Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Xbox 360 review: Dead Rising 2
Set five years after the original game, Dead Rising 2 takes place in Fortune City, an American west casino town that effectively behaves as a baby brother to Las Vegas. Chuck Greene, former motocross champ, has found himself participating in Terror is Reality, a stadium game show based around the premise of having four competitors slaughter hordes of zombies for cash prizes. Not long after Chuck’s run, the otherwise safely-contained zombies break loose and quickly spread out from the arena into the rest of Fortune City. Fearing for the safety of his daughter Katey, Chuck heads off to find her and, once reunited with her, makes his way to a safehouse with a handful of other survivors. While the group should be able to rest easy knowing that rescue will arrive in three days and that the shelter is secure, Chuck has to provide Katey with a constant supply of Zombrex, as she was bitten once before but never turned into one of the undead. To compound the situation, Chuck learns that someone has framed him for setting the zombies loose, and so in order to earn the trust of the other safehouse survivors and clear his name, he must venture out into Fortune City to figure out just who is trying to blame him for the outbreak and why.
Dead Rising 2 utilizes the same basic engine as the first game, offering up a third-person perspective for the bulk of Chuck’s running, fighting, crafting weapons, and changing outfits. With firearms, flamethrowers and the like, the camera can zoom in temporarily to allow Chuck more precise aim, which comes in most handy when engaging survivors who have mentally gone off the deep end in some of the game’s boss fights. These ‘boss’ characters are little more than a typical survivor model with a potentially larger health bar and, occasionally, some special tactic or another. In the case of a schedule-obsessed postman, his attack patterns involve both a shotgun and some time bombs that he hurls at Chuck. With a guy dressed as children’s store mascot Slappy, it’s a combination of speedy roller skates and flamethrowers, making an up-close-and-personal approach less than ideal. While these psychopaths are all aesthetically unique, their personalities are effectively the same – the zombies hit, they were shell-shocked, and thus took their roles way too seriously; so seriously that they would rather kill Chuck than give up their routine, no matter how trivial or misguided it might be post-outbreak.
It is immediately apparent how much better Dead Rising 2 plays than its predecessor. Zombies are not as prone to grabbing onto Chuck or his allies and devouring their health, while practical weapons like a spiked baseball bat or sledgehammer will keep the infected at bay long enough for Chuck to complete his first few introductory tasks. The save system sees the biggest improvement by far, allowing players to save their game at any bathroom stall at any point, regardless of what weapons they have on hand, how many survivors are travelling with them, etc. Collecting Zombrex for Katey can be handled through a few different means – Chuck can save up money to buy it from pawn shops located around Fortune City, or he can take on certain missions that will detail Zombrex as a reward before he commits himself to aiding a survivor who is willing to help Chuck out in turn. Making sure Chuck has Zombrex on hand once per day is not so much a challenge due to any explicit difficulty factor, but instead requires planning and strategy on part of the player, as they must find time to divert their attention to finding the Zombrex as well as administering it to Katey at a specific time each day.
As far as the weapons at Chuck’s disposal are concerned, there are typical blunt objects like the aforementioned bat and hammer, elusive firearms including pistols and shotguns, and well as heavy hitters with a more limited range of use like flowerpots, signs, and giant teddy bears. Mowing down crowds of infected with putt-putt speed golf carts or more literally with a lawnmower provides a good chuckle from time to time, but the real winners are also the most rewarding with regards to boosting Chuck’s experience points – those weapons being all the special combo ones. The most fun and admittedly funny moments come from Chuck’s use of the Paddlesaw (two chainsaws attached to opposite ends of a kayak paddle), Electric Rake (a leaf rake with a car battery strapped to it, emitting a jolt from the metal teeth), Rocket Launcher (a series of metal pipes that fire bottle rockets out in gatling gun fashion), and the Knife Gloves (boxing gloves with knives protruding from the knuckles). A few other combo weapons are one-time uses and are intended to quickly clear a large area, and can thus prove useful when escorting large groups. Meanwhile, the construction helmet with beer bottles strapped to either side – aptly title the ‘Beer Hat’ – allows Chuck to refill his health bar on the go, and can be extremely helpful during the game’s handful of boss fights, some of which are sprung on players without much warning. However, it’s best not to rely too heavily on alcohol in order to refill Chuck’s health bar, as too much booze and no food will make him throw up.
Gaining experience points will merit Chuck new levels, which in turn grant him bonuses like more slots in his inventory and a larger health bar. Experience points are earned at a very gradual pace when killing zombies, while escorting survivors will net Chuck large bonuses. While the main story is consistent regardless of how many times you replay Dead Rising 2, you are granted complete freedom with regards to which psychopaths you decide to fight and which survivors you opt to bring back to the safehouse. Saving certain characters will open the door to further missions, as well as trivial distractions like a game of poker.
Online multiplayer sees four players compete to earn the highest score in the Terror is Reality game show that Chuck competes in during the single-player game’s intro sequence. The main event of this multiplayer mode is Slicecycles, wherein players hack up hordes of infected via chainsaws attached to motocross bikes, while the rest of the games include the likes of a target shooting range, strapping dynamite helmets to zombies and hitting a button to make them explode, a tag-like match with players running inside of giant hamster balls, and so on. In essence, these feel like some bloody, M-rated equivalents of Mario Party games, though they certainly lack the spirit and fun-factor of Nintendo’s board game video game. The Terror is Reality minigames are no doubt inspired, and arguably one of the most creative multiplayer modes to grace any zombie game, but the entire mode feels like a brief afterthought tacked onto the end of the main star, the single-player story mode.
Sure, most of the characters Chuck encounters during his days in Fortune City are more caricatures than fully realized characters, but that’s part of Dead Rising’s charm. What Resident Evil is intended to be to serious and dark zombie games, Dead Rising is to a 70s and 80s B-movie presentation. It’s not a game that is meant to be taken too seriously – in fact, Dead Rising and its sequel do more than their fair share of poking fun at tropes within the zombie subgenre of films and video games. While it is unfortunate that Katey and Chuck’s relationship falls to the wayside and isn’t explored in any real meaningful way like it was in Case Zero, Dead Rising 2 is more about gameplay than storytelling. Know that while Chuck will spend most of his time hacking, slashing, blowing up, and setting fire to a sea of undead, you - the player - will have a riot in controlling him to do so.
My rating: 8.25 (out of 10)