365//365: Day 277 – Dead Rising 2 (360)

10.04.2010

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"One man. One million zombies. One hundred minutes of loading."

(Gameplay recordings came out flawed once again. Out of my hands, but at least it should present a semblance of the gameplay offered in Dead Rising 2)

Chuck Greene has seen better days. Set up by what looks like a fellow contestant, Chuck discovers that the same zombies that he just slayed as a part of a zombie slaying television game show, TIR (Terror Is Reality), have been unleashed upon Fortune City in an act of terrorism. With the fact that Chuck’s wife was murdered by zombies, his framing couldn’t have happened to such an exploitable target.  To further complicate matters, Chuck’s daughter Katey is with him, infected by a zombie bite and requiring a dosage of Zombrex every 24 hours. It’s going to be three days until the military show up and rescue all of the survivors, and it’s three days that you’ll have to clear your name from this zombie debacle that you have found yourself in the middle of. Yes indeed, Chuck Greene has a complex three day period ahead of him, with a host of zombies and other madmen between him, the truth and survival. Armed with the myriad of merchandise, items, toys and accessories strewn around Fortune City, Chuck has at least some method of combating potential death and dismemberment. Unfortunately for him, long load times end up being more of a nuisance than the legion of undead trying to dismember him at every step.

Dead Rising 2 is the sequel to Capcom’s original IP from several years back. Switching out the photographer and former protagonist Frank West and the mega mall that he was encased in, we are introduced to Chuck Greene, a father trying to earn enough money to pay for his daughters next Zombrex injection. You see, if Katey doesn’t get a Zombrex injection every 24 hours, she will turn into the very thing that devoured her mother, whom ended up biting her own daughter and infecting with this deadly disease. You’ll have to keep that in mind, as Zombrexis not the easiest product to come by, and locating one before the 24 hour period can be a hazard in of its self.

As with the first gane, Dead Rising 2 (DR2) heavily swivels towards timed objectives. While it may seem like you have a wealth of time at your disposal, traveling, taking out zombies in your path, and rescuing stragglers caught in-between a zombie and a hard place cuts down on that time significantly. Efficiency is the key here; find the quickest ways from point A to point B, corral stragglers by a bulk and return them in a batch and you’ll be set. The system is closely structured towards the original title, and that’s not necessarily to your advantage.

Exploration takes a backseat early on in your trek through this mall/town. Your objectives take center stage and are the focal point of your progression (as they should be). The limiting nature of DR2′s early exploration is a bit of a letdown, as the first thing you’ll want to do is not so much get acquainted with your environment, but test out the mayhem that can be unleashed. There are moments of leeway however, such as completing a chapter in the story with enough time left over between the chapters completion and the start of the following one, as well as end game bonuses similar to the first title. Towards the second act, you’ll receive a much more generous amount of time between the next chapter for you to truly get a feel for this casino of chaos and calamity. Even still, there’s no real sense of freedom to be had for chunks of time.

During those bits of “free time” you can either explore your immediate surroundings, or partake in various rescue missions. You’ll receive text messages and locations of people stranded in zombie infested areas. It’s up to you if you want to take the chance on rescuing them, or letting them fend for themselves until they ultimately expire. Rescuing civilians will net you bonus PP, which acts as experience points in DR2. You can reach up to level 50, with most every new level unlocking something useful for Chuck. You can gain a unit of health, learn new evasive maneuvers (such as a DDT counter if you’re being attacked), longer throwing range, Combo Cards, and so on.

Combo Cards are a new addition to the franchise, and help provide more deviation during exploration and zombie genocide. Certain items are distinguished with a blue wrench icon, meaning that they can be combined with a certain other item with the same blue wrench logo. Combo Cards help point out which combinations work, as well as the potency of each of the item combinations. While there’s no outright source of creativity in creating pure random nonsense, the designated item mash ups are quite creative, with quite a sadistic side to a few of them. Contraptions such as the Drill Bucket (combining a Power Drill and a Bucket) can be quite a guilty pleasure, even if the effects are isolated to a single zombie at a time. Other items such as a Rocket Launcher (which is a pipe that fires off deadly bursts of fireworks) are more tongue-in-cheek in their plausibility, but when you’re surrounded by thousands of the undead, stabbing them with a chef’s knife while a music tone from Psycho plays, plausibility kind of has no place in any facet of your travels. You’ll gain double the PP using weaponry devised from combining two select items into one, vastly more powerful instrument of death, so just about everyone should be satisfied.

