Reviewed by Mr. Dark
Available for Xbox 360 (reviewed here) and PlayStation 3
Developed by Blue Castle Games
Published by Capcom
A lone figure stumbles out of a decrepit room. His clothes are in shambles. The stench of rot and decay oozes from him. Greenish gray slime drips from every visible orifice on his head. His eyes are glazed within shadowed sockets. He staggers forward, knowing nothing but hunger and pain. That, and he really needs to review Dead Rising 2 before Dead Rising 3 comes out.
Yes, that was me for most of the time following DR2‘s release, which is why this bloody review is so late. Terrible flu, that.
Those of you who have been around the site for awhile may remember my abject hatred of the original Dead Rising. It could be used as a case study for how to screw up a perfectly good game design with just one terrible decision. Forcing players to replay the game many, many times in order to beef up their character enough to have a prayer at completing the game was an awful choice, and it ruined the game for me. People complained about the save game issue, but that was a symptom of the ‘start over‘ design problem.
I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, the exact same design exists in DR2: you will almost assuredly have to restart the game at least once or twice to beef up your character enough to complete it. The good news is, somehow, they’ve actually made that design work.
By now most of you know the plot here, but for those of you in Rio Linda, I’ll go over it. Chuck Greene is a former motocross champion living in a post-zombie America. During the outbreak that began in the first game, Chuck’s wife was turned and his daughter was bitten. A new drug, Zombrex, keeps the change from happening to his daughter, but it’s rare and expensive. Out of Zombrex and out of time, he agrees to take part in a reality show where athletes are put into contests involving corralled zombies for televised entertainment.
This takes place in Fortune City which is NOT Las Vegas! Except that it kind of is. During one of Chuck’s televised competitions, things go awry and the zombies are unleashed on the crowd and the city outside. Chuck has to keep his daughter alive and un-zombified until rescuers can arrive three days later. After holing up with some survivors in a barricaded compound, Chuck begins his forays out into the city for Zombrex and perhaps some answers as to how this catastrophe happens.
DR2 learns much from the mistakes of it’s forefather. Save points are easy to find. Weapons are everywhere. Health items are in logical places, and therefore easy to come by if you need them. Inventory slots increase steadily throughout the game as you progress. You rarely have to choose between a needed weapon and a health boost.
How about that whole ‘restarting‘ problem? It’s difficult to explain, but they managed to make it work by changing a lot of little things, including those things I just mentioned. When you restart, it’s either because you died (which is usually due to something stupid you did, such as not saving your game properly, or saving it when you were in a situation you couldn’t escape) or because you choose to. I chose to a couple of times early on. I decided I wanted more inventory slots and a few special moves before I kept trying to beat a tough boss or two, so I restarted, spent and hour or so catching back up, and beefed up Chuck quite a bit. Voila, easier boss battle.
Not being forced to do it makes it less painful and irritating. Just like grinding in a traditional RPG, it was my choice, and it was a price I was willing to pay.
The biggest change between DR1 and DR2 is the toolbench. You can now combine weapons and some non-weapon objects to make new items. In almost every case, a combined weapon is far more powerful and durable than a solo weapon, even previous DR standbys like the baseball bat and chainsaw. Put nails in that bat, or strap that chainsaw on a paddle, and you’ve got far more bang for your buck. Finish side quests and you may find combo cards that beef up those combined weapons even further, giving bonus XP when you kill zombies with them.
Overall, there’s just more to do, more places to go, more to explore, more to collect … it’s just a much more diverse and interesting game than the original. And yes, there are plenty of zombies to kill in amusing ways. You could easily spend hours just combining things into new weapons and using them for giggles on zombies.
That’s really the single best way to sum up what makes DR2 superior to the original, and a great game overall: choice. You’re rarely forced into things. Some missions have to be completed to continue in the game, but many (even most, possibly) can be skipped at the penalty of losing the perks to be gained from completing, and possibly changing your ending. You can play this completely straight, or you can dress in a maid’s outfit and kill zombies with weapons made out of toys. You can be a completist and explore as much as possible within the game’s limits, or you can focus on the goal and just hit the main story points.
That’s my one major gripe with DR2. I understand why they put time limits on everything. For one, it’s realistic. Injured Survivor #1 is not going to last for hours holed up in that restaurant kitchen by themselves, so it makes sense to only give you so much time to get there before the mission clears. Two, it’s clearly a move to add replayability, as I have no idea how you’d get every single side mish complete in one play-through due to those limits.
That said, it adds a false sense of tension to the game. You can be one second short of completing a goal and have it clear out on you. That’s just not realistic, and it’s really annoying when one slip-up can cost you a hard-fought goal. I really wish they’d added a ‘no time’ sandbox mode upon completion of the single player game that allowed you to take your time, see all the sights, and finish all the side quests at your leisure with the timers turned off. I spent many, many hours in Fortune City and feel I still never saw everything the devs worked so hard to create, it’s a shame most people will do the same.
Finally, yes, there are multiplayer modes to be had here. If anyone buys this game for multiplayer, they are idiots and shouldn’t even be able to read well enough to comprehend this review, so there isn’t much to say about it here. Co-op is interesting, but I don’t personally think it’s worth hooking up with someone for hours on end to go through. Dead Rising is a single-player franchise, and I have no idea why they wasted any time or money on the multiplayer modes. You buy a DR game to kill zombies in fun ways. Period.
Dead Rising 2 is a dramatic improvement over the original. It still has a few rough edges, but they took what worked about DR1 and expanded it while taking what didn’t and smoothing it out. If you haven’t played it already, what are you waiting for? Go combine some steak knives with a pair of boxing gloves and go all Wolverine on some rotting zombie ass!
4 out of 5
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