jimmyjackjones's Dead Rising 2 (Xbox 360) review

Two Bloody Thumbs Way Up

The original Dead Rising is a game that I wish I could enjoy, but the developers seemed dead set on making that impossible.  There is an odd kind of joy to be had in using everything at your disposal in a big shopping mall to kill scores of zombies, and I admit I wanted to see how the story of Willamette and wartime photojournalist Frank West unfolded.  But the atrociously bad AI for fellow survivors and the teeth gnashingly difficult psycho battles combined into a pile of frustration that kept me from feeling like I was having any fun.  So I admit that I was pretty skeptical of Dead Rising 2 and was uncertain that I'd want anything to do with it.  But after spending numerous hours with it's prequel episode, Case Zero, I was sold.  And I'm thankful for that, as I had a ton of fun with Dead Rising 2 in spite of its flaws.
 
First off, this game still has issues.  Well, one issue: the psycho battles.  If you never played the original game, the psychos are other humans survivors who have decided that the zombie apocalypse is as good an excuse as any to go on a killing spree.  And you're usually  the next target in their sights.  I only ever came up against a couple of these encounters in the first game, but they were a big part of why I kept giving up on the game.  They were no fun at all to deal with.  These enemies had a number of ways to hurt you and were also incredibly agile to boot.  I, on the other hand, felt like an impotent fool with no way to avoid the punishment being hurled at me.  If I didn't have multiple firearms on me when I went into these battles, I felt I was screwed.  Simply put, I hated the psyc hos.
 

 Don't let them fool you; they will mess you up.
Well, they're back in Dead Rising 2.  And they still suck.  Though I admit they suck less.  Most of them are optional, and I always felt like I had at chance at winning.  In Dead Rising, the first battle was within m y first hour of the game, and it made me learn real fast  the horrors that the save system could bring about in terms of lost progress.  In Dead Rising 2, the first mandatory fight is around the halfway point, which allowed me to enjoy much more of the game from the start.  The final bosses are horrible, horrible affairs, but by that time I was committed so I managed to push past them.  And so I guess I should give developer Blue Castle credit for making me feel less frustrated this time around.  Yet I kind of feel like they pulled a real dick move with these things.  I mean, they had to know that the original psychos were a horrible, aggravating, and impossible mess, right?  Did anybody actually enjoy those encounters?  That couldn't have happened, could it?  And yet Blue Castle made the conscious decision to bring them back.  They purposefully brought these monstrosities back into the game, knowing full well that we hated them.  Isn't that the kind of thing only a bunch of sadists would do?  I don't know, I feel like someone over there is laughing and flipping me the finger right now. 
 
Thankfully, everything else in the game feels like a large improvement over the first.  The basic structure and gameplay are the same as the original, but everything feels much more manageable this time around.  The other survivors can actually survive!  Which is a pretty big deal, especially when they're the most effective way to level up your character.  Anyone who played the original probably remembers the convicts out in the central plaza of the mall.  I certainly do, as I still get night terrors from the memories of their carnage.  Dead Rising 2 has something similar, but they don't show up till late in the game, and they are much easier to handle as well.  You may also know about the save system in the game.  At any time during the game (and especially when you die) you can choose to restart your game and carry over your current level and cash.  This is meant to encourage multiple playthroughs, and help you get stronger if you hit a particularly frustrating section.  I never felt like this was needed during my first game of Dead Rising 2.  I never restarted my game as I ran around Fortune City.  I died numerous times, but  I always felt like I could figure out a way to get through it without restarting the game.  This alone makes Dead Rising 2 a huge improvement over its predecessor in my book.
 
Oh yes, there is a Paddlesaw.  And it is glorious.
And of course, you have the combo weapons.  There are items in the game that can be combined with other specific items, and they create some epically awesome things.  I got straight up giddy the first time I created a weapon that could fling plates through scores of zombies, not to mention my first go around with the rocket launcher.  My favorite moments in Dead Rising 2 absolutely came from figuring out what I could make out of these combo items.  However, you'll probably want to limit your discovery time to the first half of the game, as things get a little too desperate and overwhelming near the end to risk lugging large objects around to different maintenance rooms.  Still, you can duct tape a lawnmower to a wheelchair.  If that doesn't make you grin like a big idiot, then I don't want to be your friend.
 
I guess I should mention the story.  Dead Rising 2 has one.  It's not bad, but it's nothing to write home about either.  There's a zombie outbreak, there are conspiracies, and Chuck Greene and his Zombrex dependent daughter are caught up in the middle.  I enjoyed the story and am glad I was able to see it through, but this is not the game's strongest suit.  By the time things are rushing to their inevitable conclusion, you'll probably have guessed most of the game's twists and turns well beforehand.  As for your protagonist, Chuck Greene, dude is alright.  He has my eternal love and respect for his ability to duct tape crazy things together into wildly implausible forms, but his only character traits seem to be anger and paternal love.  Which serve you OK if you're going to make a game based during the zombie apocalypse.
 
Simply put, Dead Rising 2 is a big improvement over the original.  Blue Castle fixed most of the things that they needed to in order to make this a fun and addicting experience while still maintaining the bizarre and hardcore mechanics of the original.  The only times I wasn't having a blast was during the psycho battles, and most of those are thankfully optional.  Really, if you want to have a goofy, bloody good time that involves slaughtering zombies on an epic scale, Dead Rising 2 will be able to satisfy that desire for a good long while.
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