Fortune City turns out to be a wealth of zombie stomping opportunities around every corner. As with the Willamette Parkview Mall in the first title, Fortune City holds ample amounts of random items to use on your undead adversaries. Dumbbells in a sports store, tricycles in a toy store, over-sized costume heads and serving trays from restaurants are just a handful of items turned makeshift weaponry that can be located throughout Fortune City. You can even run people over with a wheelchair, capturing a helpless zombie in the seat, all the while you’re pushing both the zombie and wheelchair through the massive walls of undead. Some items work with a deadly precision, while others act more as a distraction for Chuck to either gain the upper hand, or high tail it out. Two of the best in this category have to be the sprinkler fireworks and the toy helicopter. Springing the toy helicopter into action results in a stationary flight of this children’s contraption, with zombies being drawn to it like a moth to a flame, knocking themselves down from the propellers blades slapping them across the mush. The sprinkler firecracker is plunged into the mouth of a nearby zombie, sending showers of sparks cascading from its mouth, exciting the nearby living dead and ushering them towards it, with their limp arms reaching outwards, trying to catch the sparkles pouring out. It’s definitely a great source of humor, and doesn’t get tiresome to repeatedly pull off throughout the game.

You’ll encounter the occasional wacko boss along the way, who range from the misguided and confused, to the down-right sadistic. Some of your victories over these adversaries turn into melodramatic exits for the fallen boss, which on some occasions, you actually feel sorry for them. The lead up to the battle with Theodore shows that he’s not necessarily understanding everything going on around him, mostly due to his mental state. You do sort of feel for him, as he just wants to feed the tiger he’s tending to, but the situation at hand, compounded with his mental and emotional state of mind, has him act out in illogical manners. Upon his defeat, you’ll almost feel sorry for the dying Theodore as he staggers about, finally collapsing and offering himself to the one thing he was trying to protect and keep fed. For that brief amount of screen time, Ted becomes quite the fascinating unintended antagonist, qualifying his encounter and subsequent defeat as one of the more stand out moments in a game with so much to offer the player as it is.

Theodore’s memorable appearance was aided by a vocal performance that was fitting, regardless of how overly dramatic it came off at times. The same cannot be said about the collective vocal efforts. While the delivery comes off convincingly enough at times, a majority of said delivery doesn’t. Some of it is dialog related, but most of it just feels more like a phoned in performance, rather than a B rated experience. On some very rare occasions, you can hear a slip of the Canadian accent thrown in when it wasn’t previously heard.

The rest of the audio, from zombie groans to the music, are all impressive in their own rights. Entering various establishments will pipe through the stores own musical channel into your speakers, providing a diverse enough feeling of what you hear from store to restaurant to restroom. Boss battle tunes are pulse pounding affairs that add a sense of frantic chaos to these brutal battles. While there are some carryover effects from the first title, they work as well as they did the first time around, with the new sounds just as fitting. Outside the uneven voice acting, DR2 provides the right feel with its audio for you to crank it up and occasionally get creeped out!

Fortune City does have  a favorable look in DR2, though there are a couple of blemishes you’ll run into more often than not. With so much detail, enemies on screen and various items sprinkled throughout your immediate area, there are occasional draw distance issues, as well as random items and enemies popping up right under your nose. It’s hard to fault Capcom much with these quirks, as they’ve pumped out enough brain rotting goodness spread throughout each area, with almost no slowdown or choppiness to the frame rate. While enemies popping up out right in front of you isn’t a common occurrence, random weapons and placement items, as well as the draw distance issues will be noticeable. Will it outright affect the gameplay? Not at all, though the immersion gets thrown off every so often. While facial animations are passable, and the quality of each character model is commendable, the lip syncing could have been done a bit better. Regardless of visual miscues from the plethora of on screen enemies, objects and happenings, DR2 literally puts everything, as well as the kitchen sink, onto the screen at once, and it rarely doesn’t work.

For the majority, DR2′s controls are quite a bit more tolerable, aiding in your zombie slaying and not hampering it, like the previous effort. There are still some nonsensical aspects to the controls that may grate your nerves some, especially with the jumping. Pressing A at the peak of your jump will throw you into another jump once you land. While that doesn’t sound like something that can throw you off, when you’re surrounded by dozens of lifeless bags of rotting flesh that want to sip your brains out of your nose, you’ll need a bit of precision in your movement. An errant jump can bounce you into the rotting arms of a fat zombie that wants to bulk up even more. You’d be surprised how many people mistime a button press, or simply press the incorrect button at the heat of the moment, and this fault in the jumping mechanics can and will get you into unfavorable situations on occasions. Even some melee attacks are affected by this touchy control system, throwing out an extra attack towards a direction that you might have previously cleared, allowing for a random zombie to throw themselves onto you and give you the hickey of death. Otherwise, the camera isn’t the hindrance it once was, and aiming with both ballistic weaponry and throwing looks and feels a bit more responsive.

