Having played Dead Rising 2, it is quite evident that Capcom’s design document for the game may not have been very different from the first title. Don’t slot this disc in expecting another series’ reinvention like we saw with Resident Evil 4. The only upshot to this sameness is that the first game wasn’t half bad to begin with and the incremental changes that Blue Castle Games did throw in actually make the experience more fun and a lot less frustrating. This game also happens to be the most successful of Capcom’s recent Western collaborations, so much so that they’ve taken the trouble to buy into the rookie Canadian developers behind it.
For the uninitiated, Dead Rising 2 is the much-awaited sequel to the 2006 original, and has you playing an ex-motocross champion by the name of Chuck Greene, who is not just looking to escape the suspicious goings-on in Fortune City, but to clear his name along the way. The zombie epidemic from the first game is still on, with the only respite for those unfortunate enough to have been bit being a drug called Zombrex that needs to be administered every 24 hours to prevent complete zombification. This pharmaceutical breakthrough also works its way into gameplay in an innovative way. Chuck’s daughter Katey has been nipped on the arm, and he needs to not only find supplies of the drug around the game world, but also drop whatever he’s up to and rush back to the safe house when its time for another dosage. The game takes place over a period of three days with new missions becoming available with the passage of time.
Keep in mind, however, that missions don’t stay active indefinitely, and not only do they disappear from your quest log, but your only chance of completing the excellent story mode disappears as well. In order to reach the end-game and get the best ending, you’ll need to manage your time judiciously so as to comfortably juggle multiple missions, side-missions and multiple NPC survivors, who need to be escorted back to the safe house.
You start off doing what the game’s engine was seemingly purpose-built for, which is to slaughter copious numbers of the undead. The excellent photography mechanic from the first game may have been dropped, but is more than made up for by the ability to combine objects strewn about the environment to make your own tools by which to thin the horde. In fact, it actively encourages you to experiment by giving you extra experience (or PP, as it is known in the Dead Rising universe) for every kill made with a combo weapon.
You’ll need as much PP as you can get your bloody hands on to level Chuck up as fast as possible. That’s because Dead Rising 2 strays far deeper into RPG territory than you would expect from a cursory scan of screenshots or watching the odd trailer. Chuck starts off significantly underpowered and awfully slow, and expecting to complete every story or side mission on your first playthrough may be asking for a bit too much. However, you will start to rack up the PP at a decent clip by using combo weapons, completing story missions and side-missions, rescuing survivors and defeating psychopathic mini-bosses, which in turn will unlock new moves and abilities that make your subsequent playthroughs much easier.
The game is also a lot less frustrating than the first, thanks to the inclusion of three save slots. These extra slots let you experiment with missions in different orders and are a welcome relief to those of us who just couldn’t get on with the first game’s single save system that forced you to restart the campaign if you so much as put a foot wrong. Survivor AI has also been fixed, and you’ll find them more than capable at path finding and self-defense. You’ll also see a very helpful icon complementing a survivor’s health bar that’ll tell you if they are ready to follow you through a doorway and into the next area. Veterans will also find the overall pacing and mission structure a lot easier to manage. The game gives you enough leeway with time that game-over screens are not as common as they were before.
Keiji Inafune’s production is as quirky as ever, with great cutscenes and interesting characters populating Fortune City.
The lack of voice work for the minor NPCs can be an irritation as you need to read conversation text and fight for your life at the same time. Calling out the slightly inadequate draw distance would be a bit churlish when you consider just how much the game gets right. Genre cinema fans and geeks in general will also get a kick out of all the references Capcom have thrown in.
Dead Rising 2 comes highly recommended provided you can get on with the fact that it involves micromanagement as much as mindless slaughter.
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