Dead rising returns at a bargain price, warts and all.
Dead Rising 2: Case Zero pushes the boundaries of what has been attempted by downloadable content, attempting to bring dead rising 2 in microcosm to its hoards of hungry moaning fans for a bargain price. The price itself is of note, 400 microsoft points is definitely a tempting proposition and while there is plenty to love about Case Zero, there are a number of small quibbles to deal with and the design itself must be overcome.
The original dead rising included a leveling system (also present here) which would increase player stats with progression as well as a new game plus feature which would allow this progress to transfer on into each successive replay. In that game it was pretty much mandatory to level up your character before attempting regular progression, and the same goes here. Repetition is required first of all to reach the level cap, as well as to extrapolate the various locations and objectives which must be discovered. While it is possible to succeed without empowering Chuck, the real challenge lies within the rather restrictive time constraints. As the game takes place over a short time frame which translates to approximately 2 hours of real time, key objectives must be completed very quickly and time spent searching for items or mindlessly executing zombies essentially renders attaining the true ending impossible. As a result, gaining the full experience from case zero requires several playthrough's, something natural for veteran dead rising players but possibly too arduous for some.
The laborious save process from the original game has been improved, now allowing for three save slots but without an autosave feature the player must be diligent to ensure progress won't be lost. The real meat of the series (that is, violently murdering zombie hordes) has also been refined, dismemberment is more representative of the damage specific weapons will inflict and the number of zombies on screen has been increased. The variety of weapons on hand has also improved, while the depth of the combat is enhanced by the new weapon combination system which replaces photography as the main source of pp (experience points). Various weapons will indicate that they can be combined at a workbench, the onus is on the player to discern these schematics though few are too obtuse to figure out and these weapons run the gamut from practical (a baseball bat with nails hammered through it) to completely ludicrous (an oar with chainsaws duct taped to the ends), embodying the hilarious lunacy that makes dead rising so mesmerising. Only nine of these combination's are present in case zero, but there is enough to experiment with and certainly enough to whet your appetite for dead rising 2 and that sentiment seems to apply to the entire game.
The graphics look noticeably sharper, and considering that this is an XBLA title, probably exceeds most of it's competition in this regard. However the game is marred by a number of technical issues which detract from the quality of the finished product. Frame rate issues are common and while they don't render the game unplayable they are a considerably distracting nuisance. Various glitches and defects are common occurrences, and purchasing the game via the trial version caused an issue with achievement unlocks for me personally and has been reported elsewhere.
There is a single boss battle towards the end of the game which is compulsory for completion of the story. Unfortunately, it seems that the combat system which is so satisfying while battling the undead masses becomes infinitely more frustrating when facing a human psychopath. The fight itself is rather clunky, with firearms doing much less damage than melee weapons the game encourages you to fight toe to toe. However this results in an awkward back and forth brawl which forces the player to repeatedly retreat to a safe area and replenish health using food items. Said refreshments are infinite, though using them near the boss is ill advised as the long animation is frequently and infuriatingly interrupted. In fairness this encounter is as difficult as you wish to make it, most players won't find any real challenge in the altercation, so long as they play dead rising the way it demands to be played.
And that is the crux of this game. Very little has been changed in the way of game design, players must still adhere to the idiosyncrasies of dead rising or face frustration and hardship. The game has plenty of value in it's replayability, and massacring zombies has never been quite so barbaric or enjoyable. Dead rising is an esoteric game, which may deter many players with it's difficulty and oblique nature, but for those who consign to it's tenets, few games will be better.