Saturday , February 24 2024
The dead are back, and this time it's Chuck Greene's turn to try and stem the tide.

PlayStation 3 Review: Dead Rising 2

I have said it before and I am sure that I’ll say it again – at this point in time, the zombie apocalypse seems like a foregone conclusion.  I don’t know when it will begin and I don’t pretend to know what the impetus will be for the rise of the undead, but it is coming.  The best that we can do now is to learn all we can from the pop culture zombie films, books, games, television shows, etc. with which we are constantly bombarded in order to learn as many survival strategies as we possibly can for the day dead begin to walk the Earth.

One excellent place to begin this search for strategies is with the Capcom/Blue Castle Games title Dead Rising 2.  Picking up five years after the initial Dead Rising and with an entirely new main character, Chuck Greene, Dead Rising 2 showcases all the different everyday objects that can be used to bludgeon, dismember, and generally eliminate the undead.  Much as with the first Dead Rising, there are a plethora of objects than can be used to eliminate threats to Chuck’s life.

Dead Rising 2, as with all good sequels, goes a bit further than the original, incorporating the ability to combine weapons to form new, better, deadlier (are they still called “deadlier” if they’re being used on the undead?) ones.  For instance, combine a baseball bat with a box of nails and you get a spiked bat which is quite useful when being attacked by multiple zombies.  Combine an electric drill with a bucket and you can place it on one of the walking dead’s heads with astounding results.

The game certainly has its freakier moments, but as should be apparent from the above, it falls more into the comedic zombie apocalypse mold than the terrifying one.  This remains true even when you’re taking on crazed humans (bosses) instead of the undead.

This time out, the franchise has moved to the fictional Fortune City, which is a Las Vegas-like city in Nevada (though Vegas does exist in the Dead Rising world) full of gambling halls, malls, hotels, eateries, and the living dead.  It is also home to the pay-per-view spectacle show Terror is Reality VII: Payback, which is where Chuck starts out.  The former motocross star is taking part in the zombie killing show in order to get some money so he can by Zombrex for his little daughter, Katey (Zombrex being the uber-expensive drug that will prevent an infected human from turning into one of the mindless maneaters).  

It will come as a surprise to no one that things don’t go as planned, the zombies escape, and much like the first game you need to figure out how to stay alive for 72 hours (which is when help will arrive).  Unlike the original title, you can’t just sit around on your duff and do nothing waiting for the clock to expire.  No, Katey needs her Zombrex every 24 hours and Chuck is fresh out which means that you need to go out and find some in Fortune City.  Oh yeah, and you quickly find out that you’re being blamed for the zombies getting free and need to clear your name before the authorities arrive.

Chuck Greene’s life is quite clearly a frustrating one, and unfortunately, you’re playing of the game will be marred by frustration as well.  Dead Rising 2 has most definitely gone for a “bigger is better” ideal, but it doesn’t always work out for the title.  The number of locations you can visit is far more extensive here than in the original Dead Rising, and the number of zombies far more plentiful.  Whereas the first title you could end up with hundreds of zombies on screen at any point, here there can be thousands.  The upshot of all these baddies and all these locations coming together are a ridiculous number of load screens (at least, that’s what we’re attributing the load screens to).  Missions will require you to go from one part of Fortune City to a second to a third, and between each there will be a long load screen.  That might be okay if the locations felt far apart, by if you’re running from one to the next due to a time limit, you’re going to see a load screen somewhere around once a minute or even less (which means you’ll spend more time on load screens during that segment than playing the game).  Even if you stop to bash zombies before heading from a mall to a casino (zombies like to hang out by doors leading from one area to another), you’re going to see a load screen regularly.  These screens seriously hurt any sort of flow the game tries to build. 

