First of all, I wanna say that I give this game a solid 4.5 stars, or 9/10. Wouldn't it be great if Amazon used a 10 star rating system?!
If you're somebody who's never played Dead Rising, I think you may still find this review helpful in deciding whether to buy Dead Rising 2. If nothing else, check out sections 8 and 9.
If you've played the original Dead Rising and don't want to read a review this long, you should scroll down to parts 3, 8 and 9.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction & Background
2. Overview & Story
3. The Save System
4. General Gameplay
5. Enemies, Weapons, & Combat
9. Who Should Buy This Game?
1. INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND:
It's been over four years since the original Dead Rising was released exclusively for Microsoft's then-less-than-year-old Xbox 360. It featured a wildly fun blend of absurd improvised weapons, a large game world to explore, dozens of original characters, and plenty of over-the-top Japanese humor. Oh, and Zombies. Lots and lots of old school, dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks, slower-than-Rosie-O'Donnel-after-a-big-meal Zombies. And we found them as fun to kill as they found us delicious to eat.
All of these things made Dead Rising stand out from the pack, not just of games in general, but also the survival horror genre itself. I mean, what kind of game allows you to use a machine gun on your enemies one second, and the next, if you so choose, throw a giant stuffed teddy bear at them? What kind of game pits you against not only the undead, but enemies such as an opera singing clown who twirls around with two chainsaws, or a 300 pound lesbian police woman, or a Rambo wannabe who owns a camping supply store? No doubt about it, Dead Rising is truly a modern classic. Unfortunately, for all of its virtues, it had several very obvious and frustrating flaws.
Seeing as how many of the people reading this will most likely be familiar with the original Dead Rising, I will make reference to it throughout this review, comparing the two games along the way, noting improvements and, in some cases, setbacks.
2. OVERVIEW & STORY.
I'm not a big fan of reviews that go deep into plots (they usually just end up spoiling the game, don't they?), so I'll only make a few remarks in that direction.
You don't have to look any further than the game's package to realize that you no longer play as photographer Frank West. Instead, you play as former Motocross champ Chuck Greene. It's been 5 years since the zombie outbreak at Willamette, and the hordes of undead have been either killed or captured. But before the situation became under control, Chuck's wife was killed, and his daughter, Katey, bitten. Fortunately for Chuck and Katey, there exists a drug, Zombrex, that prevents a bitten person from turning into a zombie. Thing is, it's gotta be administered every 24 hours, or the transformation to a zombie will take place.
As if Chuck didn't have enough to worry about in caring for his would-be zombie daughter, a horde of zombies is *intentionally* released from captivity, and Chuck is framed for it. And so Dead Rising 2 begins. After the orchestrated outbreak, our hero manages to get to a safe room (which plays the role the security room did in the first game), along with his daughter and a handful of other survivors. From there, Chuck must venture from safety in search of Zombrex for Katey, other survivors, and ultimately the person who framed him.
3. THE SAVE SYSTEM:
Let's get this question out of the way right off the bat. Anyone one who played the original Dead Rising knows what a joke its save system was. First of all, you were only allowed one save slot per storage device, so multiple games, back-up saves for safety, and experimentation were out of the picture. As if that weren't bad enough, you had to either go to the security room, or else find a bathroom in order to save your game. Problem was, bathrooms were few and far between. That's a pretty big deal when you're playing a game that runs on a a very sensitive and strict time limit. You'd very often find yourself doing the math on whether or not you had time to go find a save point, or risk dying to beat the clock. I mean, let's say you take 10 minutes to find a save point, that could very well have meant that when you loaded up your game next, you found yourself with too little time to complete an objective, because finding the save point took too long. And if it happened to be a main story objective that you didn't have time to complete, well then it sucked to be you, because that meant you had to start the game all over again if you wanted to finish the story! Or let's say you came across an unexpected boss battle on the way to a save point, and you got yourself killed -- that could mean hours and hours of gameplay lost. S***! Now, I have no objection to challenging games per se', but if a game is challenging, it should be by *design*, not by design *flaw*. To sum it up, the original Dead Rising's gameplay was a blend of 90% OMGBBQ awesomeness and OMGWTF? time-wasting flaws. Playing through it was a little like being married to a spectacularly beautiful woman -- only she sounded like Barry White and smelled faintly of burning tires. But I digress...
So, did Capcom fix the flaws in what would otherwise be the best game since Checkers? I'd say yes, and no. Mostly Yes. You now have *3* save slots, and bathrooms are much, much more plentiful, generally being located in each area of the map. This allows the kind of breathing room that truly makes this sequel a more enjoyable game. Sure, I'd prefer a save-anywhere-anytime system (and you probably would, too), but what Dead Rising 2 offers is definitely a reasonable improvement. In short, if the overly restrictive save system was you problem with Dead Rising, I think you will be satisfied with the extra leeway given to you in this sequel.
