Gamersyde Review: Dead Rising 2
After four years of a long wait, we are finally given a sequel to Dead Rising. While other franchises are released on a very regular basis, people had to be very patient to be able to play Dead Rising 2. The hardcore fans had a sneak peak at the game a little while ago when Case Zero hit Xbox Live, but it is truly today, on September 24, that everyone will be able to jump into what really is a homage to the George Romero movies. Have the developers managed to keep what made the first game original and challenging and has the game remained true to its roots? All the answers in our fully detailed review of the 360 version.
Even though the hero of the first game will be mentioned in the course of the story, West will not return here and so we are presented with a whole new protagonist. Chuck Greene is indeed traveling the USA with his daughter Casey and is about to face the worst possible ordeals in order to protect what is left of his family. His wife, one of the victims of the outbreak in Vegas, is unfortunately not part of the trip and she even gave them a horrible farewell present. Bitten by her own mother, Katey is indeed kept in the world of the living thanks to a very powerful drug called Zombrex. A drug that she needs to be given every 12 hours to prevent her from turning into a zombie. Zombrex will then be at the center of Chuck's preoccupations during all the dramatic events that fall upon Fortune City.
Because such a treatment costs money, the poor father has decided to take part in a sadistic TV show in which the contestants have to kill the highest amount of zombies to win the jackpot. Obviously, things are going to go really wrong and all hell will soon break loose in Sin City, leaving no other choice to Chuck than to fight for his own survival. In the 72 hours that will follow the outbreak, Chuck will not only be forced to clear his name from the accusations that present him as the person responsible for the outbreak, but also to find Zombrex for his daughter. As you can see, drama and tragedy are at the core of the storyline, which is counterbalanced by all the craziness and humor of the combat that awaits the player.
I will survive
The first time you discover the chaotic world of Dead Rising 2, it is difficult not to feel the same sense of loss than the main character. Much like Chuck, the player arrives in a place he does not know, in the middle of a crisis that seems almost too big to handle. Added to that, the feeling of urgency and danger never leaves as the clock keeps ticking, getting Chuck closer to the point of no return. Time is indeed of paramount importance in the game, and exactly like in the first episode, you will have to learn to live - or should I say survive - with it and deal with it. Every second you lose just visiting the many shops or wandering around aimlessly is a second lost forever that can very well turn out to be your downfall. Events happen at a given time, so when you hear about some survivors that need your help, you must think fast. Saving them is however not exactly what you could call a selfless good deed, as every time you bring someone back to the safehouse, you are granted some experience points that will allow Chuck to be better, stronger, faster without having to spend 6 million dollars. It works pretty simply: Stacey Forsythe calls you each time she sees something on the screens of the control room and you just need to pick and choose.
Most of the time, it does not get more difficult than simply following the arrow that is pointing you in the right direction, talking to the survivors and then bringing them back to the safehouse. Sometimes, they will need some convincing before they agree to come with you, or they will ask you to carry them or find something/someone for them. The good news is you no longer have to go nuts when they are with you, as the AI finally knows how to handle itself. Unlike the first game where you lost many of the survivors on the way back, it happens really seldom here, which comes as a relief I can tell you. Sure, it is not always easy to talk to them while surrounded by a massive crowd of hungry zombies, but aside from that, saving people is a lot more closer to a nice walk in the park than before. Like I said, it is also clearly worth your while as not only will you gain some experience, but you can also make money, discover very useful shortcuts etc.
