ESRB RATING: M
As an unofficial 360 launch title, Dead Rising drew as much love from fans as it did loathing from detractors. Thanks to sluggish controls and a clunky save system, ferreting out the good nuggets of gameplay wasn’t always easy. With a sequel on the immediate horizon, Capcom and Blue Castle Games are offering a substantial taste of what’s to come with Dead Rising: Case Zero, introducing protagonist Chuck Greene as he kills zombies, saves survivors, and wards off psychopaths in a U-Turn-esque pit stop on the way to Dead Rising 2’s Las Vegas.
The good news and bad news: if you felt strongly about Dead Rising, you’ll feel the same way about Case Zero.
Dead Rising 2 will probably be a strange game. A tongue-in-cheek play on American zombie films filtered through the increasingly bizarre vision of Capcom’s Keiji Inafune, the downloadable prequel begins with a nod to Romero’s Day of the Dead: Hero Chuck Greene finds himself stranded in a deserted, zombie infested town as a loose newspaper rolls down the street. The difference here is that instead of barricading himself into the Wampum mine in Pennsylvania, Chuck stuffs that newspaper into a Whiskey bottle and makes molotov cocktails.
Like Demon’s Souls or Valkyria Chronicles, Dead Rising: Case Zero isn’t for everyone. Whether it’s the often crushing difficulty, sticky controls, or the parade of nonsensical cutscenes, games from Nippon tend to carry along a lot of baggage. For those willing look past its shortcomings – and there are plenty of them – Case Zero’s glimpse of Dead Rising 2 is well worth the 400 MS points. If you’re familiar with Dead Rising, you’ll instantly recognize Case Zero. You’re given a sequential series of story objectives to complete in an open map filled with zombies, military goons, and the occasional murderer. For better or worse, gameplay hasn’t changed, as Chuck Greene clumsily finds (and creates!) makeshift weapons to push back the horde. If you’re expecting Parkour-style slaughter advancements in the vein of Prototype, you’ll be disappointed, but Dead Rising wouldn’t be Dead Rising without a rigid set of gameplay constraints.
Ok, so it’s not entirely the same game as its predecessor. The best and most notable addition is Chuck’s ability to craft new weapons by combining existing ones. If a standard chainsaw doesn’t cut if for you, tape a pair of them to a kayak paddle for 360-degree protection. Not impressed by the killing power of a regular baseball bat? Turn it into a nail bat. And for those who hated Dead Rising’s single save slot, Case Zero has three of them, which makes dicking around in the small town of Still Creek a potentially “productive” activity.
You’ll spend around three hours playing through a single run-through of Case Zero’s story, which can be expanded on subsequent playthroughs. Unless you’re gamefaq-ing it, the game structure simply doesn’t allow you to find every item or rescue every survivor on your first pass. If you’re interested in experiencing everything the content can offer, you’ll easily spend five or six hours, which is a good deal for the $5 asking price. Case Zero’s story has a time limit, which means you’ll be exploring and crafting weapons on the clock, but three save slots and multiple playthroughs don’t make the timer much of a stressor.
Visually, Case Zero looks marginally better than the original, but won’t turn heads. It’s obviously more concerned with packing as much shit on the screen as possible without regard to texture or lighting, and that suits it fine (although Chuck Greene’s daughter looks unnaturally swollen throughout the whole game*). The worst thing about the content are the loading screens, which crop up before and after every cutscene and location transition. If the loading screens are this bad in the sequel, multiple playthroughs will be hair-pullingly frustrating.
Even though you can’t bound over buildings and run up walls, exploring Still Creek is fun. It’s apparent that Dead Rising understands what’s funny and unnerving about the walking dead moreso than Resident Evil/Burn Zombie Burn/Call of Zombie Duty et al., and finding new and entertaining ways to dispatch the dead will keep you coming back. It’s still an acquired taste and begs for more refined controls, but Case Zero is easily worth a buy. Both the full version and a free timed trial are available on the Xbox Live marketplace.