blazehedgehog's Dead Rising: Case Zero (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

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Short, sweet, and cheap.

Capcom has been taking a lot of risks with downloadable games in ways that most developers aren’t. It all began with 2008′s Bionic Commando Rearmed. Rearmed served as a high-definition refresh to the original NES cult classic, in order to prepare gamers for the big budget, full-3D Bionic Commando to be released later that year. In a number of ways, Rearmed ended up being far more critically and commercially successful for Capcom, and since then, they have sought other ways to recapture its magic. This eventually lead to Dark Void Zero for the Nintendo DSi and PC. Instead of starting with an old game and making it new again, Dark Void Zero did the opposite, with a faux-retro 8-bit game – complete with a silly NES-style “blow in to the cartridge!” reference when you first boot up. And now we have Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, a game that follows in a similar vein – while at the same time forging its own very different path.

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Case Zero is set not long after the original Dead Rising, which saw a zombie outbreak ignite in the fictional town of Willamette, Colorado. The lumbering zombie menace has now finally spread to Las Vegas, and we catch up with Chuck Greene, a former Motocross Champion. As Chuck escapes Vegas, he finds himself stopping briefly in the small town of Still Creek. Chuck is not alone – with him is his four year old daughter, Katey. Katey, it seems, was bitten by a zombie, and the only way to stave off the effects of zombification is an expensive drug known as “Zombrex”, taken by injection once every 12 hours. Unfortunately for the both of them, the truck they arrived in was stolen, leaving them stranded in this zombie-infested small town. It is here the game begins with your first task: find Katey another vial of Zombrex, and from there it hits all of the familiar Dead Rising notes: Survivors to rescue, weapons galore, and a strict deadline in order to complete your goals. Capcom’s official line is that there is 5 hours worth of content contained within Case Zero, but given the in-game deadline, the game will forcibly end after about 2-3 hours. Of course, this is Dead Rising, so what you do in those 2-3 hours can vary wildly and will ultimately lead you to one of five very different endings. The original Dead Rising almost demanded to be played through multiple times, and this a tradition Case Zero happily embraces.
If one were so inclined, you could say that the original Dead Rising was a challenging game. If you weren’t on your toes, death would come swiftly to Frank West, and it’s no different for Dead Rising 2‘s Chuck Greene. The blow is softened, somewhat, by the ability to restart from the beginning and still keep all of your skill upgrades from your previous playthrough, and unlike the original Dead Rising, save points in Case Zero are plentiful – meaning if you do decide to reload from your last save, it shouldn’t be too far off from where you last died. And dying in Dead Rising is almost half the fun, simply because there’s so many things to do and weapons to try. This is enhanced thanks to Dead Rising 2‘s added ability to craft new tools out of two compatible items. Have a baseball bat and a box of nails? Make a spiked bat. Newspaper and a bottle of whiskey? Now you’ve got a Molotov cocktail. Others are more esoteric, like the “Boomstick”, made by combining a pitchfork and a shotgun. This is marred somewhat by a nonsensical “Combo Card” system. Combo Cards are unlocked at specific points in the game for doing things like leveling Chuck up or defeating a boss character, and will tell you “recipies” for making new weapons. The problem with this system is that if you happen to guess a specific item combination without having the matching Combo Card, you’ll craft a less powerful, more fragile version of that weapon, which seems a little counter-productive to the “try something and see what works” nature of Dead Rising.  
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The nature of downloadable content has been a tricky one that, in my opinion, not many developers seem to understand properly, with no help from Microsoft’s imposed pricing structure on the Marketplace. For a lot of games today, getting the “complete experience” means buying something for $60, and then spending an additional $20-$30 on downloadable expansions – many of which feel like things that should have been in the game to begin with (and in some cases, actually were, before they were chopped out and sold seperately). Where Case Zero fits in to all of this is strange – some may call it a “paid demo”, but because this is an Xbox Live Arcade release, you can actually play a free trial version of Case Zero, which gives you full access to the entire town of Still Creek, all the way up until you complete the first objective (or night falls, whichever comes first). The reason you buy Case Zero is because you either (A) care about the game’s story, (B) want to get a head start on leveling up Chuck for the real Dead Rising 2, or (C) just want the ability to save your progress. The good news is that Case Zero costs only 400 Microsoft Points, which is $5 USD. Compared to other downloadable content on the Xbox 360 Marketplace, that is a remarkably cheap price for what you get.  
If you find yourself even remotely interested in a Dead Rising game, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero is a good way to test the waters. It looks, sounds, and plays almost exactly like the original, but offers just enough new gameplay and story tweaks to whet your appetite for the upcoming Dead Rising 2 next month. More than a demo, but less than a full game, at only $5, it’s hard to resist.
(This review was originally published on

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