(Just as an aside, remember what game saving used to be like? Remember the original Nintendo? Remember the fat neighbor kid getting up from the couch to get another Pepsi and his prodigious bulk being enough to send tremors through floor that were just disruptive enough to freeze the game you just spent all Saturday morning playing? Well, I do. And looking back, I'm pretty grateful for today's save systems in general!)
4. GENERAL GAMEPLAY:
Instead of reinventing the wheel with Dead Rising 2, Capcom kept all that they did right, and tried to fix what they did wrong. Such close similarities to a previous game would be feel like lazy design in most cases, but Dead Rising's formula is so original, fun, and addicting, that the similarities feel more like smart design choices than they do lazy cop outs. While the core of the game, location type, time-sensistive gameplay, and enemies are essentially the same, this a true sequel. So, what's the same and what's different?
First and most obvious, the location is brand new. Willamette is miles away. DR2 takes place in Fortune City, Nevada -- a Gambling mecca that was built over what used to be Las Vegas. The particular place you find yourself in is in fact another shopping center with dozens of unique stores. Even though it's generally the same type of setting, because of the different stores, objects, surroundings, and even music, Fortune City has a very different vibe to it than Willamette's shopping mall. In other words, it's no re-hash.
The type of objectives in Dead Rising 2 are very similar to the first game's. You have a person informing you of the locations of survivors in the shopping center, and you fight your way to them in attempted rescue. This is a much less frustrating process in this sequel. For one thing, in the first game, if you didn't have an HDTV, you were probably out of luck when it came to reading the text that informed you of mission updates and objective details. It was a frustrating guessing game as to what you were *actually supposed to do*. Capcom has fixed this; the text in DR2 is much larger and is contrasted nicely against a much more forgiving background. Also, when it comes to actually escorting survivors, they are much more alert and competent when navigating through zombies and defending themselves. And, as for actually getting them into the safe room, instead of having to clear out an elevator full of zombies, force the survivors to enter the elevator, and then take them too a roof where they may or may not feel like jumping up to the platform where the duct to safety was located, you now simply take them down a hall and down some stairs into a room where the duct is located. Much, much simpler.
Also, while action packed and often intense, this game is refreshing in that it doesn't take itself too seriously. For example, one of the unique things about the game world is that you can wear almost any clothing you find in the mall. Let me tell you, it adds a whole new dynamic to cut scenes when Chuck is wearing short shorts and a giant teddy bear head!
5. ENEMIES, WEAPONS, & COMBAT:
The undead are obviously the most common enemy. They act and move like the idiots that they are. One zombie is no threat, but face large numbers of them, and you've got your work cut out for ya. But again, wherever you look, you have the improvised weapons you need to easily defeat these flesh hungry morons.
In addition to zombies, Dead Rising 2 has some fantastic bosses, just as the first game did. I have to say, this is one of my favorite things to find in a game. I happen to be a huge fan of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, and I know at least part of that appeal has to do with MGS's memorable, over-the-top boss battles. But whereas those bosses are usually very eccentric in a dramatic way, Dead Rising 2's bosses are very eccentric in a funny and silly way. When you beat them, the toughness of the fight isn't was sticks out in your mind, instead you find yourself thinking, "Man, that guy was CRAZY!" You have to tale down some real loons in this game and I'll betcha they'll remind you of at least one loopy person that you know.
In the wake of the chaos caused by the new zombie outbreak, looters occupy the mall, looking to get those fancy rollerblades they couldn't previously afford. These chumps are faster, tougher, and more deadly than the zombies, but a few whacks to the head with a bat (or whatever) will convince them to lay down for a while (if you know what I mean).
Special Operations Soldiers.
These guys don't show up until the end of Day 3. Unknown to the survivors, this isn't a rescue squad, but a clean-up crew. Anyone unlucky enough to find themselves in Fortune City when they show up better be ready for a fight. Unlike the zombies, even one of these special ops guys can pose a threat if you don't handle them in the right way.
In terms of melee combat, Dead Rising 2 feels almost identical to the first one, except that there seem to be slip ups now and then when weapons don't make hits, even though they made contact in the animation. This problem is very minor, and doesn't take much away from the gameplay.
Of course, at the heart of it, combat in this game is mostly about using whatever you can to work your way through the masses of undead. Saw blades, pearl necklaces, CD's, shotguns, umbrellas, swords, bottles of vodka . . . literally, whatever! Make use of it all to survive the fight!
What's more, Capcom has stepped it up with a really nifty weapons combo system. There are workshops located throughout the game in which you can combine certain objects to make super weapons. Have some nails and a bat? Combine them to make a spiked club. Or, taken straight from a drunken four year-old's idea of what it's like to be Wolverine, you could put knives through your boxing gloves and make some lethal hand claws! There are so many combos to put together, and not only do they make you more deadly, you get more experience points for using them, and they last longer than normal weapons. Win, win.
