A real treat for the fans.
Dead Rising 2 is almost as pure as a sequel could get. Very little does it stray from its original's design, both the lauded and hated aspects. For fans of the franchise Dead Rising 2 is a no-brainer purchase and one they'll surely get just as much enjoyment out of as they did from the original, if not more. For newcomers, or people who just weren't able to adjust to Dead Risings strict way to play, it's much more of a risk to take.
So, Dead Rising 2 places you in the gambling focused city of Fortune City now under the hood of a Mr. Chuck Greene. Aging former motor-cross champion and single father of one (thanks to a previous outbreak in Vegas that killed his wife). The misery doesn't stop there for Chuck either, as his aforementioned 'one'--seven year old Katey Green--is infected with the notorious zombification virus. There still exists some hope as there is a drug that she can take to suppress the virus called Zombrex--created by the character Isabella Keyes from the original. The downside is she requires a shot of this drug once every 24 hours, however.
To earn his way across the pricey product, Chuck occasionally enters a reality TV show called Terror Is Reality, which centres around the mutilation, humiliation and... degradation of the undead. As it turns out, zombies are well known and really rather common by this time in the Dead Rising verse. So much so that they're even become the brunt of reality TV. Seems like it's getting easier and easier to become a celebrity these days. All you may have to do in a zombie fested world is die. And we all know how easy that is, with or without zombies.
Now as you'd expect, having all these zombies cooped up and kept for the shows isn't relatively safe. As such, a zombie outbreak then shockingly occurs after Chuck's latest show. Chuck is forced to fend for his life, whilst keeping Katey safe, and fortunately manages to make his way to the Fortune City bunker that is suited for this exact type of emergency. But of course when God opens a door, he slams a window on your fingers. Turns out our disgruntled, slightly depressed hero is also the one taking all the fall for this mess, after a security tape is released on live TV showing someone wearing his T.I.R uniform planting the bomb that let the zombies loose. With the military on its way within three days, it has Chuck Greene on a very short leach, but one that he's willing to tug on to get the truth out.
It's from here that Chuck leaves the safety of the bunker to track down leads into why and who is framing him, all the while he must also track down Zombrex for his daughter. Oh and there's also a few thousand zombies blocking his path, too. Chuck's got a tough number of tasks ahead of him that's for sure. But he's also got the exact tools he needs for the job.
Much like the original, Dead Rising combines a number of questionable gameplay mechanics together such as a large and vibrant open world, dozens upon dozens of zombies to murder, dozens upon dozens of weapons to murder them with, but also a time limit. Those three days till the military arrive? Well that's constantly counting down and overall gives the game about eight hours gameplay no matter what you do. (A couple more if you manage to get through the story cases to the True ending). But each mission, and side mission, itself is also fitted with its own timer that if not completed within its specific schedule will vanish forever. Side missions are mostly saving fellow survivors of the outbreak, or going against some of the crazed psychopaths who have completely cracked, or is just using the situation to their advantage for their general insanity.
The story missions however, if they aren't attended to within the time limit will force the rest of the story to end, still leaving you with everything else in the game of course, just now with the possibility of getting the best ending squandered. It actually acts as a really good balance, with the zombie hordes themselves being relatively easy it's much more about managing your schedule and making some tough choices on where your priorities lie. With it being so easy to lose yourself in the wondrous environment that is Fortune City, and not to mention the multitude of ways to slaughter, massacre and degrade zombies it won't be a mechanic that everyone will be able to forgive, I'm sure. The game downright forces replay value on you to really get the most out of everything, but then isn't that the same for most games with as much content as this.
The one thing that draws you through the game is the PP (Prestige Points). This is Chuck's form of Experience points that he gains for doing just about anything, really. Every 50 zombies nets him PP, killing them with strong attacks of your weapons gets you PP points, using your own custom made weapons nets you PP points -- saving survivors, beating psychopaths, riding a mechanical bull and well you get the picture. It would be a surprise to most who don't know much about the franchise that the game has an RPG element but it works really well -- especially with regards to the replay value.
At the outset, Chuck is a pretty dull character to play as. He has zero of his own melee attacks besides a few weak jabs, he's about the speed of an aged person's buggy, he can only carry four items, and his attacks aren't very suited to dishing out the damage to a large mass of the undead. But as he levels up he'll get more and more proficient against the said undead. His health will increase, as will his inventory, running speed, attack damage and he'll even unlock some pretty snazzy melee attacks. They're not as flashy nor insane as Frank West's from the original, but they're enough that once you hit the maximum level 50 you'll find you can easily get through a horde just with your bare fists.
Besides the story, the survivors, the psychopaths there's a whole lot of other stuff hidden around Fortune City. The most prominent, and promoted, is the ability for Chuck to create his own weapons from a mixture of two. They range from the fairly predictable bat + nails = bat embedded with nails, to something a little more imaginative like leaf blower + spear = Spear Launcher, to some downright insane combinations of a single iron pipe + rocket = 75 rockets equipped launcher! There's no point to question all of this of course, and instead just revel in the brilliant and constructive genius some of these weapons show off.
There's a hell of a lot of weapons to procure and create, and you can easily pick out which are combinable from the wrench icon that's displayed on the weapon itself. For the most part you can run around collecting and experimenting, hopefully discovering your own, which'll reward you Scratch Cards that'll help you remember what the combinations are. But there also exist Combo Cards to find, mostly from leveling up Chuck, or through examining particular pictures. The combo cards award Chuck with double PP as well as an extra strong attack to go with the weapon you unlocked the Combo Card for. They also happen to be some of the most satisfying weapons in the game, and some are downright hilarious. A key example is a battery powered teddy bear combined with an M60 turning into every zombies worst nightmare: Freedom Bear!
