Review – Dead Rising 2


In playing open-world games, perhaps the quintessential dilemma is to what extent it is necessary for a game to push players to explore what it offers, and at what cost to player freedom–where at one end of the spectrum the player becomes bored and complacent, and at the other, the game is no longer open at all. I have found it can be far too easy to become mired in endless side-quests and irrelevant mini-games, thus losing a sense of progression and purpose, and while it’s certainly true that the player is ultimately responsible for utilizing the game assets, it is also fair to say that the game is responsible for presenting these assets in an engaging way.

Dead Rising 2’s solution to the problem is to grant the player freedom, but with consequences—the same as you find in the good, old fashioned real world. This is achieved chiefly through demanding that the player manage his or her time. Unlike, for example, Red Dead Redemption, where you could conceivably hunt bounties for a month before choosing to start the next plot event, Dead Rising 2 is characterized by a ticking clock, and story events that occur at specific times on that clock—whether the player is ready or not.

In case you were wondering, yes, there are always this many. Everywhere.

This, in theory, creates a game where the player will have time to roam between scripted events, but still be anchored by a plot that is moving steadily forward. Failure to meet one of the plot deadlines results in the loss of all further story missions, but not the end of the game, allowing one to spend the remainder of his time smashing endlessly through zombie hordes, or simply restart the game with the stats of that character intact.

The time gauge for quests is not particularly explicit, so you’re likely to fail your game at least once, having overestimated how much time that depleting bar really means you have. However, once you get into the flow of the game, it’s a fairly simple matter to complete most of your side quests and story quests, while still having some spare time to tool around Fortune City, chopping zombies with lawnmowers and trying on ridiculous outfits. Some may fear the ticking clock, as timed missions can often be the bane of a player’s experience, but the clock here is exceedingly generous, existing to encourage the player to continue moving forward. Still, I predict some serious frustration for players who mismanage their time.

Dead Rising 2 presents a distinctly bizarre universe for gamers to play in. Characterized by absurd, dark humour, the appeal is usually in deliberate stupidity rather than particularly clever wit. Gore, bad puns, and increasingly ridiculous events and characters are as likely to have you skipping cutscenes as they are to have you laughing, but the absurdity is largely what makes the game a unique and worthy experience. That nearly every character in the game is a total and complete douchebag can eventually wear on the nerves, but grim laughs from the awesomely hilarious weapons and combat are guaranteed to improve one’s mood.

You can spend your spare time shopping around for increasingly absurd outfits and weapons.

On the subject of douchebags and their annoyances, there are the psychos; the lost, mad survivors of Fortune City who couldn’t quite handle the transition from adult playground to zombie apocalypse. These individuals are scattered through the gameworld, and while it’s rarely absolutely necessary to engage them, allowing them to roam free can impede your progress in certain areas. Serving as the bosses for Dead Rising 2, they can range from ludicrously easy to impossibly difficult based on your preparation, but either way yield significant experience rewards, and serve to break up your mindless zombie-smashing expeditions.

Those expeditions and the details of your smashing constitute the bulk of the gameplay. The zombies rule Fortune City, and no matter where you are or where you’re going, you’re going through them. However, zombies are designed more like an environmental hazard, rather than as actual enemies. They’re slow, they don’t move around much, and they’re not particularly dangerous. They’re merely an ever present hazard, requiring only the liberal application of blunt force and some marginal navigational skill to overcome. You’ll spend most of your gametime swinging your weapon as you wade through the horde to your objective, and then repeat the process as you backtrack to the safehouse. In a nutshell, this is Dead Rising. Still, it’s fair to say that this is only as true as saying that Halo is a game where you fire your assault rifle and throw grenades.

Exactly how much fun you have in Dead Rising 2 seems largely dependent on how you choose to play. If you become complacent, mired in routine, then you’re “gonna have a bad time,” as it were. This is another area Dead Rising 2 is subject to the design-versus-freedom dilemma; it’s easy to fall back on grabbing the same easily accessible weapons for combination, and go out into Fortune City swinging your axe-hammer again, and again, and again until the game ends. If you do, by the time the final hours roll around, you’ll likely be left feeling you‘ve had enough already.

Fighting the horde with a friend, as with anything in this game, is good for a laugh.