One of the biggest improvement in DR2 is the refined gunplay. In the last game, you'd have to pull the right trigger to bring up your sights, and press X to shoot, which just felt awkward to anyone who's ever played a modern day shooter. Even when you got the sights up, moving your crosshair around was less than smooth, making gun combat more of a hassle than a thrill. In Dead Rising 2, however, they've switched to the much more intuitive layout of using the left trigger to bring up the sights, and the right trigger to fire. As a result, aiming is much smoother and more responsive. Even the crosshair itself is refined, having gone from a lifeless "plus" sign, to a fully functional reticle that indicates when you can and can't take accurate shots (by shrinking and expanding, depending on movement).
Oddly enough, hand to hand fighting has changed for the worse. Chuck's combat move list is noticeably smaller than Frank's was. Not a big deal though, as the weapons will keep you plenty busy.
The looks of Dead Rising 2 are only slightly better than the first's. The lighting and shadowing are better, but in reality, there have only been what look like minor texture and character model improvements. On the other hand, there are plenty of instances when there are far more zombies on screen at one time than in the original game (up to 7,0001!). What good would top notch visuals be if they only lead to lag? For all the action that's taking place, Dead Rising 2's graphics are respectable.
One thing that a lot of people will find annoying, though, is the sheer number and length of loading screens. They really chop up the pace and flow of the game. This will be to Dead Rising 2 what the crappy save system was to Dead Rising 1, in the sense that it's what people are going to be disappointed with about the most.
When it's all said and done, I don't find less than stellar graphics and frequent loading screens to be that big of a hinderance. I mean, I just played through Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic the other day. Outdated graphics? Yes. One of the best game experiences, even to this day? Absolutely. Beauty is only skin deep, as they say.
Sound effects are top-notch. Gun shots, baseball bats, knife slashing, zombie moans, chainsaws -- everything sounds just like it should. The voice acting is pretty good, too. Don't expect Oscar level performances, but given the wacky and goofy nature of the characters, everything feels spot on. However, there is still a fair bit of text to be read when interacting with survivors, and with transmissions over the radio. Why couldn't they have gone with fully voiced performances at these points? Don't tell me it's because of disc space (just think Oblivion). As far as music goes, it fits the game well. It's mostly silly Muzak type stuff, but I can't think of anything that'd work better.
Dead Rising 2 represents another step forward for a genre-busting horror franchise that's at once action filled and laid back. It's built upon a foundation that champions inventive combat, humor, exploration, and experimentation. While easy to grasp, the story is engaging and entertaining -- it's a tale of a man fighting to save his daughter, the people around him, and his good name. While combat is very similar to that of its predecessor, the new weapons and weapon combo system are enough to keep you busy as you come up with new and crazy ways to take down your enemies. Even though Dead Rising 2 fixes the main problems associated with the first game, such as the flawed save and shooting systems, it introduces a few new flaw of its own, such as lengthy and frequent load times. But this is relatively minor, and, on balance with such excellent gameplay, it can easily be overlooked. All in all, Dead Rising 2 is the product of some of the most creative and talented people in the game making industry, setting the bar even higher for the zombie action genre.
9. WHO SHOULD BUY THIS GAME?
FOR THOSE NEW TO DEAD RISING:
Even if you've never played the first game, and never plan to (for whatever reason), Dead Rising 2 would still be very accessible to you. It is not a direct continuation of the first game's story, taking place 5 years after, with an entirely different character. While there are references to the first game's story, Dead Rising 2 is an adventure in itself. In any event, good summaries of the original Dead Rising can be easily found online. If an action horror survival game that doesn't take itself too seriously sounds like your thing, try this one out.
If you're a big fan of first person shooters, and really like autosave checkpoints, and linear levels, and nothing else, then don't buy this game. It's probably not your thing. On the other hand, you might acquire a taste for it. Give it a rent.
If you don't like bloody games for yourself or perhaps your kids, pass this one up altogether. It's violent, it's gory. Heads, limbs, and torsos fly left and right.
FOR DEAD RISING VETS:
If you played and enjoyed the first game, what are you waiting for? Order this already! You won't be sorry.
If you kind of liked the first game, but didn't like the save system, know that that's been fixed. You now have 3 save slots, and save points are easily found. You should give Dead Rising 2 a shot.
If you didn't like the basic gameplay and concept of the original Dead Rising, then I can almost guarantee you you won't like this game, either. It's very heavily based on its older brother.
If you beat Dead Rising 1 in less than a week, and never played it again, give this one a rent. Even with the online elements, it has a very similar length and replay value as the original. It may not be worth it to you to spend full price on the game.
Thanks for reading!
My Gamertag: Bob Loblaw556