Besides that though, there's a few small treats to uncover for even more PP or to engage in a short minigame. Riding mechanical bulls, sliding down a water slide, trying to grab as much cash as you can in a gameshow style Cash Box to even having your fortune read. There's dozens upon dozens of nifty little secrets and easter eggs worth going on the hunt for, just for the general reaction Chuck gives or also for that sweet PP bonus.
The one problem with all this great gameplay variety takes me back to the survivors and psychopaths. Now this time around the survivors are perfectly fine. They can actually survive pretty well, and can be proficient with certain weapons. It's pretty cool to have a posse of three all trailing you equipped with Assault Rifles, I have to admit. Much like the original also, there's usually a small task required for some to join your cause. Some will just follow you after a small chat, while others may need you to first find another survivor, need a bit of coercion from some food or may even ask you to pay them to be given the pleasure of escorting them back to safety... It may make them seem like more of a nuisance than they're worth, but overall they don't cause too many headaches. The psychopaths, however...
They play completely different from how you're generally fitted to play. They're usually much, much faster and are completely resistant to a great deal of your melee attacks. What they usually boil down to is a test of your patience and perseverance into figuring out their routine and exploiting it. It's a very old school format but one that isn't acceptable by this day and age. It's quite a shame because the characters themselves are versatile and well realised. They vary from an incredibly motivated Postman who will go to great lengths that he doesn't break his perfect record, to a twisted, overweight virgin dressed in bondage gear with an oversized pink chainsaw who'll stop at nothing to get laid. (He's also one of the toughest and most frustrating I might add).
Some are generally quite creepy, too. Like Slappy, the children's store mascot with his massive Grin and 40s little Timmy style attire. The rewards you earn are least worth the out loud cursing and forehead vein bulging, fortunately. In some cases you'll gain access to the psychopaths weapon that'll always spawn in that position from here on. Other times you'll find yourself with another survivor you can escort for the PP, and some in particular will even award you a Combo Card. Most of these bouts against the antagonising pricks are optional, though there's a few that are linked to the story. Some are purposely powered to instead force you to fight against, die, shout out profanities, be complained to concerning profanities by your neighbours, and then choose to restart the story. And why would you do that? Because much like an RPG, Dead Rising 2 allows you to optionally start the game again with your current cash sum, level and clothing unlockables. But your inventory will be emptied, including your Zombrex, and your kill count is also reset.
It's a strange but also understandable mechanic, and one that you may have to make use of if you plan to get through the story or beat many of the optional psychopaths. What may help ease the intolerance the psychopaths will undoubtedly give you is the cooperative feature DR2 has. It's good ole reliable drop in, drop out with a not so reliable and archaic concept of the second player taking the role of... another Chuck. Yep. It was justified with the excuse of having available so many costumes to wear, but it's still pretty simple and silly in this day and age. Though if you can look past that it's a really fun way to play with your friends, be it helping out with missions, slaying zombies or just chasing each other with dildos.
Overall, the game gives you a dearth of content. From the story alone taking up at least eight hours, with so many side missions in between that you'll invariably miss. Weapons to combine, costumes to try out, survivors to save, psychopaths to get pissed off at. And besides all that, there's even multiplayer?
Though don't expect much in the way of a full fledged multiplayer component ala Halo, Call of Duty or Uncharted 2. If anything, the multiplayer is only here to invest towards your single player campaign. Up to four players can join and compete in a number of zombie themed minigames, centred around the T.I.R gameshow from the story. The minigames act as a casual diversion and can offer some fun, though it's not one to last and I doubt it was intended. The real draw is that the money you win from this mode can then be imported into your single player game for Chuck--which is generally used for buying stuff from pawn shops or gambling --and will act as most's main source of income I'll bet.
All centred in the delightful and colourfully attractive city that is Fortune. The game may not wow anybody with its graphics--especially not on the technical side--but its style it has going is enough to have Fortune City's layout stay stuck in your memory after you're past the game. Casino's, malls and an underground make up the most of it, with palm tree's, cheesy music and store stock that seems to magically fill itself back after a loading screen. A true zombie massacrer paradise.
The voice acting for the characters is also well done, with Chuck himself easily standing out as the highlight. He doesn't have as much memorability as Frank West before him but he's a likeable guy, at least for the determination he shows for his daughter. One issue I have to note, though, is DR2 easily having one of my most hated villains of all time. And not in the way that you'd want from a villain, because you're obviously meant to want to stop the villain, but just in a he's a really fucking annoying prat way.
The graphics as said before won't raise any eyebrows in awe, and while it can fit a great deal of zombies on screen at once, it'll all come at a price of some severe framerate drops. For the PS3, least, the game can chug along so bad that buttons might not be so responsive. It's an issue I could get past, but it did have it times where it would test my patience.
All in all, the game is a solid, but divisive product. It's a fantastic follow up for fans of the original, and some of its improvements may even bring forth some new fans; though I can still understand wholeheartedly why people will turn this one down. It's got some weird design choices, and it's proud of it, but for the little steps closer it's made to catering to a more mainstream crowd (with multiple save slots most notably), while also keeping what made Dead Rising so fun in the first place, is why Dead Rising 2 garnishes its four stars from me.