Review: Dead Rising 2

The boys are back in town. By boys, I mean ravenous, flesh-eating zombies. And by town, I mean Fortune City. Luckily Chuck Greene, motocross superstar, is on the case. In Dead Rising 2, the sequel to the cult hit zombie apocalypse simulator Dead Rising, Greene replaces Frank West as the Average Joe on the run from the starving undead. Yes, there are plenty of zombies, but there’s a cure floating around that can stave off the effects of zombification. It’s called Zombrex, and Katey, Chuck’s tiny daughter, is in dire need of a dose every 24 hours lest she degrade into a shambling monstrosity herself.

In a world where zombie rights groups advocate fair treatment of zombies and pharmaceutical companies are profiting off the suffering of the people, this isn’t exactly an easy feat. It’s up to players to keep Katey fully dosed with Zombrex as the poignant father-daughter team anxiously tries to withstand, you guessed it, a 72-hour period before help arrives.

It’s fortunate the plot is decidedly more interesting, because as far as actual gameplay goes, it feels very much like Dead Rising 1.5.

But first, the welcome changes – for instance, the ability to save in three different slots is significant, and Chuck’s uncanny ability to finagle together some truly menacing weapons from the most unlikely components is a sight to behold. Kayak paddles and chainsaws? Yes, you can!

Maintenance rooms found sprinkled throughout the game allow for madcap creativity, augmented by the discovery of Combo Cards. These handy items aid in the concoction process and are obtained by old-fashioned exploration and leveling up via Prestige Points. If you don’t find as many Combo Cards as you would like, there’s no need to panic. You can create combinations friends have bragged about to you without having found the corresponding card – something I appreciated immensely.

It’s this system that kept me entertained throughout Chuck’s father-daughter odyssey, lest I choose to re-live a hundred calls from Otis. Even if trudging through the seemingly endless zombie horde began to wear on my nerves, finding new ways to kill kept things relatively fresh at least a little while longer.

The addition of several optional missions involving human bosses as well as familiar Psychopaths offer an intensity and immediacy that I believed was missing in Dead Rising’s schlock-fest, as those guys can be downright terrifying. Frank’s journey was a more hilarious and raucous time, while the sequel offers more of a grating social commentary, complete with moments to tug on your heart strings. Little Katey is motivation enough to fight for that Zombrex, and these detours serve up interesting chunks of narrative to complement Chuck and Katey’s personal story. Of course, if these challenges prove too tough, there’s always the option to skip them entirely. Nothing wrong with a little bonus content though.

If you’re the X-Files type and believe the truth is out there, Dead Rising 2 offers multiple different cases to tackle that will further entrench you in the mystery behind the zombie infestation.

There are also multiple endings, so depending on how you choose to play, Katey could very well end up a little …worse for wear, if you’re just not a kid person.

But even with the addition of these improvements, I can’t say this is the Dead Rising 2 I wanted. Though things have changed, there’s a sense that the franchise doesn’t know what to do next. Its brutal and fast-paced, but it’s not always wicked good fun, and for the series to truly come into its own, certain elements need much more of an overhaul.

One problem is the monotony of the missions: go there, leave a trail of obliterated zombies, rescue survivors, find Zombrex. You feels like you’re wading through quicksand at time, since getting from point A to point B without a proper weapon (you’ll find yourself in that predicament often enough) can be a chore in itself. I don’t always want to fend off the shells of living human beings tottering around, believe it or not, especially when I’m not carrying enough food or decent weapons. I suppose that’s how things really would be in the event of a zombie outbreak, but with the lumbering finesse of Chuck Greene, I think I’d almost rather lay down and be eaten. Serious work could also be done to the save system other than simply adding new slots, if only to accommodate time-starved hardcore players.

If you’re a big fan, however, and want to share the experience with friends, Dead Rising 2 has thankfully brought with it a co-op mode, which frankly was my favorite addition. Nothing beats tackling this adventure with a friend to help thin the crowds. I found that this was the way I wanted to play my game more often than not, as two heads (even if they are severed) are better than one when it comes to getting things done.

I am still concerned for the future of the series. You can only rely on the same tricks so many times before things get stale. Only time will tell what’s going to happen, but for now, keep taking your Zombrex and basking in the shadow of this game’s predecessor.

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