Is this prequel to the sequel worth your time or a quick cash-in?
When Capcom released the first Dead Rising, one of the main factor's of its success was the dearth of quality software soon
As part of the push to entice players new and old alike, Capcom is releasing Case Zero, a downloadable prequel-to-the-sequel that takes place a few years in between the first and second game. There were some concerns early on that this was a way to convince players to essentially pay for a demo, but after spending some time with the game, it's become clear that this is so much more.
Case Zero takes place in the small desert town of Still Creek, just outside of Vegas, and Still Creek works as a good example of how to view this XBLA game. It's essentially a miniature version of what the new sequel promises to be -- mainly, an improvement and an extension of the original game. It's fairly obvious that Blue Castle Games has worked hard to fix the problems gamers had with the original. Gone is the archaic trial-and-error save system from Dead Rising. While gamers can still play the game that way, they are provided with 3 save spots, rather than 1, which allows for more freedom and experimentation on the player's part. Likewise, the controls have seen great improvement. Using ranged weaponry is much more intuitive and effective than it was in the first game. The AI of the Survivors that the player will come across has also seen some polish, as you're less required to babysit someone as they struggle to follow you around a corner.
While the original's Frank West is nowhere to be seen, Chuck Greene is a suitable replacement who handles the same, albeit with a bit more fluidity. There is no awkward pause every time your weapon connects with an enemy, and Chuck handles jumping and climbing with more ease than the cumbersome West. Where as Frank was a photographer and could gain PP, this game's version of experience points, by taking effective pictures, Chuck can maximize his PP by combining weapons at one of a number of Maintenance Rooms scattered around the small town. Gamers simply have to experience what it's like to wield a canoe paddle strapped with chainsaws on both ends while they wade through an ocean of the undead. While gamers are free to experiment and combine items on their own, the weapons you can create only reach their true potential once you obtain a "combo card" through gaining levels, which unlocks alternate attacks for these combo weapons.
While some things have changed, Blue Castle wisely decided to maintain most aspects of the series that fans enjoyed. For one, the combination of the day/night cycle, timed events, and Survivor encounters is still a fun version of "beat the clock" as you try to cross town as quickly and efficiently as possible. Battles against the Psychopath survivors that serve as the game's bosses can still be a bit frustrating if the player is not adequately prepared with food and weapons, but with a little foresight and strategy, this can be easily overcome. Likewise, the characters and scenarios presented in the game still hold a quirky sense of humor, providing gamers with a fun alternative view of the end of the world. We've all dreamed of being surrounded by zombies with nothing but a baseball bat and thought of how much fun it would be to just go at it whole hog. Players are still able to pick up practically anything to utilize against their foes (usually as brutally as possible), as well as put on any item of clothing they come across.
It's this sense of freedom and discovery that makes the Dead Rising games so fun, and it's more than evident in Case Zero. The improvements made over the first game makes Case Zero much more approachable and fun, for fans, those turned off by the problems of the first game or newcomers to the series. The game works as a demo, yes, but it's also an immensely fun experience and works as a microcosm of what Dead Rising 2 intends to be. It's the entire experience of the series distilled into a short 3-hour game that you can replay again and again without discovering all of the little jokes, weapon combos, or secrets the developers have included. For 400 MSP, this game is perfect for anyone who can't wait for the sequel, for those who are undecided on the series or for those who just want to kill all zombies for a little while. It's good, violent, dirty fun and I wouldn't have it any other way. Now bring on Dead Rising 2!