Unfortunately for Chuck, things are not always so easy in Fortune City, and he will also get to meet a very "nice" bunch of nutcases among the survivors of the outbreak. In such cases, spare your breath and get ready to fight, trying to make them see some sense is a just a lost cause anyway. The different characters you will encounter are obviously completely over the top and remind you of those of the first game: crazy, but most of all, lethal and deadly. A cannibal cook, a virgin groom, a weird fan or even an angry postman, these are a few examples of what to expect in the streets of Fortune City. Now just like before, you should be aware that you cannot meet such people without being prepared. Indeed, they are all much tougher than the rest of the enemies of the game, and there is real challenge to beat them. Sometimes, it is actually impossible to defeat some of them if your level is not high enough, because you have not gotten the dodge move yet for example, or because your life bar is too short to give you a chance of survival. The weapons you choose to carry are also very important if you do not want to see a game over screen way too often. The difficulty is that you never know what to expect until you get there, so I'd advise you to visit the restrooms as much as you can to save your game, just in case.
Thankfully, you are now given three different slots to do so, which makes Dead Rising 2 less frustrating than its big brother. Like for the standard survivors, there will always be a timeline to respect if you want to meet them, which means you won't always be able to gain enough experience to stand a chance. If it were to happen, then just put away your pride and tell yourself that revenge is a dish served cold. Indeed, the main principle of the game is that it is not possible to do (or see) everything during your first run. The experience you have gained at the end is kept if you start the game again, making things a bit easier the second time around. The idea is that you have to learn from your mistakes and that too much confidence can lead to a certain death. Know your enemy before going into battle.
In the middle of all this mess, Chuck will also have to investigate the reasons of the disaster, and keep looking for some precious Zombrex for Katey. Falsely accused of being the person responsible for this nightmare, Chuck has 72 hours before the Army gets to Fortune City to save the day and arrest him. Allies appear and enemies stand in his ways as he progresses into the story and much like with the psychopaths, being prepared is always key to success.
That being said, completing the main cases is never really difficult. Sometimes, you will obviously have to retry a few times before you nail a sequence, but overall, it seems to me it is a lot easier than in the first game. The best proof of that is that I managed to get the A ending at my first try, which I am not sure was possible before. Even in Case Zero, it was possible not to complete the main objectives in time. So unless you miss a rendez-vous, you should be able to get to the end without too much trouble. If you are too late for a main quest mission though, then you will not be able to find out the truth. No game over in such a case, you can continue to play the game and gain experience if you do not wish to load an old save. Even if you run out of time and cannot bring back some Zombrex to Katey, you are proposed to go on anyway.
But Dead Rising 2 is also about these moments where you can completely lose it and yield to the madness of zombi slaughter. With such a huge crowd of undead people, you can let yourself become a real butcher and choose your meat the way you like it: bloody, boiled, fried, minced? You name it. Anything can be used as a weapon, from the silliest and most harmless object to the goriest one, usually reminding of the good old movies of the genre (Peter Jackson's Braindead comes to mind). Considering the size of the environment and the number of shops, you will have your share of exploration and a good amount of possibilities, provided you are a bit imaginative that is.
Which brings us to one of the new features of this sequel: the creation of original weapons by combining two different objects. Take for example a pair of MMA gloves, combine them with nails and you will get a very nice Wolverine touch. A leaf-blower can also be turned into a deadly weapon if you put some jewelery inside it, transforming it into a kind of jewel-thrower. There are so many different combinations that it is just impossible to name them all: the beer-helmet, the "blambow",(bow + dynamite), the Freedom Bear (Robot Bear + LMG) are just a few of the many examples I could give. The main challenge is to unlock the combo cards revealing the correct recipe and then find the appropriate objects. You can also simply try things and see if they work, after all, the use you make of your own free time is up to you.
Weapons are not the only things you will find in Fortune City though: food and drinks are vital if you want to increase your chances of survival. Like in the first game, you can mix two drinks together to create potions that can give your character momentary abilities, like a better resistance to damage for example. In the same range of ideas, magazines are scattered around the shops and streets of Fortune City, giving you different types of bonuses as long as you carry them around in your inventory. Sometimes it can give you a 25% experience bonus for killing zombies, or a 50% health bonus when eating food. Quite logically, the most interesting ones will be harder to find and will require a bit more exploration of your surroundings.
