Review by horror_spooky
"It's okay...I've got Zombrex"
Dead Rising 2: Case Zero is unique in the fact that it's a full-fledged Xbox Live Arcade game priced at a mere 400 Microsoft Points, and back when it was released, it served more of a purpose than just being an XBLA game. While most developers just release a bite-sized section of their game to serve as a demo for gamers to try out before they decide whether or not to make the purchase, Case Zero served this purpose for Capcom. Gamers could download this game for cheap, be introduced to the new concepts and ideas that were headed their way in Dead Rising 2, and also get a little back story and strong character development. However, I feel like Case Zero is a much better game than Dead Rising 2, and here's why.
Dead Rising 2 felt way too similar to the first game. It was set in a mall, and players basically went through the same motions to get through the game. I really liked the other downloadable Dead Rising adventure, Case West, because it strived to do something different. It didn't keep players in a mall setting yet again, but instead put Frank West and the hero of Case Zero, Chuck Greene, in a facility for a pharmaceutical company. This change of art direction breathed new life into the series and helped things feel a lot fresher than they did the full-fledged sequel. Case Zero does the same thing, and I wish that the actual Dead Rising 2 was more like Case Zero.
Case Zero is set in a small town called Still Creek, and I think that's what makes it a lot more awesome. Dead Rising 2 should have been set in an actual city. Recycling the mall concept was painful, and Case Zero shows that even without themed stores around every corner, the everything is a weapon vehicle behind the Dead Rising franchise still works great. Exploring Still Creek is fun, and there are a lot of secrets and hidden areas to discover. Loading times are a bit on the annoying side, but there really is only one area of the game that requires loading, and that's leaving and entering the safehouse.
Unlike the previous games, Case Zero relies a lot on exploration rather than just following the arrow to an objective. One of the main goals in the game is to repair an escape bike for Chuck and his daughter, and this requires the player to scour the town for the necessary parts to bring the bike to working condition. This open-ended approach to the game pays off, and gamers that like the more linear Dead Rising experience will still get story-based side-objectives and such to complete.
Another reason I think Case Zero comes across as simply a better game than its larger console counterparts is that the scope is toned way down. I'm not saying I want future Dead Rising games to be small like this (on the contrary, I think a large, sprawling city would play to the concept very well), but it did alleviate a lot of headaches I associate with those games. The smaller the game is, the less room there is for glitches and annoying problems that can occur with the sometimes frustrating, but very necessary, time management system.
Case Zero is, like I said, basically a way to introduce gamers to the gameplay concepts that are in Dead Rising 2. Players are tasked with finding Zombrex for Chuck's little girl, rescuing survivors, defeating psychopaths, and all the while dealing with the franchise's challenging time management system. Players can level up to five in this game, which makes Chuck seem very weak, but there aren't too many difficult enemies to contend with to make this too much of a problem. Gamers that haven't played Dead Rising 2 yet can transfer their progression in this game to the main game, which gives players even more incentive to download this XBLA game before they move on to Dead Rising 2.
The game is very pretty, with no lagging to be found and plenty of zombies displayed on the screen at once. Everything about the game looks really good, and the lighting effects are especially impressive in this installment. There are really epic cut-scenes to see, and to compliment them is a killer soundtrack that combines the usual Dead Rising tunes with kickass rock and roll to get the adrenaline pumping. If Case Zero does something right, it's the audio experience.
Another thing I liked about Case Zero is the character development. To be perfectly honest, I didn't give a crap about Chuck Greene in Dead Rising 2. A part of this was because I was bitter that Frank West didn't make his triumphant returning to gaming after a four year absence, but Chuck just wasn't nearly as interesting as the good old camera-toting Frank was. Case Zero highlights Chuck's struggle as a father, and his desperation to save his daughter. Having to give Katey Zombrex so many times in Dead Rising 2 diminished the meaning behind the whole thing. It just became another gameplay objective to complete. Case Zero makes it a lot more meaningful simply because it is a smaller game with more focus.
I poured hours into the game and thoroughly enjoyed it, as I'm sure many other people will. At 400 MSP, it's practically a no-brainer. However, the loading time can get a little bit annoying, and replaying through the same events over and over again to level can get very repetitive. The achievements are fun to go after, however, so that definitely boosts the replayability.
Sometimes less is more. This is certainly the situation with Dead Rising 2: Case Zero. Capcom has managed to create one of the best Dead Rising adventures yet, and Case Zero is a must-play for fans of the franchise. I can only hope for more Chuck Greene, Frank West, and all the other exciting and interesting characters in this series down the line.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 02/28/11
Game Release: Dead Rising 2: Case Zero (US, 08/31/10)
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