Capcom made the Resident Evil series, and because of that, we’re forever obliged to acknowledge them as the forefathers of the survival horror genre – but let’s be honest shall we? Resident Evil, with its clunky controls and nonsensical gameplay appealed only to a select group of masochists. We’d begun to think we’d seen everything Capcom had to offer, until they released Dead Rising on the Xbox 360.
In addition to being free of the trademark wading-hip-deep-in-treacle feeling that plagued horror games to that point, Dead Rising gave us the feeling of being swarmed by thousands of zombies for the first time ever. It also vindicated Resident Evil fans by letting them do the things they’d always wished they could do to those damn zombies, like slicing them in half with a sword or putting a silly hat on them and taking a picture before running them over with a lawnmower. The game was worthy of praise and received it, and now the anticipated sequel, Dead Rising 2, has finally arrived.
In Dead Rising 2, players take on the role of Chuck Greene, a former motocross champion gone gameshow competitor. With is gameshow winnings he buys a constant supply of Zombrex, a drug which prevents an infected person from turning into a zombie. The reason he needs this drug is for his 11-year-old daughter, Katey, who was bitten by a zombie during an outbreak in Las Vegas (these events take place during the downloadble prequel: Case Zero). If she doesn’t get her daily dose, well, you know the rest. This was hardly an ideal lifestyle, but all was going well until, during a routine performance in Chuck and Katey’s new-found home of Fortune City, Nevada, the zombies manage to break out of containment, forcing Chuck and his daughter to flee to a local safehouse. While holed up waiting for a rescue, Chuck learns that he is being framed for the zombie outbreak, leaving him with only three days to prove his innocence before the military rescue teams turn up and execute him.
To achieve this, Chuck must brave the zombie outbreak and wander into the overrun area of Fortune City to find out who set him up and why. While he’s at it, he must also keep an eye out for regular doses of Zombrex for his daughter. As if that weren’t enough, he must also rescue as many survivors as he can along the way.
Proving his innocence is the highest priority. During the three day outbreak, Chuck will receive messages from his friend in the safe house control room telling him about suspicious activity he can investigate. Chuck has only a limited amount of time to get to the right area and see what’s up. If he misses even one of them, the main quest is over. Finding his little girl regular doses of Zombrex is the second most important quest. This coveted and expensive drug can be rather hard to track down, as there are only a few boxes hidden in the most obscure locations. Luckily, each time his daughter nears her scheduled dosage hour, a “possible Zombrex location” quest conveniently pops up. The real trouble comes in when some other survivors might need Zombrex too. Can Chuck find enough for all of them? That’s up to you. Of course, if you absolutely can’t find any, you can buy it from the looter-owned pawn shops that have sprung up all over Fortune City – the problem is that it’s very expensive, and each dose costs more than the last.
Rescuing survivors is perhaps the least important of Chuck’s quests, but makes up perhaps the largest portion of the gameplay. While he’s out and about, Chuck will be notified of areas where survivors are hiding, and he’ll have to decide how many rescues he can squeeze in between proving his innocence and keeping his daughter alive. Thankfully, the survivors are much smarter and more capable than in the first game. In DR2, they are usually more than capable of avoiding zombies, and even pretty good at defending themselves if give them weapons. Just be careful when giving them guns – I learned that the hard way.
Obviously, the main attraction here is destroying hordes of zombies with an arsenal of weapons, both conventional and bizarre – and Dead Rising 2 doesn’t disappoint. Chuck can find and use hundreds of weapons, from improvised household items like brooms, potted plants and guitars, to sports equipment like baseball bats and boxing gloves. There are also all kinds of tools like lawnmowers, power drills and chainsaws; and conventional weapons like handguns, shotguns and sniper rifles. But the real crux of DR2’s gameplay is the ability to create combo weapons. By combining two items at workbenches scattered around the city, Chuck can engineer all kinds of weird tools of destruction. Some of them are obvious: a box of nails and a baseball bat gives you the nailbat, and oil plus a toy water gun gives you a flamethrower. Some of them, however, are just plain crazy, like the drill bucket. This weapon is created by combining a power drill and a bucket and then placing it on the zombies’ heads. You simply won’t believe the rest of them.
Two new features in DR2 are the ability to play the game co-operatively with a friend, and to play an online mini game called Terror Is Reality online. If you compete in this zombie-slaying gameshow, you’ll earn money which Chuck can use in the game, and also etch your score onto the online leaderboards to prove how bloodthirsty you are.
With all of this, it’s hard to see how DR2 couldn’t be a bucket-load of fun. It takes the clunkiness we usually associate with survival horror and throws it out in favour of pure zombie slaying joy. It’s still tough though, and even though Chuck can bash through zombies easily, their sheer numbers and relentlessness make them dangerous. There’s plenty to do and it’s all fun, making Dead Rising 2 the zombie game to play right now.