Dead Rising 2

Game Description: Set several years after the events of the first game in the series, Dead Rising 2 contains all the fun and over-the top carnage which gamers associate with a zombie apocalypse. As with all releases in the Dead Rising series, it is a survival horror game. Players take on the role of an all-new character, with equally new motivations to survive and resources to do so. These resources include new weapons, expanded weapon combination/creation possibilities, and even two-player coop functionality. The game also features a 4-player online multiplayer mode, an optional prologue to the game available as downloadable content and a dramatic increase in the number of zombies that can be faced at once.

Dead Rising 2: Case Zero Review

Welcome to Still Creek, Population: You

Dead Rising 2: Case Zero Screenshot

HIGH Killing zombies with the broadsword is a gory good time.

LOW Trying to guide an injured survivor back to the bowling alley only to have her defect at the alley's entrance.

WTF Watching a female zombie take a giant chomp out of Chuck's crotch.

Capcom's Dead Rising was one of my most anticipated games of all time. The idea of fighting a bazillion zombies in a shopping mall was like music to a horror geek's ears. Who could turn down the opportunity to basically play a videogame version of George Romero's landmark zombie film Dawn of the Dead? Not this guy, that's for sure.

When the game hit, it was a day one purchase for me. Sadly, try as I might (and I tried mightily on multiple occasions), I could never get through Dead Rising—it was filled with so much potential awesomeness, but wound up killed by several design and gameplay flaws. That didn't stop Dead Rising from selling a truckload of copies, though. 

When news broke about the inevitable sequel, I took a guardedly optimistic approach. Maybe Capcom would listen to the complaints about the terrible A.I. you had to escort through hordes of flesh-hungry zombies and the atrocious save system. Maybe they'd make guns you could actually use effectively and build upon the promise so inherent in their idea...

While we won't find out if the company managed to right those wrongs completely until the end of September, we do get an early glimpse at what players can expect from Dead Rising 2 in Dead Rising: Case Zero—a downloadable prequel that takes place before the events of DR2. This content (which is not part of the Dead Rising 2 game) would probably best be described as a preface to the sequel's storyline.

In it, we meet main character Chuck Greene—a motocross star who's fled Vegas after a zombie outbreak puts the city on lockdown. Traveling with his young daughter (who's been bitten) Chuck winds up in Still Creek—a small desert town that's got its own zombie problem.

What's meant to be a quick stop becomes much lengthier when someone steals his truck and the Zombrex inside. Zombrex is a new medication that keeps the bitten from turning—as long as it's administered once every 12 hours. Chuck has to find more for his little girl, while dodging zombies, saving locals, and finding a way to escape the city before the military arrives to quarantine it that night. No big deal, right?

Dead Rising 2: Case Zero Screenshot

If Case Zero is any indication, Capcom took criticism leveled at the original game to heart. This new content was a wholly more satisfying experience for me, and while playing it I felt as though this was how the first game should have operated.

The camera and silly pictures are gone. Zombies are still everywhere, but their hit detection when attacking Chuck seems more generous for the player. Ally A.I. is actually capable of following you through a mass of the walking dead without screaming for help every other step. Even the save system is better—the small area of Still Creek has several different restrooms that can be used to record progress. All in all, Case Zero has me excited about Dead Rising 2 proper.

Aside from those tweaks, the core Dead Rising experience is relatively the same. Players still have "cases" to deal with—and they still have time limits. Completing a case in the time limit opens up the next portion and so on. I will admit that this is one returning element of the original game that I could have lived without. I'm not a fan of arbitrary time systems in videogames because they force a player to progress at a rate the developer chooses instead of allowing us to go at our own speed. As someone who likes to explore the nooks and crannies of these elaborately crafted game worlds, a time limit makes me feel as though I'm being rushed.

To counter this, there's a restart story option. This also makes a return from Dead Rising and probably owes back to an earlier Capcom game entitled Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter.

Essentially, players can restart the story at any time with all their money and experience intact. This then makes running through the early stages of the game easier since Chuck is stronger and has money for better weaponry. The downside to this system is that players spend a lot of time doing the same things over and over again.

