Chuck Greene is a resourceful sort, not content with handguns, sniper rifles and chainsaws. Chuck likes to put plenty of imagination into his weaponry. It’s that imagination, and the necessity for experimentation, that shines through Dead Rising 2.
This is not the prettiest game you’ll ever play, it’s a touch rough around the edges and some of the character modelling and animations (particularly facial animation) looks dated by a few years. The voice work is regularly a little bit stilted and often overacted (perhaps by design) when it’s present at all – much of the dialogue is done via text-box.
The plot synopsis is easy (and spoiler-free). Chuck Greene is an ex motocross rider with a wife who went down in the zombie plague outbreak (which has spread from the outbreak featured in the first Dead Rising) and a daughter (Katey) who has been bitten. You find yourself in Fortune City taking part in a brutal zombie-killing reality TV show called Terror is Reality. This show involves riding a motorcycle, with chainsaws on each handlebar, through crowds of zombies. It also serves as the multiplayer side of the game.
When the show is over it becomes apparent that Fortune City has fallen to the outbreak and is rapidly filling with zombies. Chuck, controlled by you (with a co-op partner if you wish), must murder his way through swathes of zombies in order to find the Zombrex drug his daughter needs in order to stave off the zombie parasite. There will also be side missions involving the rescue of survivors and some further storyline developments that require Chuck to deviate from his search for Zombrex. You have seventy-two hours until the military arrive and you must get Katey her Zombrex every 24 hours between seven and eight AM.
One potential stumbling block for Dead Rising 2 is that it’s not mechanically like anything else. You might expect to be able to play through the game, returning to check points when you die and generally being a hero and saving the day. That’s not how Dead Rising 2 (or its predecessor) is built. The aim is to fight through the game, gaining PP points which eventually level up your character. Then when you die, and you will inevitably “fail” the game in some way, you start playing again from the beginning with your pre-levelled character.
The first time through it is hard work. You don’t have much health and you only have space to carry a few weapons. You will not rescue as many survivors as you want, you will probably die (although the three save-game slots help here) and you will most likely finish the game (remember, seventy-two hours until the military arrive? That’s your deadline) in what most would perceive as failure.
The game has multiple endings and ratings for how well you’ve done so far. This means that the replay value, and there is a mountain of that, is in repeated run-throughs of the story in an effort to save more survivors, find more Zombrex and kill more zombies in a more imaginative way.
Survivors are one of the keys to success with Dead Rising 2. The more you rescue, the better you will rank when the game reaches its climax. Unfortunately, they often need an overly long session of text-box conversation in order to cajole them into letting you rescue them. Once they are following you they will often shoot you or each other with their weapons or manage to fall a few yards behind and not follow you through the doors – and one of the many loading screens – to the next area. This forces you to go back through the door – and overly-long loading screen – in order to collect them again and repeat your transition.
This brings us neatly on to the weapons. Much has been made, in early previews, of the combo weapons system. Essentially, there are multiple items you can combine at any of the numerous workbenches situated around the game-world in order to equip yourself with better, bigger or just funnier weapons. A canoe paddle with a chainsaw on each end, a teddy bear that acts as a sentry or a gun that freezes zombies.
The results of the discoverable Combo Cards are often bizarre but always effective and amusing. Unfortunately, the game rewards you more for not working out what might go with what. You will earn much greater amounts of PP if you use a combo weapon made after discovering its card than you will if you just work out what to combine. So you’re encouraged not to experiment. This is perhaps a measure to stop players remembering their combos for subsequent run-throughs but it still feels like I’m not supposed to use my own imagination.
Much of the appeal of Dead Rising 2 is in the humour. You can use almost everything you might find in the casino town shopping district as a weapon. You can beat a zombie to death, eventually, with a newspaper. On top of that, you may find numerous outfits around the game-world which you can then dress Chuck in. You might like to fight zombies while dressed as a cowboy or in a raccoon hat.
It’s charming, for sure, but it also feels perfectly pitched at the target audience for this game. The lingering camera pans on female character’s legs and the purposefully gauche humour further hint at a certain target audience and we have to admit: it is funny to watch a man dressed in a pink waitress’ dress beating in a zombie’s brains with a gumball machine.
- It has a unique play style, encouraging repeated play-throughs.
- Combo weapons are a great idea well imagined.
- Not afraid to be puerile in its humour.
- Awkward voice acting.
- Could look better.
- Too much loading and clunky text dialogue.
Dead Rising 2 is a game that’s all about fun. The narrative is not particularly strong or engaging but then, it doesn’t need to be. This game wears its heart on its sleeve in terms of what it’s all about and is entirely unapologetic in the pursuit of base humour and over the top violence. If you can live with the over-keen loading screens and the infuriating lack of sense from the survivors you attempt to rescue then you should enjoy it for many hours.