One thing I can’t stop thinking about in regards to Dead Rising 2 is why Chuck Greene, the game’s protagonist, controls and moves the way he does. Almost any action he performs ends with an abrupt stand-still that leaves him open to zombie attacks. If I jump to a new direction, he has a slight-second pause before I can command him to move. When I have him roll out of harm’s way, it’s usually into a new form a harm and he stands there again. He needs to admire EVERY last outfit I change him into, because I think jeans, a T-shirt, and a pair of Chucks (ha!) make for a much more comfortable ensemble for getting around than a thick leather jacket, jeans, and boots. Usually that’s when the zombies make their move, and it’s always just ONE zombie that knows I can’t control him, and so by the time I’m able to control Chuck I am wiggling the left stick to shake the damned thing off from attacking me. This is all familiar from the original Dead Rising, and it is something that Blue Castle Games, the development team for the sequel but not the original, felt the need to keep. This is only more frustrating because I was playing this game at 2:30 in the morning this morning tired out of my mind collecting supplies to make weapons like a rocket launcher. Despite this one aspect of frustration, Dead Rising 2 is a damned fun game, thank goodness.
Dead Rising 2 continues the story of the zombie outbreak that occurred years ago in the original Dead Rising, released in 2006. Dead Rising introduced a different take on the zombie horror genre by having the player use regular, everyday items as weapons as opposed to automatic weaponry like pistols and rifles, which are actually some of the weaker weapons in the game. It is also set in a mall in a small Colorado town, and anyone who has seen either Dawn of the Dead will feel right at home with the homage. The goal in Dead Rising 2 is the same: survive for 72 hours until the rescue arrives. Like the first game, there is also a conspiracy to investigate, only you aren’t photojournalist Frank West this time, you are motocross game show superstar Chuck Greene.
I find it interesting that in the already fun premise of Dead Rising of running around, gathering supplies, and taking out the undead in entertaining ways while waiting for help to arrive isn’t enough for Capcom, but they need to add a plot to get the ball rolling. In the original, Frank worked to discover what caused the outbreak in the first place. Chuck, a game show contestant, is framed for unleashing the outbreak in Fortune City, a gambling resort outside of Las Vegas. He must find out who framed him and why, all the while keeping his daughter healthy with a zombie bite treatment known as Zombrex. The issue with Zombrex is that it must be administered every 24 hours, for the rest of that person’s life… How depressing. As fun as watching the tale unfold can be, I personally wish for a zombie survival game where the goal is to survive until the rescue arrives, minus the conspiracies. Basically, the ultimate “What would you do in a zombie apocalypse?” game. These games come close to it, of course, but imagine making choices and maybe even throwing in a BioWare/Mass Effect type of morality wheel. One can dream.
Dead Rising 2 plays very similarly to the original, with a number of additions and improvements. The first thing I noticed when I actually played a demo of the game in San Diego this past summer is that the survivor AI had improved slightly. They aren’t as idiotic about their actions as they were in the original game. There are still some hiccups, like them standing there for no reason long after I’ve ordered them to follow me. The key word here is SLIGHTLY, because for every survivor’s ability to not get themselves killed by the zombies, giving them any type of firearm is a terrible idea. Doing so will get you and other accompanying survivors shot. This does significant damage to the survivors, but whether this can cause a survivor to defect and attack Chuck, I don’t know. A baseball bat or a tomahawk will suffice. Rescuing the survivors can feel like a lather, rinse, repeat process, but each situation can definitely be a unique one depending on the player’s next move. Sometimes I will tempt fate and take survivors with me to rescue other stranded folk. Refreshingly, it’s not as dangerous as you might think. You can simply store survivors in an enclosed space, such as a maintenance closet. That’s where the game’s second-largest addition comes in: making weapons.
Take a baseball bat, place it on a work table. Combine it with a box of nails and you have yourself a nice bat. In possession of a flashlight and a computer tower? Make a “Hacker” and use it to shock zombies as well as loot ATMs for $10,000 a machine. Progressing in Dead Rising 2 will earn Chuck Combo Cards. They allow the player to earn double the experience points as well as use said combined weapon’s stronger attack, usually by holding down on the attack button. My favorite combined weapon? The Power Guitar (electric guitar plus an amplifier). Watch as Chuck plays a few notes and the sound waves make some heads explode…literally! Other favorites are the Plate Launcher (cement saw plus plates) and the Laser Sword (flashlight plus gems — the combination alone is hilarious to me).
The biggest addition? Cooperation. Two friends can jump online and play the game together. My friend, who was already maxed out in his stats, actually helped me a whole lot with Dead Rising 2. One of the more notorious aspects of both games is how difficult it is in the beginning. The games are meant to be played more than once, as they allow the player to carry earned experience over to a new game after a game over or a case failure. Playing with a friend, especially a friend with experience, helps ease the pain a bit. The difficulty and strategies the player will need to implement make leveling up feel like an accomplishment and it’s definitely a rewarding experience. The only problem we’ve been experiencing is that usually if I save, the joining player is disconnected. It’s VERY annoying, especially if the player has issues rejoining the game afterwards. Capcom needs to get on the issue immediately.
As of this post, I’m at level 41 or 42 of 50, I was told. I have a small number of cases to go. I can carry many items, pull off many moves (I love the elbow drop), and survive the boss battles better than I could at level 5. The boss battles are marginally better than its predecessor’s. I can fight them any time, leave at any point, prepare at my leisure, and reenter the fight. They don’t require that much strategy. Avoid their attacks and then strike, although with the awkward way Chuck controls, taking hits is inevitable.
Additionally, I recommend downloading Dead Rising 2: Case Zero. Not only is it a pretty fun sample of the full game, but reaching its max of level 5 will transfer over to Dead Rising 2 itself, giving the player a slight advantage in the beginning moments.