Clowns. I frigginâ€™ hate them. And you know what I hate more than clowns? Psychotic clowns with twin chainsaws. Needless to say, the original Dead Rising was not a great choice for someone with Coulrophobia like myself. But as a professional, I looked at the opportunity to play the sequel as therapy to cure me once and for all.
Dead Rising 2 continues the zombie slaying madness of the original, but this time moves the carnage to Fortune City, Nevada. Obviously inspired by Las Vegas, itâ€™s a city that never sleeps, filled with booze, gambling, strippers and bright neon lights. Itâ€™s also a zombie-infested hell on Earth.
This time around, players fill the zombie-kicking boots of Chuck Greene, a caring father and recent participant of a game show titled â€˜Terror is Realityâ€™. In a frighteningly believable twist in reality TV, this game show is all about killing zombies for sport. It has contestants trying to out-slay one another by chopping up zombies with chainsaw mounted motorcycles in a circular arena. Think of the movie â€˜Running Manâ€™ but with lots of moaning and staggering around. However Chuck hasnâ€™t signed up for mindless violence, instead heâ€™s doing it to save his daughter Katey. A recent victim, Katey requires a daily dose of an expensive drug called Zombrex to avoid being turned into one of the undead herself. â€˜Terror is Realityâ€™ offers a much needed $10,000 cash prize for first place.
This sensitive motive for the zombie-slaughter helps give Chuck (resembling a cross between Lorenzo Lamas and Sawyer from Lost) some personality to his character. Itâ€™s a welcome change considering how one-dimensional photographer Frank West was in the first Dead Rising game. You soon find out that poor Chuck also recently lost his wife to the zombie uprising and is now a single daddy.
As if that wasnâ€™t bad enough, things start to go horribly wrong for Chuck on the set of â€˜Terror is Realityâ€™. Despite how safe a TV show featuring thousands of brain-lusty zombies looks on paper, our hero soon finds himself up the proverbial when the entire cast of the walking dead are mysteriously released from their holding pens. It isnâ€™t long before Fortune City is overrun by hordes of zombies all keen for a snack; with Chuck and young Katey holed up in the middle.
From here the gameplay is very similar to the original game. Any hope for rescue is three days away and on top of just staying alive, youâ€™ll need to scavenge around for precious Zombrex for Katey, rescuing the 118 other survivors in the city, take down a few thousand zombies and of course meet a few crazy-looking characters who might help or hinder you along the way.
But with the first game being released back in 2006, Capcom have been busy injecting new life into Dead Rising 2. The original developing team have returned for the sequel, including Keiji Inafune, the head of Research & Development at Capcom. References to Inafuneâ€™s genius are littered throughout the game, including Katey playing MegaMan and carrying on about how sheâ€™s unlocked a new special move. The traditional Capcom style of portraying dialogue with extensive pop-ups of text has also been kept in Dead Rising 2, but thankfully they all possess the option to skip them.
One of the main areas of improvement lies with the environments in Fortune City, which are more immersive and interactive than the shopping mall setting in the first game. Players can expect a lot more zombies this time around. In fact, the number of bodies that the game can handle onscreen at one time has increased from 800 in the original, to over 7000.
Some of the game dynamics have changed as well. Without Frank the photojournalist, the concept of taking award-winning photos of a zombie with a road-cone on his head has been ditched for a much more exciting prospect. Dead Rising 2 rewards players for inventive and eccentric weapon building instead.
Almost every object you see can be picked up and used as a weapon, including pot-plants, street signs and even milk cartons. When combining these items, the sheer number of ways to eviscerate the undead is staggering. In fact Dead Rising 2 has 300 types of object to interact with, each complete with their own animations and after-effects when used in different ways. For example you can find a baseball bat at the local sports store and a box of nails at the hardware depot and youâ€™re now the proud owner of a spiky bashing stick. Grab a car battery and a gardening rake and you have an electric long-ranged claw. Visit the toy shop for a remote control helicopter and shove some blades on the rotors. Vacuum cleaner meets saw blades, football meets hand-grenade, bucket meets cordless drill. The list goes on and on.
Of course there are guns too, including pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and more. But after running around with a Fender bass guitar and smashing zombies into next week, a gun just seems so mundane.
Chuck can level up most of his attributes as well, such as upgrading his combo weapons, health, special moves and inventory slots. Players get rewarded with points for special flair in taking down zombies and also for finding and escorting stranded survivors to the safe house in one piece.
The graphics in Dead Rising 2 do a great job of bringing the incredibly detailed environments to life. As mentioned, the sheer number of bodies on screen is impressive on its own but every individual zombie is also beautifully animated. Just sitting back and watching a gaggle of the undead stagger around is good fun. Some of the numerous blood splatters are a tad rough around the edges but youâ€™ll still marvel at the way clothes and objects get bloodied when you start pummeling your way through the masses. The variety of the undead is impressive, with zombie cops, fast moving guys in Hawaiian shirts, cleaners without arms, builders in hard-hats, wheelchair pushers and recently turned tourists littering the city. The living characters in the game are full of charm and individuality as well, making you feel genuinely passionate about saving them from certain doom. Scattered around Fortune City youâ€™ll find a gun-touting Texan couple, Vegas-like showgirls, a French cook, a drop-dead gorgeous reporter and even a heavy metal band whose power riffs can make zombiesâ€™ heads explode. There are plenty of annoying characters who you would just like to leave behind to slowly perish, too.
On top of the normal singleplayer, which spans across a virtual 72-hour time period (around 10 hours of gameplay) Dead Rising 2 includes the Overtime mode that adds an extra 24-hours to the storyline. It also includes online co-op play to allow your friends to join in for two-player zombie-slaying. Although the multiplayer takes a bow to the single player experience, there is also an online tournament mode based around the â€˜Terror is Realityâ€™ TV show where players can earn prize money that Chuck can use in the game.
There are one or two issues that drop Dead Rising 2 down a couple of notches. With the staggering number of animated corpses on screen at any time, the game is broken down into small areas or sections of the map. Although there is plenty of zombie-stomping to be had in each one, walking between the areas requires a time consuming load before you can enter the next. Considering the PS3 version installs a decent chunk onto your hard-disk, these load screens can detract from the manic action in between. Especially considering how there are times where youâ€™ll need to run from one end of the map to the next and incur two or three load screens in between.
The only other factor is that the gameplay is very structured around a chronological mission system. Having to constantly check your watch and ensure you plan your time correctly is a large part of the game. For most of the game, it works brilliantly and there will be moments of panic when you realise you only have an hour left to save your daughter and youâ€™re knee deep in zombie bits. But because the time is so regimented, youâ€™ll seldom have a chance to just relax and take in the beauty of what Capcom have put together. If you do try and cruise through it at your own pace, you run the risk of failing the game entirely or missing out on a large chunk of the story.
But despite these minor niggles, Dead Rising 2 is a shotgun barrel of fun. There really is so much to do and so little time to do it. Youâ€™ll hardly ever get bored of running around torturing zombies with all manners of sadistic, man-made equipment. You can even take some R&R time to play strip poker with the ladies youâ€™ve rescued back at the safehouse. Just expect to see Chuck reduced down to his heart-patterned boxer shorts most of the time.
Most importantly, this game finally brings the Dead Rising franchise to the PS3 so that non-Xbox and non-Wii owners can get a taste of the action. Iâ€™m happy to say I didnâ€™t encounter any clowns either. But a crazy fat guy in a rubber rat suit didnâ€™t do my rodent phobia much good.