Review by RoastGuider

"When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk Vegas..."

First of all, I'd like to welcome you to my review of Dead Rising II – the sequel to “Dead Rising” and the download-and-360-only “DR2 – Case Zero”. Unlike the original this one isn't made by Capcom directly, more like made by Blue Castle under supervision of Capcom. The game was finally released on 24/09/2010 (in Europe).

A couple of years back I picked up the first game relatively cheap (but new) and although it was difficult to get into at first, I ended up loving it and still occasionally play it. So I was very excited when the sequel was announced (and very annoyed when the game didn't come out last year...)

Also, I recently acquired X-Box Live and “DR2 – Case Zero” was the first game I purchased from the Arcade-list. First day I got it I played through it at least three times, and up until DR 2's release (about a week-and-a-half later) at least 10 times more.

This review was written upon full completion of my first play-through (offline profile) and starting a second run (online profile). I strived to unlock (and complete) overtime-mode in my first playthrough, and generally made a mess of things in my second playthrough. I had several people join me for an online co-op game, but haven't touched the TIR-events yet.

Story

Yes, there is a story...

The game takes place several years after the events of DR1. It puts you in the role of a new character, Chuck Greene, which some of us already met during the events of Case Zero and it takes place in Fortune City, which was built on the remains of Vegas after a previous zombie-outbreak.

Chuck is (or was) a famous motorcycle-stuntman who now stars in some sort of extreme game show (with zombies) so he can earn money to buy Zombrex (a temporary cure for infected people) for his daughter Katey. Of course somebody opens the door of the zombie-pen and they run amuck in the streets of Fortune City, killing thousands while they're at it. In the meantime Chuck gets the blame...

During the initial 72 hours there are several cases you need to solve to clear your name, meaning you have to be at a certain place at a certain time. Apart from solving the cases, you also need to find Zombrex and bring it to your daughter to stop her zombification. Depending on whether certain conditions are met, you'll get one of several endings.

Between the cases, you'll have the opportunity to rescue other survivors, escort them back to the safe-room and/or beat psychopaths (the boss-fights in this game). You can fight zombies, but they are your basic “fodder”-type enemy and are generally more a nuisance to slow your progress, rather than a real threat. Well, up until you reach a certain part of the story that is.

One thing that is annoying about the entire setting is that the game is taking place in a mall-like environment with a casino-theme. Even though the story is completely different, it simply feels more like a DR1 spin-off rather than a completely new experience. People who expected a more open environment (like a full city to explore) could be disappointed.

Who cares if there is a story...

Just like the first game, the story is completely optional. People who prefer to make a mess of things, prefer to rampage or just take in the scenery, not take Zombrex to the safe-room (well, if you're a cold and heartless bastard who don't care that a pixelated yet lovely 7-year old girl turns into a zombie)... can do as they please. You'll still be limited to the 72-hours though.

Gameplay

The GOOD

The gameplay is very similar to that of DR1 but somewhat streamlined here and there. They fixed some issues (most) people had about the first game and added some new features.

It is now possible to run-and-gun, AI of the survivors has improved, text is completely readable (even on my SDTV), you now have more than one save-slot, zombie-behaviour is a teensy bit more diverse (some zombies just stand around and do nothing, others try to grab you as you pass them, others even chase you around the map if you let them, some slow-walking, others fast-walking, and a completely new variety)... And instead of speaking over a phone, you now receive short messages, so you can read them whenever you please (though it is still recommended to do so in a zombie-free environment). So no more complaints from Otis about how rude you are for hanging up on him while in fact you were just being attacked by 100-some zombies.

Frank's camera (which was one of many ways to collect PP in DR1) doesn't make a come-back, but it is replaced by the ability to build your very own weapons of zombie-mass-destruction. To create a custom weapon you need to “collect” cards, various components (conveniently marked with a wrench) and you need to find a workbench.

There are two sorts of cards: combo cards (which are collected by levelling up / defeating psychopaths) and scratch cards (which you get for successfully combining weapons without having the combo card). The big difference between the two is that a combo card contains full information (so it has all the available moves and yields more PP) while a scratch card only contains partial information. And let me tell you, some of these combinations are pretty sick, but in a good way.

During the game you collect PP-points (the game's experience points). You gain these points by defeating a certain number of zombies, defeating psychos and/or looters and/or mercenaries, using custom created weapons, finding other survivors and successfully escorting them to a safe-room... After filling up your PP-bar Chuck levels up and gains new abilities, life-blocks, item-slots, speed-upgrades, combo cards...

People who bought Case Zero can also import their character and start out at level 5 instead of level 1. It may be of some advantage early on, but near end-game when your levels are much higher that advantage really doesn't matter at all.