No, the way to play this game is to seek things out. Fulfill as many side quests as possible, as soon as possible, explore new weapon types—and most important of all, don’t over think it. If you see a flashlight and a pile of jewellery in the same maintenance room, don’t ignore them because they couldn’t possibly have any logical connection. Put them together, and then lay waste to zombies with your new lightsaber. Some of the concoctions are entirely ludicrous, and it’s up to you to try and smash together whatever you can to find them. Equally, don’t ignore a side quest because you figure you’ve saved enough hapless civilians. Some of these quests yield invaluable rewards, and the game doesn’t always tell you which ones.

It’s incumbent upon the player to seek out variety, because rarely are these avenues strictly required. Weapon variety is critical to enjoyment, never to gameplay, and this is a rule that holds for almost all areas of the game design. Vehicles are useful, but rarely necessary, and many player choices, while creating consequences, will not impede one’s ability to complete the game.

When the finale rolls around, the outcome of your decisions, of your action or inaction, will play out, and this underscores the desire of Dead Rising 2 to create replayability. The character progression system, likely impossible to max out on a single play-through, also lends to this, granting a constant stream of upgrades to player attributes, and even handing out some useful suggestions for weapon combinations (Wheelchair + car battery + merc assault rifle = triumph). Regardless of whether your motivation is to max out your level, try out the ridiculous assault chair I just told you about, explore alternate story possibilities, or simply that you blew through one of the story missions the first time around, there’s always a reason to go back and continue playing.

The occasional vehicle offers a welcome break from Chuck’s slow jog. Also, you can make your ride look ridiculous. Awesome.

Also included in the package is a multiplayer component that adheres to the mandate of absurdity established by the single-player campaign, putting players in the Terror is Reality game show to win money they can spend in their campaigns. More interesting is the addition of campaign co-op, which allows another player to drop in at any time as your mysterious twin (or perhaps clone). It may be strange for a game with so many cutscenes, but it is what it is: this is a game mechanic that’s dying to be played with friends, so delivering that can only be a plus. The only down-side is that co-op supports only two players; one would think the possibility of four Chucks mowing through zombies would have been too hilarious for the developers to pass up.

Graphically, Dead Rising 2 is decidedly behind the curve, though this may come as a consequence of the game’s ability to render an impressive number of zombies on screen at any time (and in this game, “any time” is actually “all the time”). Character models are sharp enough, though the zombies lack detail or any particularly interesting design elements. Fortune City itself is capably rendered, but the real strength is in all the little details scattered throughout the gameworld. Hidden items and spaces are everywhere, and it’s conceivable that one could spend hours exploring without ever finding everything there is to find, which helps to mitigate the otherwise repetitive backtracking players are required to do.

As is the case with any open-world game, it becomes difficult to render a final judgement, as experiences can differ significantly. While I can comfortably assign a number value to my own experiences, players may find Dead Rising 2 merely an amusing diversion, or alternatively hilarious addiction, based on how they choose to exploit the assets of the game. There’s certainly fun to be had for all, but whether Dead Rising 2 warrants a rental or a purchase depends entirely on how willing players are to explore what it offers.

Developer
Capcom, Blue Castle

Publisher
Capcom

System
Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows (Microsoft Windows Reviewed)

Modes
Singleplayer, Campaign Co-op, Multiplayer

Release Date
September 28, 2010

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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  • http://www.reverbnation.com/ujnhunter Ujn Hunter

    Nice review Brad. I find it weird how you’re not the only person to point out the graphics… I find them to be just fine. I wonder if it’s a style thing, i.e. I like the style of the graphics. The only thing about the timed structure that I dislike is that I had saved right after finding the news lady (she told me to!) and I don’t have enough time to get from that point to the next. I’m 1 second late to the next cutscene every single time. :( I’ve reloaded like 10 times and I just got boned saving my game 1-2 seconds late. Doh!

    • http://www.gamesugar.net Jamie Love

      That was sorta my mini-game with Case Zero, juggling save files so that I could see what was around the corner but not commit to losing precious seconds.

  • EdEN

    I’ve got the Zombrex edition so Dead Rising 2 will be played on january or march of 2011. To me the graphics are just fine and after all the great hands-ons impressions and reviews I went ahead and bought it.