Brain-eating hordes of undead have gripped the gaming world. Whether it’s zombie modes for existing games, or entire retail titles based around the rotting post-Human zombie form, there’s something for everyone’s tastes.
One could argue that the gaming world is becoming oversaturated with zombie franchises and zombie DLC’s, but undoubtedly if zombies are your thing, Dead Rising 2 would be a title firmly on your wish list.
But should it be?
Chuck Greene, former motocross champion, is now taking part in a twisted reality game show called Terror Is Reality: Payback. With an ultimate goal of killing more gathered zombies than any other competitor. Zombie rights activists, CURE (Citizens for Undead Rights and Equality) oppose the harsh treatment of the undead in the fictional Fortune City.
Chuck’s daughter Katey, ‘infected’ by her Mother – a turned zombie – requires the rare and expensive vaccine, Zombrex, to prevent her turning completely. So Chuck is forced to continue participation in the show in order to be able to afford the expensive commodity.
After winning an event, an explosion rips through the arena and before he knows it, Chuck is neck-deep in hordes of escaped zombies. Framed for the sabotage, Chuck finds himself on a mission to save his daughter, the city – and clear his name, before the military arrives to annihilate the zombie threat.
Those who played the first will know the general outline here. Those who haven’t will need to know it’s a third person, story-driven outing. Dead Rising 2 drops you into a swarm of zombies that literally pack every hallway, every room and every nook and cranny of the Fortune City environment.
Essentially, any object in the world can be used against the zombies. Pick up a shop front sign and whack them into oblivion. Find a baseball bat, or a fireman’s axe laying around and use those to club or cut them to death.
The true fun however, lies in creating custom weapons. Find a maintenance room and Chuck can cleverly combine seemingly harmless objects into weapons of mass zombie destruction. The Heliblade for example, can be created by combining a Toy Helicopter with a Machete. The Laser Sword (think a Lightsaber) comes about by combining Gems with a Flashlight.
These custom weapons are absolutely brilliant. There’s loads of them to find and create. You discover more combo possibilities by exploring the world, looking at posters for ideas and such – but the problems with all of this are firstly, the time it takes to find the components you need – and secondly – and most importantly, the utter lack of durability your created items have.
You have a handful of inventory slots available. They can be extended as you level up, but they’re still not enough. Each custom weapon requires two components and you have to carry these around until you pair them up and find a maintenance room. Some Gems take up the same inventory space as a Baseball bat.
Add into this the fact that health is administered in the form of food and drink littered around the city – items that also need to be carried around in your limited inventory.
When you finally find the required components, locate a maintenance room and combine them, you rush out to test your new Spiked Baseball Bat, or Snowball Cannon – only to find that the item breaks, fails or runs out of ammo after despatching a handful of zombies. There’s no replacement ammo. You can’t repair broken items, they just disappear. You can’t improve durability.
So it all becomes counter-productive. Quickly you just learn not to bother forging anything special until it’s really needed, for example, in boss fights. Only those pop up without warning and the Psychopaths generally overpower you before you can run off to collect items for a custom weapon anyway.
As you now run past and avoid the throngs of zombie enemies filling the hallways, you progress to mission objectives. There are a variety of escort, rescue and challenge side missions that come through via your watch, but many of these will come and go without getting addressed, as missions (including main story missions) have strict time limits. You can even fail the main story and continue on with your game (at least until the military arrives). Unfortunately though, there’s not much to drive you on random free-roam play after the main story has been lost.
Thankfully you can carry over your levelling and abilities between play-throughs (even ‘restart’ the story) so there’s not too much penalty for story failure, and subsequent play-throughs become easier as your character levels up (early game difficulty is daunting). There’s also the drop-in, drop-out co-operative play where you can invite a mate (a second Chuck Greene) to seamlessly join in your story progress. Generally making the game easier and more enjoyable as a result.
Overall though, it just feels a bit rushed. There’s this amazing custom weapon element on offer but it feels massively underused and clunky in its application. Standard weapons aren’t durable enough. Ammunition-based weapons run out of ammo too quickly. The inventory system is crippled. You’re almost forced to grind levels in order to stand a chance against the Psychopaths (boss enemies), but grinding is a tedious, boring task for all the reasons mentioned above.
Graphics & Sound
Fortune City is a huge, sandbox environment filled with casinos, food courts, shopping malls and plazas. It’s basically a zombie-infested Vegas. There’s plenty of detail and variation in your environments, with different casinos having different themes and loads of unique shops in the shopping areas.
Considering that, at any point in time, you can have literally hundreds of zombies on screen – the graphics are surprisingly pleasing. There’s the occasional framerate dips when encountering large packs of enemies and using heavy weapons and explosives, but all things considered, its a solid front for the visuals.
Zombies come apart in a myriad of ways, depending on the weapon you have equipped at the time. Slice and dice and crush to your heart’s content.
Voice acting is satisfactory, actors making the best of the subject matter they have been given. In the same way as Just Cause 2 became a classic for the accentuated delivery of B-grade lines, Dead Rising 2 feels of the same calibre of story.
I’m a sucker for a zombie game, but if I’m honest, I just don’t feel Dead Rising 2 makes the cut. The whole thing feels like a tease. There’s hundreds – perhaps thousands, of Zombies around at any time, but you can never do anything about it. The exciting custom weapons take too long to scavenge and create – and break too quickly and easily. You find yourself running away and avoiding zombies the majority of the time.
You’re left within the confines of the story when you should be able to roam and massacre with the utmost ease and unbridled enjoyment that the sandbox world looks like it could offer.
Sadly, a missed opportunity.