Review by Dear_Watson

Reviewed: 06/15/11

One word: Fun

Admittedly or not, I think everyone wants the Zombocalypse to happen. It’d be like Mad Max but with brain dead monsters lusting for your organs. Free TVs and as many zombies as you would ever want to kill? Sounds pretty sweet to me! Anyone that’s a fan of this concept had a grand old time with Dead Rising -- I know I did. “Chop Till You Drop!” as the Wii version put it. Now that Dead Rising 2 has hit the scene while the zombie craze is still at a good height, it’s time to once again start up my chainsaw, put on a funny hat, and start lopping limbs.

Frank West’s efforts of the first game were in vain, as it’s been five years since the Willamette incident and the zombie menace still ravages the countryside. You are Chuck Greene, a recently widowed, badass former motocross champion who struggles to make ends meet by participating in Terror in Reality, a game-show taking place in Fortune City in which zombies are the targets in its many gruesome games. Chuck uses his winnings to afford “Zombrex”, a medicine used to suppress the turning of anyone that’s been infected with the zombie virus. He uses it on his daughter, Katey, to buy her more time while a cure is searched for. But Chuck’s plans are turned to turmoil when all hell breaks loose and the undead that are used in the games are set loose to feast on the city’s inhabitants. On top of this, he’s also framed for the entire thing and has become a wanted man. Luckily, the survivors he escapes with trust him enough to let him come and go from their safehouse. Along with the help of a C.U.R.E. zombie rights activist, Stacey, and his awesome squinty Bruce Willis eyes, Chuck must make his way through the events of Dead Rising 2 to solve the mystery of the zombie outbreak, all while trying to keep his daughter alive.

Let's get it out of the way and start with what you're going to be spending a huge chunk of the game doing and that's killing zombies. Zombies by the load. I'm talking thousands upon thousands of the living dead. And you'll be doing it in the most entertaining way ever with mere, everyday objects. Guns and heavy weaponry are readily available, but there's nothing quite like laying the smackdown on a shambling corpse with a park bench or a dumbbell. The fact that they body count is kept in the bottom corner of the screen at all times just adds to the absurdity. The wide array of zombie character models are varied and appropriately vague enough in design to keep duplications from being obvious, with the occasional showgirl zombie thrown in there to hilariously match the setting. Every squish, splat and slice from exploding craniums, impalement and limbs flying everywhere looks and sounds fantastic. Additionally, the mall-type muzak and rock themes playing in the casinos act as a great comic foil to the carnage taking place on screen.

While fending off the hordes the player takes control of Chuck and traverses the Las Vegas inspired island of Fortune City, chalk full of plazas, casinos and shopping malls to tour. The military is on its way to rescue you and your friends, so you've got three days to get your act together. The clock runs at about five seconds for every minute in-game time, making the initial three days around six hours in real-time. The game's main story missions (known as Case Files) and other side-missions given to you by Stacey run on a fairly strict schedule according to the time limit. Having to manage your time and carefully plan out what tasks to take on before heading out into the City give the game a nice sense of urgency, and is very gratifying when pulled off. The problems many players brought up about the save system in the first game in the series has been addressed by granting the player up to three save slots, but if you're not careful you can still get yourself into the position of saving at a point where it's impossible to get to the next case file which makes finishing the story unachievable. But what if you don't like the fact that you're on a schedule? Don't give a damn about the story or the multiple endings? Don't even really care if your own daughter turns? Well, it's your lucky day! Even though you will fail the story, never solve the mystery of the outbreak, and lose your daughter, you can still continue on and rack up the kill count to go for the high score while the three day counter times out as it normally would.

Once you reach a certain point close to the beginning, Chuck will gain access to maintenance closets that contain workbenches. These allow you to create Combo Weapons. Just bring two items to the work bench to create a super ridiculous hybrid weapon. These are, however, predetermined and need to be specific combinations, e.g. Baseball Bat + Box of Nails = Nailbat. You can unlock Combo Cards by various methods throughout the city to show you how to make these weapons, but creating them through trial and error and simple experimentation is where the real sense of fulfillment comes in. Logically pairing two items together, then reigning down hot fury on a zombie's face with a pair of knife-gloves is the most rewarding experience you'll find in the gameplay.

As mentioned above, while you're out and about smashing skulls, Stacey will contact you via radio to inform you of events and people she has spotted on the security cameras. These either turn out to be psychopaths or survivors. Psychopaths will be acting as the game's many bosses, and my, oh my does the name fit. They tend to be entertainers from the casinos and theaters or local employees who have lost their minds as a result of the majority of the population being turned into flesh eaters, and boy howdy they'll be damned if Chuck tries to talk any sense into them. Since the combat usually revolves around zombies, fighting a healthy human being who can take shotgun blasts to the face like a... boss, at first, seems unbalanced and frustrating, but this provides a refreshing combat challenge different from the easy-as-pie undead and is all the more satisfying when you finally take them down.

When it comes to the latter, I hope you're one of those few people who actually enjoy escort missions in games, because that's basically what the aforementioned survivors are and you're gonna have to round up all fifty of 'em if you want that virtual trophy! Don't worry though; they can be armed with a great deal of small firearms and melee weapons to help you out along the way. You can escort up to eight survivors at a time and they're more often than not found in increasingly silly situations for you to save them from. Although still a bit troublesome, the AI is a vast improvement from the hair-pulling stupidity of the survivors from the first game. For some of these encounters you will be given a healthy dose of Zombrex, which Katey will need every twenty-four hours until the end of the case files.

Rescuing survivors, defeating psychopaths, and just killing zombies will net you Prestige Points (P.P.) that will help you level up to acquire more health and inventory space, you're speed will increase, you'll learn new hand-to-hand combat techniques and will occasionally be given a new Combo Card. You'll also be given P.P. from playing the games around the local casinos, with which you'll also be rewarded money for Chuck to spend at nearby pawn shops. The level cap, hundreds of clothing combinations, co-op mode, online competitive multiplayer and sheer amount of things to do in the city screams that the game is meant for multiple playthroughs.

The city itself feels very boxed-in, and not at all different from being trapped inside the mall in the first game. Some of the character models outside the main cast tend to look a little dated, loading screens between cutscenes and areas become a bit of a nuisance, and the game would have greatly benefited from an auto-save feature. These faults are easily forgiven because Dead Rising 2 is everything a sequel is supposed to be. It corrects the big mistakes and further improves upon what was done right in the previous entry. And, above all else, it's just plain old-fashioned FUN. And if your idea of fun isn't dressing up as a quarterback and hurling footballs with grenades attached to them into giant groups of 30+ zombies... Then I think you need to step back and ask yourself why it is you even play video games.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Dead Rising 2 (US, 09/28/10)

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