The BAD

No more infinite-mode. I'll admit, I wasn't too fond of it in DR1 (mostly because I was really bad at it), but it still pains me to see it completely gone. The only thing infinite-mode really needed was a temporary save-slot (my opinion).

It is instead replaced by co-op (online only) and a few multi-player events (Terror Is Reality) where up to 4 players can compete against each-other in an arena. From what I can tell from the game descriptions (and the TIR-event from before the outbreak) the 9 different TIR-events are somewhat similar to the mini-games in Fuzion Frenzy (shudders).

I did a couple of online co-op-games and found it to be really frustrating: people trying to kill zombies while you're trying to do the cases, people wanting to skip every cut-scene, people killing survivors for the fun of it, running in the complete opposite direction so you can't go to the next part on the map, rage-quitting because they wanted to ride one of the cars while you got there first... Typical online-experiences I guess, and certainly not restricted to this game alone.

The UGLY

Something that will most certainly frustrate a lot of people is the clock. During the story-mode you're on the clock and in the early game there's plenty of time to do the cases and help survivors. Near the end of the 72 hours, there's not enough time to do everything so you have to make choices whether you'll do the cases, or help survivors. Only after several playthroughs you'll be able to put everything together and start doing “perfect” runs.

A common complaint about DR1 was that the game-clock and the save-system could sometimes screw you over, especially when you tried to cram everything into one playthrough. Still, the clock seems to be more lenient now than it was in the original game.

But, all-in-all, the clock is what makes Dead Rising... well, you know, Dead Rising (well, aside from the zombies, and the over-the-top-fun that is). Without the clock you would be just aimlessly wandering around, killing zombies, stocking up on the right weapons before doing a case or escorting a survivor and then it would just be some dull action-game.

The clock really adds another dimension to this game (a sense of urgency) and makes it more challenging. As your level increases (and your level does carry over to a new game) you'll soon laugh at the things you couldn't do before and the clock won't seem that bad anymore.

Graphics / Sound

The graphics are somewhat the same as the graphics in the first game. While they were great a few years back, they are “OK” now. The only improvements were made in the character models.

While the environments and characters are colourful and detailed enough, it would seem (at first sight) that this game doesn't make full use of the capacity of a 360 (meaning you won't be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the game-environment). Then again, the amount zombies there are on screen at the same time without framerate-drops is an achievement in itself (yes, I haven't had any framerate-drops while playing, only during cut-scenes. Other player's experiences may vary).

Voice-acting during cut-scenes is quite good (and sometimes hilarious), but otherwise all conversations with survivors are subtitles-only, just like the original and Case Zero. Just be glad the text is readable.

The sounds you hear during the game such as zombie moans, the sickly “thud”-sounds you get while bashing a zombie, the elevator music and the casino-sounds... are top-notch. Though I could swear at a certain location I heard the exact same music as the first game.

Replayability

If you look at this game as nothing more but a six-hour-thrill-ride, you're clearly playing it the wrong way, because there's a lot to do.

You can do the story in which there are several different endings (A to F + S) and there is overtime-mode (when unlocked).

And then there's a lot of fun (or frustration) to be had trying to save all the survivors in one play-through, or beat all the psychos in one play-through, or trying to beat an insane amount of zombies in 72 hours, or trying to do a perfect run... This game is basically a wet dream (or nightmare) for achievement-hunters.

And should you want to, you can do all this again with an online-partner in co-op, or compete against other players in the TIR-events.

All-in-all the game offers more variety and fun than some of the more recent sandbox-games (which are usually too serious, have too few side-activities and are generally too limited and unforgiving when it comes to rampaging).

Summary

+ More fun, more blood and more gore
+ Text is readable
+ Casinos and zombies = EPIC WIN
+ Several minor improvements
+ Very high replayability

- More of the same
- Infinite-mode replaced by multi-player and online co-op
- Some (minor) graphic issues / slightly dated graphics

Dead Rising II manages to improve over the original while staying true to the things that made Dead Rising... well, you know, Dead Rising. The only gripe a DR-veteran may have is that there aren't enough changes (gameplay / graphics / SETTING) to call it a true sequel. Still, I had more fun playing this game than some of the other games I've bought this year.

For people who are new to the series: it's recommended you play either the first Dead Rising (if you can find it, and that's a big if, it should be pretty cheap now) or Case Zero (sorry PS3-users, 360 and Live-only). Both give a really good impression of what you can expect of this game.

And now, I'll start counting of the days to the release of “DR2 – Case West”. If anyone needs me, I'll be at the Winchester...

Final verdict: 8/10.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/01/10

Game Release: Dead Rising 2 (EU, 09/24/10)


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