The first quarter of an hour with Dead Rising 2 is a confusing, oddly paced affair that does little to instill much confidence. Without the Xbox 360 exclusive ‘Case Zero’ introduction we’re literally thrown into the character of Chuck Greene, clad in his motocross gear and about to enter a caged, ramped hall full of zombies. On his bike. One slightly clumsy (and naturally, rather predictable) outcome occurs which leaves the zombies free to wreak havoc and Greene’s daughter, Katey, having to contend with regular doses of the drug Zombrex to keep a transformation to the dark side at bay.
An hour or so in and the game starts to find its feet – the survivors have holed up together in a secure area of the complex (the game’s set in a location similar in look and feel to Las Vegas), Greene’s principal motivations are explained (his daughter’s ritual aside, he quickly finds out he’s being framed for the zombie outbreak) and the game has opened up its weaponry and introduced the notion of combining items (the first marriage is a deadly item betwixt steel and wood). From there, it only gets better. And better.
Dead Rising 2 is actually really good. Once the Cases start, a series of progressively tougher missions that make up the game’s exposition, things start to fall into place. There’s evidently scant time to complete both the Cases and the sidequests, at least on your first run through with the game, so prioritising your efforts into either discovering the truth or leveling up your character via the almost limitless streams of cries for help and diversions. Overarching all of Greene’s bloody to-do list is the fact that the military are coming – in 72 hours.
Weapons are numerous and limited in scope only by your imagination. Greene has a limited number of slots for weapons carried at any one time (and we recommend using at least two of those slots for food in case you need health) but there’s pockets of survivors in and amongst the zombie hordes, humans that need your help (and your bullets) and those that want you as dead as the shambling shufflers that populate most of Fortune City so choose your arsenal carefully. Not that there’s anything wrong with diving into thousands of zombies with a water pistol and a giant teddy bear.
Thus, a seemingly bloodthirsty, meandering survival horror belies its true depth – yes, you can run around slicing up the undead with chainsaws strapped to cricket bats, but there’s a comprehensive system of quests and missions that are ripe for the taking and you’ll find you get much more out of the game the more you put in. We’ve been playing Dead Rising 2 for a few days and have had a blast, it’s a smart title with bags of potential, despite our preview version being a little off the final code. Visually, for example, it’s a bit hit and miss, but we’re hoping things will be tidied up before the game hits the shelves.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a casino to save.