There's probably two hours of content from start to finish in Case Zero—if you know where everything is and how to do it. By having to restart several times to compete with the clock, etc. players will actually wind up spending somewhere between four and six hours with the title. For a game that only costs 400 MS points, it's a good buy. I just wish it was four to six hours of fresh content. (FYI—Several tours of duty are necessary to reach the level cap—which is set at 5. This is useful since it will carry over the sequel.)

Now that we've got the few little niggling negatives out of the way, let's talk about the good.

Dead Rising 2: Case Zero Screenshot

The new story and location are engaging. The idea of Chuck having a daughter made me nervous initially—say what you will about videogame storytelling and how far it's come, but I was almost certain the kid would be annoying and little more than something to be placed in harm's way to generate a cheap emotional response from the audience. I was wrong. Katey is largely a non-entity in the game. She stays put in the safehouse and is featured in the game's one psychopath encounter, but has no bearing on its outcome. Kudos to the writers for that.

Still Creek, meanwhile, isn't a huge environment but is nicely conceived. There are lots of little places to explore off the beaten path—and even on my third run through (because I'm an achievement whore...) I was still finding new things. It's not a giant Liberty City-esque environment, but there are definitely things to do and see in this town.

Since zombies are everywhere, one of the player's top priorities is getting Chuck armed. Like the first game, almost anything can be a weapon—including newspapers, bottles of shampoo, and park benches. Littered amongst the landscape are also real weapons—including a sniper rifle, a handgun, wrenches, 2x4s, baseball bats, chainsaws, and so on. Some of these make for better weapons than others, but the game's best weapons are made by combining items.

See that baseball bat and those nails? Combine them at a work bench and you've got a bat with nails in it. Combo weapons really bring the pain and give bonuses—effects like two times the normal experience.

They're inventive, too—players can make an awesome electrified rake, a shotgun/pitchfork combo, Molotov cocktails, IEDs, and best of all, chainsaws on a stick. Of course, it's funny that there are all these cool creatable weapons, but my favorite turned out to be the broadsword in the hunting store. Cutting through a gaggle of zombies with that thing never gets old. Oh, and the guns seem to work a little better this time around. I still prefer melee, but guns feel more viable in a general sense.

For such a short game, there's quite a bit of fun to be had in Dead Rising: Case Zero. This is a definite improvement over the first title (plus you can actually read the font on a standard definition TV this time around) and has me completely excited for Dead Rising 2. This delectable little zombie apocalypse simulator should keep you more than happy until the true sequel arrives next month. Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 6 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 times) and 0 hours of play in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood and gore, intense violence, language, sexual themes, use of alcohol. Case Zero is a bloody and violent game and being surrounded by zombies is pretty intense. Younger children should be kept clear of this one.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The dialogue comes subtitled—and with the exception of one scene (that I can't remember if it was subtitled or not) shouldn't pose a problem for anyone who can't hear. You will miss out on all the zombie moaning, though.

PAX tomorrow and Dead Rising 2: Case Zero achievements

PAX is tomorrow. I'll definitely be tweeting about it, and I'll try to get some reports from the floor up as soon as possible.

By the way, if you are at the show, I do believe we have an extremely small number of Cheesecake Tweetup tickets left. If you need something to do tomorrow night (9/3) at 7PM, walk across the street and join us!

Dead Rising 2: Case Zero Screenshot

Completed Dead Rising 2: Case Zero last night. I was having so much fun that I decided to go for all of the Achievements and just wrapped it up a few hours ago.

If you know the way I play games, then you'll know how extremely rare it is that I will take time out of my schedule for anything beyond getting credits to roll. Granted, the Achievements in Case Zero are extremely easy to pop, but the fact remains that it's possible to escape the town with half of them (or so) left unfulfilled. The fact that I cared enough to go back for a second and third playthrough is pretty high praise in my book.

After all was said and done, I walked away extremely impressed with how perfectly the complete Dead Rising experience was captured and shrunk down to Live Arcade size. It does not feel as though it's missing anything structurally, and there is enough content here for an average player to go through it at least a couple of times before they've seen and done everything.

For $5 this was an extremely satisfying investment, and Capcom can take that money and laugh all the way to the bank. Why? Prior to playing Case Zero, Dead Rising 2 was one of those "looking forward to it, but not bursting with excitement" titles for me, and now I'm strongly leaning towards making it a day-one purchase.

