The AI of the Survivors was so bad, it was getting me killed more than my own limited intelligence was!
What’s more, I just couldn’t connect to any of the characters that I met, Frank West aside. The lame voice acting and stereotypical characters just irritated me to the point where I honestly couldn’t care whether most of them survived or not. For example, very close to the start, I found a woman who’d lost her baby to the zombies. I’d have normally felt like I wanted to protect her and see her to safety, but the game insisted on reusing this irritating crying sound over and over, and every time I put her down for a second, she seemed insistent on blundering into a big crowd of zombies again. In the end, I just left her to her pretty much inevitable fate.
Another thing that bugged me was the saving system. The one thing I’ve come to love about the modern generation of games is the subtle checkpoint/auto-save systems that mean you can immerse yourself in the game totally and forget all about running off to a save point without risking having to redo around an hour’s worth of gameplay. The saving system did make sense, as you wouldn’t exactly be able to stop and rest in the midst of a zombie horde, but the lack of save points often meant that I’d end up dying whilst trying to get to one, losing me several levels, lots of PP (Prestige Points for anyone who hasn’t played the games, the Dead Rising equivalent of Experience Points), several saved survivors, and precious hours of my life!
I understand that this kind of thing made the game a challenge, but hell, after seeing the same video for the fifth time, it had started to wear thin, especially when it was often the game’s shoddy AI getting me killed in the first place! I read that the idea when you’re stuck is to “Save Status And Quit”, meaning you’d restart the game, but with your current level, PP and unlocked skills…well, sod that…I really don’t want to play the first hour or so through several times before I’m strong enough to relax and have fun with the game.
I guess, though, that this criticism is a little harsh, it was released over four years ago, which is a pretty long time in the gaming industry. Games and their players have changed, and this fact was made very obvious as I played Dead Rising 2.
In the game, you take the role of the dour former Motocross champion, Chuck Greene. His miserable demeanour is understandable though, as it is revealed that he lost his wife in a similar outbreak to the events of the first game (I believe this outbreak is depicted in Dead Rising: Case Zero, but I’m not sure as I haven’t had access to it). His young daughter, Katey was also bitten, but the effects of the zombie’s bite are held at bay by an expensive drug called Zombrex, not a cure but a zombification suppressant.
As the game begins, Chuck is in Fortune City, Nevada (A newly built leisure resort, built as a replacement for the casino strip in Las Vegas which was destroyed by a zombie outbreak three years before), competing in a Game Show called Terror Is Reality where four contestants vie both against each other and the undead. You are instantly treated to a mini-game called Slicecycles, in which you have to ride a motocross bike through a horde of zombies in an arena…did I mention that the bike has a pair of chainsaws mounted on the sides? In Terror Is Reality, zombie slaughter = money, so its a good idea to really go for it, as the money you win is the money you start with!
Without wanting to give much more of the plot away, the horde of zombies kept to be used in the Game Show are freed and let loose upon Fortune City. Chuck and Katey are caught up in the carnage, and flee to a safehouse nearby. Stuck in the infested Fortune City for three days, Chuck realises that he doesn’t have any Zombrex for his daughter, and it needs to be taken once every 24 hours. Chuck therefore heads back out into the City to get the drugs Katey so desperately needs. Later, a spanner is thrown into the works as Chuck is framed for releasing the zombies in the first place. Thus he also has to prove his innocence before the army arrives to save the survivors and arrest him.
The first thing I’d like to mention is that the characters are much, much easier to connect with which came as a massive relief when I realised how story driven the game would be in places. I liked Chuck instantly. He’s a quiet fellow, which is understandable given his back-story and the events of the game, but he has a subtle sense of humour which I found I could relate to, his facial expressions often saying everything he needs to say. Other important characters are rendered brilliantly, such as Katey who is a very believable character. Many of the survivors that Chuck encounters in Fortune City however are often stereotypes, but done in an amusing manner rather than offensive or irritating.
The story itself is also far more believable. I still refuse to accept that anyone would willingly jump into a zombie outbreak, even if they were an epic photojournalist (Also, have you guys ever noticed how no one in a zombie film/game ever seems to have seen/played a zombie film/game themselves? COME ON! We’ve all watched a George A. Romero film, haven’t we?!), especially given that he knows he’s stuck there for three days! Chuck however is caught up in the events, hardly bringing it upon himself.