The frustrations with Dead Rising 2 go far beyond that however.  Unlike a survival horror game (Resident Evil), the goal is not simply to live, but to put down the undead once and for all and to do so as much as possible.  You get experience points for killing zombies (more for doing it in creative ways), and that means that the game has to find a way for you to be able to keep picking up weapons.  The solution is a highly unsatisfactory one.  Not only do zombies respawn in the exact same spots any time you leave an area, weapons do too.  That means that every time you head from the safe house into Fortune City, you can pick up not one but two spiked bats (and if you’re smart you’ll already have picked up two heading back to the safe house at the end of the last mission).  It becomes a little monotonous, and that feeling is made worse by the fact that the game requires you to continually build the spiked bats in a maintenance room which just feels like a waste of time.  The building of weapons is a good mechanic, but something ought to have been to randomize where weapons spawn so it doesn’t feel like you’re constantly doing the same thing over and over and over again.

Then there’s the clock issue.  Each mission has a set time at which it can first be accomplished and a set time by which you have to start it, and there are a lot of things to do in your 72 hours.  While that gives you some choices, it also means that you’re going to regularly feel like you’ve made the wrong choice or haven’t allocated your time properly.  It is here where the game feels like it wants to be a dramatic one despite all the humorous shenanigans.  Missing a mission very well may mean that people are dying in Fortune City, people you could have saved.  That should carry some weight to it, and it almost feels like Dead Rising 2 wants it to, but it the game doesn’t seem to know how to make that happen, it’s just another mission you didn’t complete which means that you’ll not get a 100% completion and may want to go back through the game again… if you don’t mind redoing all the required tasks and aren’t bored by the respawned undead and weapons.

Where the game fails again is with its cutscenes.  Ignoring the not terribly sharp graphics and bad lip-synch, Dead Rising 2 does a poor job of translating in game choices to the cutscenes, and the fact that it tries just makes the mistakes more glaring.  For instance, as with the first Dead Rising, you can go around trying on different outfits in stores and what you’re wearing will be reflected correctly in a cutscene.  However, let’s say that you opted to try to rescue an old lady and on your way back tot the safe house you had to do a story critical mission.  Naturally, you’ve thrown the old lady over your shoulder so that she shouldn’t fall behind and get her brains sucked on.  She won’t be there in the cutscene for the mission you’ve opted to start while doing the sidequest, she’ll be back on your shoulder once the scene ends, but she won’t be in the scene.

Do not fear though, young adventurer, the game doesn’t just fail, you will too… repeatedly.  Seriously, you’re going to die, you’re going to lose missions, and you’re going to have to go back to a previous save point or start the story over (a nice convenient option every time you fail in a critical area).  There are some advantages to your inadequacies however, namely that while your kill count will drop back to where it was the last time you saved, your experience points and level you’ve achieved won’t.   That means that any new combos you’ve learned, strength you’ve gained, larger inventory, etc., will be available to you once you’ve taken your two steps back.  That does make it a lot easier on subsequent playthroughs (which, again, there will be).

Dead Rising 2 also offers a cooperative multiplayer mode in which you and buddy can go through Fortune City hacking, slashing, and weed-whacking (or portamowering more specifically) the undead.  The two of you do need to spend all your time in the same area, but you can certainly take down more zombies together than alone.  There is also a competitive multiplayer mode where you take part in various Terror is Reality games, and the money earned there translates back into the single player story as well.  The games get boring quickly, but they are available.

It almost feels as though if at this point I told you that the controls simply aren’t as responsive as they need to be when you have 50 zombies attacking you it would be overkill.  It almost feels as though I should leave out the fact that Chuck doesn’t always recock his bat quite as quickly as he ought and that when you do a special kill (worth more experience), you get a nice close-up, but then when the game goes back to the main view, the camera angle changes just enough to be disconcerting.

Those, however, are the facts.   What they ignore is that for all the game’s flaws, it still manages more often than not to be a frustratingly enjoyable (or maybe enjoyably frustrating) experience.  Despite the zombie apocalypse, there is a lot to see and due in Fortune City and if you’re headed there, the best advice to you that we can offer is that you ought to visit the bathroom and do so regularly (that’s how you save your game).

There may be better ways out there to learn how to fend off the hoards of undead we are sure to find attacking us in the coming years, but Dead Rising 2 is certainly a good, everyman place to start one’s quest for knowledge.

Dead Rising 2 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Sexual Themes, and Use of Alcohol. This game can also be found on: Xbox 360 and Windows PC.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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