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Dead Rising 2 Review

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On 10/09/2010 at 05:51 PM by Chessa DiMola

A major improvement to the Dead Rising formula.

A must buy for fans of the original, and a definite rental for all others.

The first Dead Rising left something to be desired in nearly all aspects of its gameplay. Saving stranded individuals was an exercise in frustration, throwing random items at zombies delivered limited entertainment, and the entire experience felt disjointed and random, even for a sandbox game. Fortunately, Dead Rising 2 manages to overcome many of the pitfalls of its predecessor, with a solid storyline that ties in neatly with the improved gameplay. Though many of the smaller issues remain, the changes made to the Dead Rising formula greatly improve the overall experience.

Taking place in Fortune City, the game begins five years after the Willamette Mall incident, with the introduction of a new protagonist, former Motocross Champion, Chuck Greene. The world is much different from the one players previously explored in Dead Rising, as zombies are now used as a form of entertainment in a reality show, Terror is Reality, in which players on motorbikes compete to slaughter the most undead within a given time limit. In order to provide Zombrex for his daughter who was bitten by her zombie mother years before, Chuck has been reduced to partaking in the competition. Shortly after winning the event a mysterious explosion causes a zombie outbreak in Fortune City and Chuck is forced to find shelter with his daughter in a safe house. When finally back in safety, Chuck catches a news report that accuses him as being the one to cause the outbreak, thus he sets out to clear his name.

Like the original Dead Rising, players will be given a certain number of tasks to complete within a given amount of time, each displayed on the right side of the screen. Some lead to stranded civilians, others to Psychopath battles, and finally there are those guiding players to the next storyline chapters. What is different in regards to time management in Dead Rising 2 is Katey's need for Zombrex. Every 24 hours between seven and eight in the morning Chuck will have had to administer the crucial medication or Katey's story will cease to exist.

Though it is merely one very small addition to the gameplay, ensuring that Chuck has Zombrex on hand every day gives players something to work towards. I found that it easily tied the gameplay and storyline together in a manner that its predecessor could not achieve. While the task descriptions make it very clear for players to distinguish where to acquire the medication, it tends to become a constant concern in players' minds as they wait for an opportunity to go find it.

Though Zombrex hunting is a nice little addition, the new weapon combination system is definitely the highlight of Dead Rising 2. When Dead Rising originally released, the prospect of randomly walking through a mall and using everything in sight to attack zombies was an exciting one. Unfortunately, the enjoyment wore thin incredibly quick, as it just wasn't that satisfying to throw CDs at a zombie more than once. Dead Rising 2 solves this by encouraging players to combine two items in order to make a super weapon. As players level up, they will earn cards detailing how to make new items, although gamers don't have to wait for the card, they merely serve as a recipe that gives twice the Prestige Points (PP) when attacking.

Not only are the weapons satisfying to create, but many of them are incredibly powerful. These new creations are widely varied, including handheld weapons, projectiles, explosives, and many others that don't fit into a standard category. Every player will undoubtedly find several that will suit their own unique play style, but with so many different combinations to choose from, every type of ruthless zombie killer will be satisfied. I myself preferred the Defiler towards the end of the game, a combination of an axe and sledgehammer that is sure to take out several zombies in a given area. Those who enjoyed running over hordes of zombies with vehicles in Dead Rising, are sure to be satisfied with the ability to customize their own motorbike with an assortment of different weapons this time around.

In conjunction with the upgrade to the weapon system, the rescue and follow system has received some major improvements. In Dead Rising, I absolutely dreaded saving people because the system for doing so was so poorly done; but, for a game based on leveling up, I needed the PP that came from returning them to the Safe House in order to progress. Every excursion was tedious since non-player characters could not fend for themselves and it often turned into a frustrating situation where I had to choose my own life instead of theirs. Thankfully, rescuing civilians in Dead Rising 2 couldn't possibly be a more pleasant experience.

Rather than force players to fight their way through ungodly numbers of zombies, there is usually a catch to saving someone. For instance, one person may need to be carried, whereas another may need to be pushed in a wheelchair. In other cases an individual may not agree to follow Chuck until a companion has been found, or some requirement has been filled, such as Chuck having to strip down to his undies, just to cite one particular example. Whatever the case, for the characters who follow Chuck on their own to the safe house, there is no more need to constantly go back and save them. They usually fend for themselves just fine, leading to a smooth journey back to the safe house and plenty of PP for Chuck.

In typical Dead Rising fashion, in addition to rescuing people, Psychopaths play a major role in the game, and Dead Rising 2 boasts several more than its predecessor. I was pleasantly surprised to see the variety between each enemy, as the Psychopaths in Dead Rising felt a bit too similar. Instead of merely running and gunning or bashing an enemy senselessly with a weapon, many of the enemies require a unique strategy. There are enemies to defeat on vehicles, sniping from tall buildings, explosive-happy mailmen, incredibly accurate pan-throwing chefs, and even a mentally insane washed-up entertainer who may be easier to defeat than first meets the eye. In addition to the great strategies they require players to implement, every Psychopath is just as well done in terms of conveying their unique insanity as they were in the original Dead Rising.

This point brings me to a negative aspect about Dead Rising 2, one that carries over from its predecessor. Save points aren't exactly scattered generously throughout the incredibly expansive Fortune City, and making your way to a Psychopath battle can often be a fairly lengthy procedure. Though trudging back to a battle may not be irritating the first time, by the third or fourth instance (as these battles are by no means easy), it becomes apparent that this is a severe flaw in the game's design. Even worse is that it is often unclear whether or not players are walking into a battle, due to the vague task descriptions. This potentially puts players in a situation where they must choose between losing a significant amount of progress, or having to start over from the beginning. While I understand that there needs to be consequences for failure within a game, a checkpoint system that would give players the option of retrying would have gone a long way when concerning the Psychopath battles.

That being said, though the Psychopaths are even better and rescuing people is a much more pleasant experience, there really isn't anything new within Dead Rising 2. The gameplay and objectives are identical, with the minor exception of finding Zombrex, and all of the same goofy side gimmicks are no different. Sure, putting Chuck in a dress or getting him incredibly intoxicated grants some humor, but in the grand scheme of things, those add up to maybe ten minutes of entertainment. While it's great to see the fantastic improvements to the existing gameplay, there needs to be a more varied set of objectives next time around. Especially for those of us who don't care about replaying the game several times through after reaching the maximum level of 50.

However, something that does make it much more appealing to replay the game over and over is the added online multiplayer. Gamers can now take on the game with a friend, or a random person somewhere in the world. This makes general gameplay (especially Psychopaths) unbelievably easier, and of course it's always great strategizing with another individual. Unfortunately, local co-op was left out, a downside for individuals like myself who would rather play with another person sitting in my room, rather than a friend or stranger over the Internet.

Dead Rising 2 may not have shattered the mold of its predecessor, but it is definitely a huge improvement. In fact, it feels like the experience we should have originally gotten; it has a much better variety of weapons, great battles that are more varied in their strategy, and a system of saving people that is both fun and manageable. Anyone who couldn't get enough of Dead Rising the first time around will undoubtedly be delighted with Dead Rising 2, and considering the great improvements and additions, those originally disappointed will finally the get the Dead Rising experience they had hoped for.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Jason Ross Senior Editor

10/09/2010 at 11:28 PM

No local co-op? That's too bad. My brother-in-law loved the first game, and I was hoping he and my sister might be able to play this one together. Looks like that won't be the case.

Still, given how I know you and Nick regarded the first game, this review could almost be considered gushing! Looks like it'll still make for a good birthday or Christmas present for the guy.

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