For fun, here are just a couple of tips for those trying to get all the Achievements. Old habits die hard, I guess... Doug Walsh shoutout!!

:: SPOILER WARNING ::

1. Killing 1000 zombies is a lot quicker if you can pick out which one has a Queen bug inside.

In any big group of zombies, if you look carefully you might notice one who's got their arms raised up and is sort of shuffling, or shaking in place. Kill that one, and a Queen insect will emerge to be picked up like an item. Grab it, and then run to the nearest large group of the undead. Smash it, and up to 50 zombies will have their heads explode at once. After you've done this, look around—there's usually another Queen standing in the aftermath. If you get good at spotting them, you can chain several hundred kills together with very minimal effort.

2. Spending $100,000 at the pawn shop is cumulative.

This one might take a couple of plays. By rescuing the couple from the bar (and then fulfilling her personal requests afterwards) you can get a big chunk of cash. After that, make sure to stop by the Casino and destroy all of the machines. The cash reappears after each save, so with just a few trips you can have a pretty good sum going. If it gets too boring, just know that the game keeps track of how much you spend in total, so you don't have to actually earn and spend all $100,000 in one go.

3. Rescuing all the survivors is a piece of cake once you know where (and when) they appear.

The tricky one that's easy to miss is Bob's daughter. She only appears in the Hunting store after 7PM, which is exactly when you need to give your daughter her medicine, and the exact same time when you need to fight the boss at the garage. Multitasking ahoy! If you go into the fight well-prepared, you can do everything you need to and still have plenty of time left to save her. (and Bob too.)

Dead Rising 2 and Sonic/psych bits

Dead Rising 2: Case Zero Review

My most recent review of Platinum Games' Vanquish went live. (If you're too busy to click, then just know that I loved it.)

After an extended delay, I finally got my hands on a copy of Dead Rising 2. I had a fairly hot-and-cold relationship with the first one, but the recent Case Zero DLC episode got me fired up and I've been pretty eager to see what's going on with Chuck Greene in Fortune City.

Unfortunately, it's not really all that much.

At this point I'm probably a little over halfway through the game, maybe two thirds, and I've got to say that it hasn't lived up to expectations. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that's a bad game by any means, but I guess I'm just surprised at how much it seems like a complete "do-over" of Dead Rising rather than being its own experience. There's just so much of Dead Rising 2 that comes off as a xerox of what former protag Frank West went through.

For example, the player's home base is another security office inside the service area of a mall. Inside that office is another person with a radio who zaps the player with new missions at regular intervals. Then there's the mall itself, which is almost exactly like the environment from the first game, complete with a wealth of shops, a small "outdoor" area, and an underground tunnel choked thick with the undead. It's all the same. If you want to go further and break things down on a smaller scale, there are dozens of similarities that seem lifted part-and-parcel from the original.

The gameplay formula is nearly identical, as well. Hike back and forth rescuing survivors while waiting for the "core" missions to appear and further the plot.

Again, there's nothing wrong with it, it's just that it feels so incredibly similar to the first game. The flow hasn't changed. The situations haven't changed. At this point in my playthrough, I haven't found any particularly original encounters or anything that's been significantly dramatic. Even the Psychopaths (the equivalent of boss fights) feel like do-overs. The Motocross boss in the central area… the crazed chef and his meat locker… Haven't we seen iterations of these guys before? There's no freshness to any of it.

Dead Rising 2: Case Zero Review

The most notable differences: There are now three save slots instead of one, and that the game in general feels much, much easier. The Psychopath fights have been toned down in difficulty quite a bit, and making your way through hordes of zombies requires nearly no effort at all. The time limits for each mission are extremely generous (so far I've been able to complete every single one, both story and optional) and the survivors Chuck rescues are finally able to hold their own and survive long enough to make it back to the safe house. Hallelujah.

Now, all of these changes are absolutely for the better, but they're all just corrections to things that were relatively broken the first time around. This isn't new ground Capcom is covering in Dead Rising 2, it's a bunch of fixes... a bug patch on an epic scale.

