Dead Rising 2 review

The original Dead Rising was met with mixed reaction from gamers but was a pretty spectacular zombie filled romp, fresh from the more confined Resident Evil games. Whilst offering something new as an Xbox 360 launch title (or thereabouts) was filled with issues, which for some dampened the experience. It has been a while and it seems Capcom are keen to present sequels to a number of their early games that appeared on the system, Dead Rising being one of them. Cue the aptly named Dead Rising 2 (DR2) which sees new protagonist Chuck Green and his daughter Katey attempt to survive the goings on in new locale ‘Fortune City’ which is based loosely around Las Vegas. With years between the original and many vocal gamers offering opinions on how the game could be improved, has Capcom listened and created the ultimate zombie survival game?

Gameplay:

The gameplay has been tweaked in DR2 but not to the extent where it feels dissimilar to its predecessor. The core mechanics remain unchanged where you’ve got a timer to complete various pop up missions that follow an easy to understand storyline, with some in-between bits to gather yourself and resources to make zombie crunching all the more satisfying. Once more you’re able to ignore the story if you choose and just goof around with the many activities that lie before you (and there’s more to do this time round). Being set in the vibrant Las Vegas style locale means plenty of gambling opportunities, which means Chuck is able to partake in slot machines, Roulette, Blackjack, Video Poker and even a real game of Poker versus some of the survivors amongst other things.

Talking of survivors, as with the original, Chuck happens upon various people who need rescuing, again this is an entirely optional component of the game, however, as you’ll want to level up Chuck so that he can carry more items, take more bites, and generally become even more kick ass, then rescuing them is paramount to gaining prestige points or PP (the system used to level up the character). Thankfully the AI has been improved significantly, although they do tend to fall over themselves a little when in a larger group and armed with weapons. If playing chaperone isn’t your forte, then of course you can amass PP by smashing up zombies, and DR 2 offers more flamboyant methods for their disposal. No longer are you restricted to the basic use of inanimate objects lying around to use as weapons, but can now get the duct tape out and craft some new ones by combining parts. It’s a great system and means there’s a little creativity in how you dish out punishment.

Going back to the story, there will be times when you’ll be required to hunt for a drug called Zombrex which effectively keeps your daughter from turning into the undead and wanting to chew your face off when you give her a fatherly hug. Luckily you’re able to hunt them down via exploration, buy them at the pawn shop, or even get some given to you from those you rescue. It’s this diversity and level of options that makes DR 2 a joy to play. As mentioned, if you fail to meet the required deadline in the story (or cases as they are called in-game), then you’re given the option to carry on regardless. However, a greater option is to actually restart the game (which you can do at any time), keeping your character level intact. This is an excellent inclusion and means that you could effectively play the first few moments over and over, to level up and until you’ve maxed out.

DR2 is a much more forgiving experience this time round even though you’ll encounter many nut jobs who have taken to the zombie outbreak like ducks to water, and who seize the opportunity to let their nihilistic tendencies run riot. Thanks to an improved save system where you get three slots (and the aforementioned restart game option), takes away some of the frustration suffered in the first game – you can now take on these challenging loons with a bit of leeway, thank god. There’s also a lot more places to relieve yourself and save game, making long runs without saving a thing of the past. Hallelujah!

Graphics:

Graphically there’s a lot more detail in DR2 than its predecessor, but some of the colour seems a little muted in comparison. It’s probably personal taste as to what’s preferable but DR 2 purports a more gritty looking game. That said, the fictitious Fortune City is very much alive and vibrant, overflowing with colour and detail. What is great to behold is seeing ‘The Strip’ light up with all its flamboyancy as the night sky draws in (and no that’s not referring to naked women dancing around poles). The game’s character models are well drawn, and neatly animated although you will witness some weird clipping moments from time to time amongst all those zombies but nothing that detracts from the experience. Capcom has done a grand job of making an environment to best the Willamette shopping mall of the first game, and with 90% of the environment unlocked from the get go, makes for a more open game. The only real issues come when driving fast vehicles like motorcycles which handle extremely badly. It feels like the game engine wasn’t designed to accommodate their speed, making riding more cumbersome than the fun it’s supposed to be.

Sound:

The audio is perhaps something that will stir many emotions within you as you play for extended hours. Chuck and the supporting cast are well acted, so no complaints there, but the music leaves little to be desired as you hear the same few tracks looped over and over, to the point where a likening to the game’s psychos becomes imminent. A little more imagination could have been used with the music, as in this day an age most shopping public places have licensed music tracks. It seems DR 2’s music is stuck in the 70s. A further problem with the audio, or lack of is when talking to the NPCs as there is none at all which seems a bit backwards and could have added a little more atmosphere to proceedings. The NPCs do have a few lines here and there but none during the many conversations you’ll have with them which is a shame.

Longevity:

DR 2 uses its own time system where ten game hours is approximately one hour in real time. However, you’re likely to spend some time looking at loading screens which is a bit of a shame as they can be quite intrusive. It’s perplexing that the game hasn’t been fully optimized to take advantage of the HD storage space, when moving from one area to the next and then immediately back again.

On a brighter note, Fortune City is filled with lots to do which begs for multiple plays. You’re not likely to see and do everything on a first play that’s for sure as there are hidden survivors, posters, combo cards and a plethora of other achievement related activities to get involved with. The game can be completed within 6-8 hours first time round, but this is extended considerably if you want to accomplish everything.

On top of the single player component, there’s the option to have friends or random players drop in and out of your game for a bit of 2 player co-op which is a neat inclusion and something the first game could only dream of. What’s more, a four player multiplayer game is available for those of you wanting to compete for cash which can then be used in the single player game – giving you a slight edge. The online multiplayer features a series of mini games with zombies as the main ingredient. Not something you’ll spend weeks playing, but a welcome distraction all the same.

Overall:

Dead Rising was an enjoyable experience, full of the undead, a bit of cheese, and a likeable yet somewhat flat protagonist in Frank West. DR 2 ups the ante to provide similar thrills, but overall feels like a much more fuller game. Chuck is equally as flat as Frank, but the whole relationship he has with his daughter, and motivation to keep her alive offers a more endearing scenario to play through. There’s some really neat ideas thrown into the pot here, and you’ll do well to experiment a little to avoid repetition; perhaps tackle the game as you would a sandbox title and you’ll garner a lot more fun. As the year’s end draws ever closer, and if you’re perhaps looking for an outlet that goes beyond first person shooting, then DR 2 is a game well worth investing in. For a game which features done to death enemies, Dead Rising 2 does extremely well in keeping the concept fresh, entertaining and enthralling to the bitter end; making it the must have and most likely vogue zombie game of 2010 and beyond.

 

9/10

Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.

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