The plot, though a little predictable in places, has more twists and turns than Monte Carlo as Chuck strives towards clearing his name. Though the idea of a “Zombie Rights” group is little far-fetched, and the idea that Chuck can sympathise with them then happily decimate thousands of zombies is downright silly, you can’t help but be drawn in. However, lets be honest, you aren’t considering buying Dead Rising 2 for a gripping plot and deep character development…
Onto the big attraction of this game! The Zombie Slaughter and the sheer amount of weaponry on offer. Just like the first game, practically everything you can lay your grubby, bloodstained mitts on is primed for zombie destruction which can make for some hilarious moments as you attempt to beat zombies down with a handbag or by stabbing them with a Swordfish in panic (thought it looks damn funny, it’s not exactly ideal…though the Swordfish does make a good path-clearing device when you’re in a rush…). There seems to be more weapons this time around, but with more variety in the environments you can explore and the advance in technology, that’s only natural.
Of course, I can’t talk about weapons in Dead Rising 2 without mentioning the much publicized “Combo Weapons”! Whilst exploring, saving people or fighting bosses, you receive “Combo Cards” which tell you how to create these special weapons by merging two items together. I’ve read that there are fifty one in total, with the extra being a secret one.
We’ve all seen the Paddlesaw, the pole with two chainsaws on either end, which is created by merging a chainsaw and a canoe paddle, and I’ve found a few obvious ones, like Molotov Cocktails and a Spiked Baseball bat, but there are some absolutely superb and unexpected combinations, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous! Also well worth a mention is the sly grin on Chuck’s face when he creates these monstrosities.
You don’t have to have the Combo Cards either, experimenting a bit can lead to creating a weapon you don’t have a card for. You receive a “Scratch Card” when this happens, which acts as a placeholder until you get the full Combo Card. There are some ingredients for superb Combo Weapons in the safehouse and the corridor to get to the zombie infested areas, so you’ve got no excuse not to get experimenting…however…
I have one little bit of a disappointment. When the ability to combine weapons became available, the sheer amount of items which had the symbol telling you that it can be combined with others made me hope that I’d be able to merge pretty much anything together, regardless of it’s practicality. Fifty one creatable weapons can’t be sniffed at, but I’d love to be able to create some useless and amusing combinations as well! A fire-extinguisher propelled wheelchair? A brick on a stick? A spiked ham? Consider this for Dead Rising 3, please Capcom! I do want paying for my brilliant suggestions though…
Moving on! Much like the first, whilst exploring the infected city and trying to complete his main objectives, Chuck finds survivors that he can choose to bring to safety at the safehouse. This time around however, the AI is much, much improved. I found that I could utilise a well-armed survivor or two to help me get through tough parts of the game, and still get them back to the safehouse alive. Like I said before, these survivors are far less annoying than the ones in the first game. Even a drunk lady I found was a laugh rather than tedious (also given that the game now allows you to at least kick out at zombies when you’re carrying someone. It makes helping helpless people far less annoying).
Like the first, bosses come in the form of “Psychos”, people driven mad by the zombie outbreak or people who were already nutters in the first place coming out of the woodwork to play. The Psychos feature a variety of memorable characters including a Hippy who’s taken zombie rights way too far, a guy on a Slicecycle and one with a friend called Snowflake…I’m not saying much more about these guys, get playing and you’ll see what I mean! They make for some interesting, and often difficult battles. Though one criticism I have here is that most of them can be dispatched easily by cornering them and spamming certain powerful weapons…
My only major criticism of Dead Rising 2 is it’s repetitive nature, though with so many areas to explore, and so many different weapons, you often forget it. Some variety in the missions you get would be nice, though as they seem to just fit into four categories. Story Missions. Get Zombrex. Escort Missions. Psychos.
The Saving system, one of my main gripes with the first game, remains. But herein was where I was truly won around by the sequel. Not only were there far more and easier to access save points, but there was one terrific moment when I had completed the first case…and a little box popped up, asking me if I wanted to save my progress. YES. A MILLION TIMES YES. WELCOME TO 2010, DEAD RISING.
Also gone is the need to restart the game with your skills intact just to get around parts of the story. This option is there if you are finding the game too difficult in places, but I didn’t get the feeling that I had to do this. In fact, I never got the feeling once that I really had to do anything. Everything is optional, so if you don’t give a toss about Katey’s plight and the story, you can just go out and butcher zombies for hours, making this game perfect for both casual and serious gamers. Once you’ve had fun completing the story, or alternatively, just casually killing zombies, you can take all your hard won PP, levels, abilities and stats, and swap playing style.
Returning to the point I made earlier, games and their players have changed. Casual games are on the rise and you have both people who only play games in half-hour bursts as well as obsessive players dominating the market. Capcom, by creating a happy medium, have successfully made Dead Rising into a series which can compete in 2010 and beyond.