Oddly enough, the only legitimately "new" thing is the way Chuck can combine items to create new weapons, but I have to say that this hook falls flat. Since weapons break quite frequently, it's a hassle to go out of your way to find some of the more exotic components, not to mention that time is still a concern, even with the more generous mission limits. Add in the fact that inventory space is extremely tight until much later in the game (a life-up, or a useless piece of a weapon to be lugged around? easy choice.) and what's left is a gimmicky add-on that doesn't really fit with Dead Rising's core identity. Rather than experimenting with combinations, I find myself sticking with the nailbat (which can be created immediately outside of Chuck's base) and ignoring everything else. There's just no good incentive to do otherwise.

I haven't tried any of the multiplayer modes and I intend to do so, but at this point I have to say that I'm quite disappointed in the singleplayer campaign. Although my opinion may change, everything I've seen so far points to Dead Rising 2 and being a near-identical, more polished version of Dead Rising 1. As much as I may enjoy the subject matter, I definitely expected more.

Everybody and their brother has probably seen this by now, but just in case you haven't… Some hard-core Sonic fans have put together a labor of love remix, and it looks a hell of a lot better than what Sega just released for $15.

A new psychology website got in touch with me and requested that I post this. I can't personally vouch for the validity of the claims made at this site, but if this stuff is even halfway true, then it constitutes some interesting food for thought. Basically, these various authors are saying that games are not only not nearly as harmful as some in the media would like us to believe, but there are actually several different types of benefits. Take a look and see what you think.

Done with Dead Rising 2 and a Castlevania query

Dead Rising 2 Screenshot

Finished up my play of Dead Rising 2 tonight. I'm contemplating doing a review, but still undecided. I guess I'll sleep on it and see how much effort I want to put out in the morning.

After rolling credits for both the main campaign and the Overtime mode that comes after (and really, that's not a spoiler... they did the exact same thing in Dead Rising) my thoughts about the game are basically the same—it's a note-for-note reproduction of the original with a much gentler difficulty curve and a create-a-weapon mechanic that doesn't feel like a good fit for the schedule-oriented structure of play.

If I had never played the first game I suppose I would have been much more entertained by Dead Rising 2 since I wouldn't be so aware of how badly it was recycled.  Seriously, there were only two or three brief segments overall that I thought were fairly inspired, although I admit that the story was sufficient to keep me moving forward. New protag Chuck Greene is definitely okay in my book, though I have to say that I still prefer original hero Frank West by a large margin.

While I certainly appreciate how much easier Dead Rising 2 is (got the S-Rank ending with very little effort) I think I preferred the original in just about every other way. Better main character, better story, and although it felt vaguely broken in a few places, it was fresh and original at the time. This new iteration isn't bad, but it just doesn't have that spark… all the I's were dotted and all the T's crossed, but I'm still kind of struggling to figure out what it was really supposed to bring to the table.

All things considered, I'd say that I had a much better experience with the prologue DLC Dead Rising: Case Zero than I did with the full game offered in Dead Rising 2. The setting of Zero didn't feel like another mall, the area was much smaller and more compact, and I liked that a perfect run could be done in two hours or so, provided that the player did a few practice restarts beforehand. It was fresh, tidy, and got right to the point. The $5 price tag didn't hurt, either.

I'm still looking forward to the epilogue DLC titled Dead Rising: Case West for sure, but if Capcom was to greenlight a new Dead Rising 3, I'd say that they would have to retool the thing from top to bottom, re-think the structure completely and fix all of the issues before it would get my attention. If they go for just another minor-upgrade iteration like this one was, I'll pass.

Prior to starting Dead Rising 2, I put about two hours into Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Those first few hours didn't leave a very good taste in my mouth, and I postponed it for the time being. However, my wife decided to give it a go, and she's pretty far into the adventure. I've been peeking over her shoulder and keeping tabs on the game, and although there are certain things about it that intrigue me, I see quite a bit that turns me off. As for her, she's plowing ahead like a trooper but has little good to say about it.

To those players who have already been through the game, I would love to get your opinions on it, whether you liked it or you didn't. Tell me what makes it good, or where it went wrong. The two schools of thought on the title appear to have a fairly large gulf between them, and if you've got an opinion, I want to hear it.

I wanna know!