Capcom has infused a multiplayer aspect to the franchise with two different means of multiplayer mayhem — TIR online and co-op story mode. With the latter, you can have a friend or a complete stranger drop in and out of your game at will, aiding you along the way, or cause their own destruction. It does add to the thrill and uncertainty of wandering around a massive area of death, death and degrading conditions, though it’s not a deal sealer by any means. They end up dropping in as Chuck Greene’s twin, which adds nothing to the story at all outside why there’s a second Chuck walking around. TIR acts as a secondary means of gaining some occasionally needed cash for the main storyline (which lets you purchase Zombrex or other paraphernalia in several different pawn shops). I would say more about the TIR online mode, but there seems to be either connection issues stopping me, a lack of player participation in Ranked or Player matches, or a combination of both. Having to sit through the same drawn out speech from TK while establishing a connection to a game gets tiresome after the second time you’re forced through it. The only way to skip it is to establish a connection to a game, which takes thirty seconds. After that, you can skip the rest of his spiel, and wait five minutes to connect to three other players. Once you’re connected and set for the match, another thirty second wait ensues, from which the game says you cannot connect to the game host. For the time being, TIR will not be factored into the overall score, with the hopes that players flock to this multiplayer slaughterhouse, as well as connection issues are ironed out.

The one game I was able to connect to out of dozens of attempts was pretty much a snorefest. Rolling a hamsterball in a giant American Gladiators like environment, shooting zombies and a target and so on, were not the most thrilling experiences online. Again, with the inability to play more than this one game online, it’s impossible to try and get used to the games provided, and picking apart what I was able to test out isn’t fair.

Long winded delays are not just secluded to the multiplayer realm; there are some serious, and occasionally crippling load times throughout DR2. With or without an install, you will encounter frequent bouts of up to thirty seconds of load times between one section to another, slowing down your pace and occasionally your fun. Load times are not limited to in game scenery changes either, as just the elementary task of selecting your hard drive to load from, introduces you to a ten second delayed reaction, as do game saves. What it all boils down to is an experience similar to that of a 1X CD ROM system, featuring an abundance of load times and memory access times. It does play a role in stomping out the zombie killing fire within you, though with the bevy of killing methods and gameplay gratification is hard to completely eliminate.

Save points seem to be scattered father away from where you’d want them to be. There are designated save points between sub chapters, however the number of restrooms between the sprawling environments seems just a tad implausible for areas with what would otherwise have a heavy amount of traffic. It makes matters worse if you wander too far away after saving nearby the safe-house and your time management neglected to notice that Katey needs her Zombrex injection within the next couple of game hours. Even piloting a wheelchair or tricycle through the sea of slow moving death won’t close the gap quick enough, ending with a checkpoint restart and everything you did for that stretch of time being erased with it.

Finally, bosses are, for the most part, overly frustrating encounters. While they have their own patterns and can be a proper challenge, the amount of health they take per hit and their spastic patterns turn most of these battles into eye rolling affairs. DR had some challenging boss battles, a couple of which were maddening frustrations of overpowered bosses and under-equipped Frank West’s. DR2 has more frustrating battles and less properly tuned challenges. A handful of these bosses can be taken down with less hassle if you have a speedy Combo Card weapon equipped, throwing in a few hits and then running back before the iminate unstoppable barrage by the boss. Many of these bosses can be bypassed by simply ignoring text message tips to the whereabouts of certain civilians, though that takes away the daunting task of securing the safety of every applicable person.

Dead Rising was on my list of The Top 25 Of This Decade because it took an over-saturated concept (zombies in video games), some concepts of a George A. Romero film and a giant mall, and blended them together into one of the best new IP’s in recent years. Dead Rising 2 retains the frantic feeling of zombie dismemberment, infuses more of a story into it and comes away as thoroughly gratifying as its initial installment, in some ways more, and a couple of ways less. Making super weapons from combining two existing weapons encourages experimentation (even if most combinations are pre-existing ones, with little leeway), slaughtering the army of the dead is still addicting and Fortune City always seems to have a place to cash in on a good time. If you can tolerate the occasionally unbearable load times and unfair boss battles, you’ll sure to sink your teeth into Dead Rising 2 for a long time to come. I hope to have more of an evaluation on the online components as they become available, but with what’s currently offered by the overall package outside TIR, you have more than enough reason to shell out another $60 on yet another zombie related video game. One that’s done better than most others. 

Rating: 8.0


Jason V.

I am the Co-Editor-in-Chief here at Chocolate Lemon. Over the last 15 years, I have been writing gaming articles here and there, including my time with GameSages, a then IGN affiliated video game code database that's now owned by IGN, as well as my near four year stay on this very site. I'm quite the gaming enthusiast, have a somewhat "old school" soul, and enjoy a wide variety of geeky shows, movies and so on. Follow me on Twitter @Jas0nVelez