Dead Rising 2 offers two types of Multiplayer. Cooperative play allowing you to join another player’s game, or vice-versa, and a competitive game mode called Terror Is Reality, based on the TV Show that Chuck is competing in at the start of the game.
The Co-Op system is terrific fun, however the system is a little flawed. You’ve got virtually no chance of hooking up with a random player as it is set up so that you offer to join someone else’s Single Player game, and I for one wouldn’t just allow anyone to join me (I set my settings to friends only). I was rejected over and over again for the first few times I tried it and it looked like I wasn’t going to get to enjoy double teaming zombies.
However, another good mate (again, if you’re reading, you know who you are!) got the game through LoveFilm and let me spend a half-hour playing Co-Op. We didn’t do anything serious, no story or mission attempts, we just spent it slaughtering zombies with reckless abandon. It also allowed us to exchange weapon combinations we’d found, and other fun things like that. If your player is knocked down by the zombies, the other player can save them with food or drink. It really is great fun, just keep in mind that you will need to have another Dead Rising 2 playing mate to really enjoy it!
Terror Is Reality suffers the age old Multiplayer problem in games not generally known for Multiplayer…no one plays it. I entered into about four games before I even saw another player, and even then, they quit on me before the game filled up. I tested a theory and sat in a game for over ten minutes (I got myself comfortable and carried on typing this very review) without another player joining. However, when I finally got into a game with three others (two once the game was over, the usual “I’m going to quit because I’m not winning” effect), the wait seemed worth it.
Anyone who’s familiar with Gladiators (or American Gladiators for my friends on the other side of the pond) will feel right at home. You’re treated to three fun mini-games, and another go on the chainsaw equipped motocross bike as a finale. Any money you make can be transferred into your single-player game! There are nine different mini-games in total, including the superb Slicecycles. I won’t reveal them here so you can enjoy the same surprises that I did, but some are hilarious fun, whilst others can be tricky and challenging.
Terror Is Reality is a fun addition to the game, but certainly isn’t something I could spend hours playing, especially since other people to play against are rarer than rocking horse s**t! However, I would recommend spending a bit of time every time you feel the need for some casual zombie slaughter playing Terror Is Reality as the money I raised testing it out for this review was invaluable in the single player game!
In this day and age where the Multiplayer game is King, it is great to play a largely single player orientated game where the multiplayer aspect doesn’t feel forced in.
What Others Are Saying…
Dead Rising 2 is receiving relatively impressive reviews from the other sites around (honestly, why go anywhere else but here for Horror games? Hmph!), but I do have a few issues with what some are saying.
Most reviews are bemoaning the loading times. I suggest these guys go back and play some older games to get a bit of perspective. The loading times are quite long, but hell, you get massive explorable areas, and up to seven f***ing thousand zombies on the screen at once…plus, if you’ve got the ability to, install the game to your console’s hard drive, it cuts it down considerably.
I’ve seen other comments such as ‘the outright broken multiplayer’ and ‘atrocious amount of glitches’. The multiplayer is flawed, granted but the main problem comes from the players, not the set-up itself. As for glitches? I haven’t seen one yet. I’m sure they must be about as no game is flawless, but it’s got less than many games I’d call classics, such as Fallout 3…
But alas, I’m getting a bit defensive, and I’ve been waffling on forever and a day anyway so I’ll finish up.
I shall sum up my thoughts on Dead Rising 2 using the title of a classic yet completely unrelated film.
- A massive improvement on the very tired first game of the series in every aspect.
- A successful balance of action, drama, comedy and most importantly HORROR!
- A harmonious balance between casual and serious gaming.
- A largely successful attempt to bring Multiplayer into the series.
- The Combo Weapons.
- Sometimes repetitive.
- Certain overpowered weapons lead to easily defeated bosses.
- Rarely able to find opponents or allies in the Multiplayer aspect.
- No Brick On A Stick. 🙁
TK. Awful, awful character. I never, ever want to see him again. I blame the Terror Is Reality intro video for being exactly the damn same, every damn time…”You can call me ‘TK’ baby!”…how about “You can taste my Paddlesaw, baby!”?
All in all, I believe that Capcom deserve a very large pat on the back for Dead Rising 2. It’ll have it’s critics but I see this game for what it is, a game equivalent of the superb, absolute classic zombie film. That’s right, it can only be…
Now that’s an idea…Dead Rising: London? And while we’re at it Capcom…how about Onimusha 5? Ooooh! and how about………
Liandri’s Verdict: 8.5/10