Eventually, and though there is no real point in doing it other than the simple fun of it, you can treat Chuck like a little girl's doll and dress him up in the worst possible outfits. Once again, there you have all the necessary ironical counterpoint you need and you have come to expect from a Dead Rising game. There is indeed nothing like watching Chuck in a tight mini skirt while he's chopping off zombies and doing his best to protect his daughter. It is even more fun as Chuck gets to keep the outfits you pick in the cutscenes, which is just priceless.
Clothes do not make the man
Gameplay-wise, things have gotten a lot smoother since the first Dead Rising. It is now possible to move whilst aiming with a firearm, and even though it is still far from feeling like playing a Third Person Shooter, it is still a nice addition. The game not being about using firearms from beginning to end, the fact that it lacks the precision of modern shooters is not that big a deal. That being said, the choice to make Chuck such a vulnerable character in the beginning may cause some frustration for some players. Because his skills are reduced to the minimum (speed, health, moves), Chuck cannot always deal with some of the situations he encounters. Again, I'm talking about the optional bosses that require more or less skills before you can confront them. The same can be said about the "real time" aspect of the game, without which is would not be Dead Rising. I am pretty sure some will be annoyed by the pressure that weighs on their shoulder, so newcomers might be a bit frustrated I guess. It is however what keeps the game interesting and what will have you come back for more after one playthrough.
On a technical standpoint, it is hard to forgive some of the game's issues. True, the increase in the number of zombies on screen has to be taken into consideration. However, it is still no excuse for the low framerate and the major slowdowns at times. It will never affect gameplay and it is not always that bad either, but it is 2010 after all. What's more, the game's graphics are clearly not among the best out there. The blurry backgrounds in the most open environments are a bit of a shame for example. Yet, the different shops are all filled with details and interactive objects you can pick up, use, throw etc. The created world is then totally believable and you soon forget about the first mentioned flaws.
The major problem the game suffers from is, to me, the fact that Fortune City is divided into several areas that are separated by awfully long loading screens. Every time you leave one of these areas, you have to wait for what seems to be an eternity, from 20 to 30 seconds even. Now just imagine how you feel when you realize that, after waiting for the next area to load, you have to go back to the previous one because one of the survivors has been left behind. In such cases, you can be forced to wait for a minute and a half (three loadings) to continue your way to the safehouse. At a time when games open loading-free open spaces, it feels a bit oldish, and it breaks the pace of a game where urgency is the main theme. And don't think installing the game on your hard drive will make things faster. It also takes a bit longer to save in this game than in all the other titles, which, when you combine to the rest, means you have to be a little patient when playing Dead Rising 2.
Dead Rising 2 follows exactly its predecessor's steps, but the 3 slots save system makes it a bit more accessible. However it's still a big challenge to achieve secondary missions and to beat its optional bosses, so don't expect to fully finish the game at your first try. The replay value of Capcom's title is one of its main assets with a lot of interaction with the world, a bigger map with more zombies and a lenghty adventure. Time management gives the game its full particularity as the player has to make some choices. Free time can be used to rescue survivors, or maybe you'll prefer to explore Fortune City in order to find some precious items.
Captivating, though sometimes also frustating, Dead Rising 2 should delight the numerous fans of the first episode, in spite of a few disappointing technical issues. For the others, the experience shoul be less traumatic, thanks to the new save system. Moreover, they should also enjoy the new cooperative mode if they feel they are not up to the game's challenge. No excuses for refusing to give it a go then. There's also a more competitive multiplayer mode since you can play "Terror is Reality", the TV show that opens the game. The interesting thing is that the money you earn in this mode can be used in the story mode. Unfortunately we weren't able to test those two modes, so we can't give our precise opinion. However it should without a doubt be warmly welcomed by most, if not all, gamers. To sum up, Dead Rising 2 may no longer be the surprise the original game was in 2006, and some might actually think it is way too similar. All things considered though, it's still a very solid game in the genre it created, thanks to a rather compelling story and a great atmosphere.
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