MEET CHUCK GREENE: reality TV star, ruggedlooking reluctant hero, father of one and an allround, brass balls zombie masher.
Dead Rising continues the Capcom zombiesplatting tradition with more of the same content, action and opportunities for dressing up. Set fi ve years after the original outbreak, Dead Rising 2 brings the player to an America infested with zombies and learning to live with it; so much so that zombies have become a source of entertainment and chainsaw fodder for the fantasy TV show ‘Terror is Reality’. The show, which forms the opening section of the game, introduces us to Chuck as a contestant and the setting of the game proper, Fortune City.
Fortune City is a grown-up playground, comprising entertainment, shopping, the show venue and some outdoor fun. As an environment, it does not differentiate itself all that much from the fi rst game. Shops and themed areas are aplenty, and all are backed up by service tunnels and areas under construction. It is all nicely modelled and pretty much everything is there as you would expect it to be, but the graphics do not feel that much improved.
The narrative of Dead Rising 2 unfolds in a similar vein to Dead Rising, relying on a case structure to feed the player missions and side missions. On one hand this gives the player opportunities to address certain parts of story in their own manner, but on the other they need to be aware of time slipping away. Progress in Dead Rising 2 is time-critical, and a less focused player will soon fi nd themselves short of time to complete an objective because they spent too long dallying in a shop killing zombies or trying on new sunglasses. All missions have a handy time bar that reduces as time goes by. A regular check-up on their status will keep you on track, and it is a useful visual guide to spur the player on to their next objective. It’s especially useful for those players who play for the gore alone; fail a case and the narrative will be lost. Instead of ending the game you can opt to continue zombie bashing unfettered by the story, at least until the military arrives.
One criticism of Dead Rising was the restrictive save structure. This has been addressed and now the player can utilise bathrooms all over Fortune City to choose one of three save slots at will. This allows for the traditional rotation of saves that will let you go back and correct a bad decision if required.
Lying around Fortune City there are many wonderful tools and toys to pick up and swing at zombies, not to mention the occasional vehicle, push cart and lawnmower. Be aware that items do not last forever, and even though you can pick up magazines that may buff up the life of an item, swinging away through a crowd of zombies is usually when your axe or bat gives up and vanishes. One of the newer additions to the game mechanic here is the Combo Card system: cards are rewarded to the player as the game progresses, and they are effectively blueprints for combining items into more advanced weapons. Once you have access to the maintenance rooms scattered around Fortune City and you carry the right components, you can strap them together to make something interesting. Take a baseball bat and a box of nails into the room and you come out with a spiked club. This is a fun addition to zombie killing, and some of the later combos are very imaginative indeed. But however well the gore and splatter is portrayed, I fi nd there is something missing from the combat.
The problem I have with Dead Rising 2 is that there is no real sense of dread or danger. Facing up to a crowd of lumbering zombies with my trusty baseball bat, I should feel anxious or at least a little concerned. It just seems at times easier and more preferable to skip around the waves of zombies rather than batter through them. Swing at a crowd and they all fall over, heavy attack with an axe and some limbs fl y off. Repeating such actions through a couple of hundred of them soon becomes a disconnected affair, especially when an obviously closed area is repopulated with creatures and items seconds later. Fortune City is a closed environment; if the developer had treated the infestation in the same way, the game could have had more tension. Imagine a fi nite number of zombies and weapons, making the game a skilful battle of survival rather than a button-mashing gore fest. Now that would have been interesting.
The ante has been upped as far as multiplayer modes; however they could not be tested on this pre-release review code. The game is packed with a straightforward co-op experience, allowing friends to team up, dress up and slaughter zombies together. There is also the online version of ‘Terror is Reality’, giving you the opportunity to compete in the show online and bring back any earnings to your campaign character. This game will no doubt appeal, and rightly so because there is plenty of fun to be had. But it could have been much more of an intense survival experience.