Giant Bomb Review

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Dead Rising 2: Case Zero Review

4
  • XBGS

Five dollars is an absurdly low price for the equally absurd, wholesale zombie slaughter in this download.

 Chuck Greene's the man with the tools to get the job done.
 Chuck Greene's the man with the tools to get the job done.
For a measly five dollars, just go buy Dead Rising 2: Case Zero. This Xbox Live Arcade release does exactly what Capcom must have wanted it to do: It gets you totally pumped up to play more Dead Rising 2, so it's a good thing the full retail disc game is releasing at the end of September. Cynics might try to to call this a paid demo, but they would be completely objectively wrong. For the price, this is a damn bloody good time--and a fantastic value to boot.

The most important piece of information Case Zero conveys is that Dead Rising 2 will pretty much just be another Dead Rising with a different story. What I mean is, the upcoming sequel will share all of those offbeat, controversial mechanics that made Capcom's first zombie romp a pretty divisive game. The limits on inventory space, run speed, and health; the ever-advancing in-game clock that forces you to accomplish life-or-death tasks on a tight, intractable schedule; the ability--sorry, the necessity--to build up experience, start the game over with your existing level, and make things just a tad easier on yourself. All of it is in there. It doesn't look like Capcom has messed with the first game's unusual particulars, which is a little surprising since some people found those aspects offputting. Those people are out of luck, because that same framework is back in effect.

 Dead Rising is pretty stupid! But it's the kind of stupid that's impossible not to love.
 Dead Rising is pretty stupid! But it's the kind of stupid that's impossible not to love.
That's evident because it's all in Case Zero now. This is a short, downloadable game, but with all the mechanical trappings of a full retail game, giving you a full taste, but just a taste, of what your 60 dollars will get you in a few weeks. But, importantly, this isn't just a slice of what's already going to be in Dead Rising 2. It's a short, standalone storyline set in a unique location not featured in the full game. New hero and, apparently, motocross champ Chuck Greene is enroute to the Las Vegas-like Fortune City with his zombie-virus-infected daughter Katey, and Case Zero focuses on the pair's brief stint in the tiny desert stopover town of Still Creek, as Chuck desperately tries to secure some new wheels and find more of the miracle drug Zombrex that Katey so badly needs in order to not become, you know, a little-girl zombie.

Cue anywhere from two to five hours of the same sort of irreverent insanity that fueled the first Dead Rising. You find ridiculous outfits for Chuck ranging from a plaid suit to a waitress's outfit. You run into other crazed survivors with their own ridiculous predilections and neuroses. And you orchestrate large-scale zombie slaughter with absolutely everything you find in the environment, from firearms to garden implements to servbot heads. Dead Rising 2 trades in the old photojournalist picture-taking minigame for an item-combination system that you just get a short glimpse of here. Baseball bats combine with nails in obvious ways, but wait till you see what happens when you put together a drill and a bucket, or a rake and a car battery. It's ridiculous and satisfying stuff.

 You'd think the survivors would want to stick together.
 You'd think the survivors would want to stick together.
We talk a lot about games being janky around here. Jankiness (is that even the proper noun form?) is defined by any combination of rough elements like low frame rates, long loading times, items disappearing randomly, animations causing unwieldy controls, textures looking a little flat, and more. Case Zero is pretty janky. All of those elements are present in some small degree--not enough to ruin the game, but enough to be irksome a couple of times over the course of the game. But they're worth putting up with. In addition to playing through the short storyline, there are enough optional item combinations and extra survivors to hunt down and save (and achievements rewarding each) that you could play through Case Zero three or four times before seeing everything there is to see. It's a lot of game for only five dollars, and I loved every minute of it.

Dead Rising is such an oddball series that its janky elements just feel like part of the experience at this point, anyway. My only other knock against Case Zero is that it's barely long enough to get you hooked on the character progression and item-combining that will be in the full game before it cuts you off, leaving you impatiently wanting more. And if you do happen to want more, you can carry your save file over right into the retail game, retaining your experience and so on. For what actually could have turned out to be a paid demo, Capcom pretty much hit this one out of the park. It's a shame you can only get Case Zero on the Xbox 360, though Dead Rising 2 will also hit the PS3 and PC. Next time, let's hope a bite-size promotional tool that ends up being this great is available to everybody.    
Brad Shoemaker on Google+