Thursday, 30 September 2010

Game Review - Dead Rising 2

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Everyone loves zombies; it’s a plain and simple fact because we all know how much fun can be had against hordes of the living dead. The original Dead Rising proved this by setting Frank West loose in mall filled to the brim with the horrible creatures, allowing you to use everything and anything you could find to get through the masses of infected. The game’s clever story that was controlled quite furiously by an in-game clock, joined hand in hand with the slaughtering of zombies to bring a fantastic game to the Xbox 360. Quite obviously the idea of not fixing what is not broken was priority number one for Blue Castle Games and Capcom, as Dead Rising 2 brings back the same action packed style of game-play, this time in Fortune City, a much larger and more expansive environment. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the game once again does a great job bringing an intriguing and twisting story to the table, while at the same time providing endless amounts of fun with brand new weapons, the ability to combine items into super weapons and of course, unlimited amounts of zombies for you to use those weapons on. Dead Rising 2 is let down somewhat however, by slight inconsistencies in hand-to-hand combat, some rather unusual fighting mechanics that weren’t passed on from the original and pretty heavy loading times unless you install the game onto the hard-drive. Nevertheless, this is one awesome package that holds so many positives that they outweigh these negatives.

The story behind Dead Rising 2 is meaningful and deep, allowing you to easily become attached to the main protagonist Chuck Greene. The goal for Chuck is two-folded, he must first keep his little daughter from transforming into a zombie by finding and giving her the anti-zombie drug Zombrex every 24 hours, while at the same time find out why he was framed for letting the zombies into Fortune City. This leads to a frantic paced adventure where you must juggle your time wisely to keep yourself from failing the game and forcing a restart.

This is not as bad as it actually sounds because to complete Dead Rising 2 you will probably have to restart at least a couple of times. This is largely due to the story mechanic employed where by if you do not complete the story missions in their set time, the game ends and you are simply free to run around and kill zombies in areas you have unlocked. This proves to be an excellent opportunity to level up and obtain the use of new combo weapons as this all crosses over if you start the story arch again. Due to Dead Rising 2 having so much content, hidden features and great environments to explore, it’s hard to juggle all of this while staying on top of the main story, which does move at a frantic pace. As a result, you might find yourself playing through once to level Chuck up and make him a zombie killing terminator, then attempt to clear the story missions and find out the horrible truth behind Fortune City. Even after that you will find yourself playing it over and over to uncover all the secret goodies this game has to offer. This may seem like quite a demanding and stressful approach to a campaign mode, but it is this unique experience that defines Dead Rising as a franchise and once you become accustomed to the pace of the game, it shouldn’t prove an issue.

Dead Rising 2 unravels the story in ever so funny fashion. The incredibly serious and over-dramatic tone of the characters is merged perfectly with the stereotypical cast of zombie survivors to create a pretty funny mesh of cut-scenes. What is perhaps most entertaining is the ability to carry over any clothes you find and put on Chuck in Fortune City, into the game’s cut-scenes. This proves to be hilarious time and time again when Chuck steps out to talk about his daughter’s life in a mankini. Dead Rising 2 never takes itself seriously and shows its playful nature over and over, making it an easy game to dwell deeper and deeper and get caught in the goings on of Fortune City.

The silly and over-the-top story presentation also seems to infect the actual game-play of Dead Rising 2. While not as strong in hand-to-hand combat as Frank West, Chuck Greene now has the ability to combine almost everything he finds in Fortune City, into combo weapons to deal explosive amounts of damage and gain valuable amounts of experience points. You are able to take items into maintenance rooms and experiment with them in order to see if you can make a whacky weapon, for example combining a metal bucket and a drill creates a drill bucket that you put on zombies heads and watch as their brains spill everywhere, brutally satisfying. The catch is you must find and uncover combo cards that not only show you the designated items to create certain weapons, but also give you the ability to use that weapons special move and therefore, giving you more experience points. These cards are obtained everywhere, from levelling up, to rescuing survivors, to even finding them scattered across Fortune City, so this opens up plenty of additional hours to try and find the best and craziest weapons, wheel chair combined with Uzi sub-machine guns anyone?

While you’re not spending time rushing from one cut-scene to the next or building weapons of mass zombie genocide, you will find yourself helping survivors in Fortune City. Most of your experience points will certainly come from saving these characters, who all have their own personality and style, making each and every rescue fun in its own right. Some will follow you willingly; others won’t budge until you find their partner, or until you do something for them. Regardless, once they get going you need to get them to the safe house as quickly as possible. The AI has been greatly improved over the original, but survivors can be still very slow and this can ruin the pace the game sets, especially if you’re trying to get some survivor points while attempting the story arch. Thankfully you can give them weapons and they will defend themselves while moving through the hordes of un-dead and eventually you will become adept at taking certain routes to get them home safe and infection free.

There are of course, other dangers in Fortune City aside from zombies and inevitably, they are man. Psychopaths serve as the boss battles during the game and while don’t bring anything technical to the plate other than bashing them around while they are not moving, it still changes the pace of the game for that period of time and helps the game’s versatility. Each Psychopath also has his own gruesome back-story that has been well thought out and is actually very enjoyable to listen to. Nevertheless, slightly sluggish controls are quite visible when you take on something that isn’t as slow as the zombies and this proves to be one of the only real drawbacks in Dead Rising 2, the omission of any real form of technicality in the fighting mechanics and the occasional non-registered punch here and there. Nevertheless, looters, insane motorcyclists, crazy chefs and many more hilarious yet demonic figures will stand in your way and it is every bit as satisfying chopping them down, as the zombies.

Dead Rising 2 also brings to the table a pretty entertaining online – cooperative mode. This allows a friend to jump into your world and help you do, well everything really, from rescuing survivors to continuing the story missions. The latter feels a little strange with a friend because the story is so personal to your decisions and you dictate the outcome, but going on zombie massacres is a whole load of fun with a friend. You have to stay in the same area as each other so you cannot go and explore all of Fortune City by yourself, but this is totally understandable as the processing power to handle everything going on and most importantly, the sheer volume of zombies, requires some limitations. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the online – competitive mode, which pits you against other players in mini-game like battles against each other for money to be spent in your campaign mode. These are all dull, repetitive and lack almost no inspiration and should for the most part, be left alone after a quick try.

Ultimately Dead Rising 2 offers a very clever open-ended adventure experience. It combines brainless fun with a structured and coherent story that guides you from objective to objective, insuring you are constantly moving and progressing. I cannot stress enough that it is the unique and clever driving mechanic of the in-game clock that really shines for this series. With a vast amount of reasons to replay the game, plenty of content, lots of ways to have fun and a serious story that holds it all together, there is almost nothing that you will not love about Dead Rising 2 and it’s fantastic campaign. Little can be differentiated between the two versions of the game on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, so you should purchase Dead Rising 2 for the machine that has hard-drive space in your household so you can install and shorten some of the elongated loading times but whatever you do, hurry up and get it!

Technical presentation – 9.0
Graphics – 7.0
Game-play – 8.0
Replay value – 10.0

Final score – 8.0 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl