PLATFORM: 360, PC, PS3 (Reviewed on the 360)
PRICE: $55.99 (Click Here to buy from Amazon)
DEVELOPER: Capcom/Blue Castle Games

Bludgeon. Hack. Curb stomp. Impale. [Record Scratch] Create?!?

Picking up months after the first game’s Willamette Mall zombie outbreak, Dead Rising 2 follows motocross champ Chuck Greene as he battles psychopaths and the undead in Las Vegas Fortune City. With future outbreaks in check due to the anti-zombification drug Zombrex, Chuck enrolls in a deadly reality competition to earn money for his infected daughter’s treatment. Things go sour when the show’s stable of stunt zombies escape their holding pens and pour out into the streets, leaving Chuck to gather survivors and scavenge for medicine in the city’s overrun shops and casinos.

New to Capcom’s other zed series is a weapon create system that lets Chuck combine items to form deadly combos, like an axe-hammer or a nailbat. Much like the first game, Dead Rising 2 is designed for multiple playthroughs, and lets Chuck level up by awarding him skill points for killing zombies or rescuing survivors. Co-op and multiplayer party games round out the package.

The Pitch 

“They ain’t curing AIDS. Shit, they ain’t never curing AIDS. Don’t even thing about that shit. They ain’t curing it, because there’s no money in the cure. The money’s in the medicine. That’s how you get paid – on the comeback.”
                                                -Chris Rock


                                               -Dead Rising 2’s killer pimp villain

The Play

It was clearly made in Japan, but Dead Rising may as well have been crafted by Moon Men whose only exposure to human culture was zombie movies. Its open-mouthed aloofness was charming, and helped soften the edge of the game’s failures. It is the Curly Howard of zombie games.

Dead Rising 2 was developed by Canadian developer Blue Castle Games, and aims to capture the weird allure of the original game, but never quite nails it. It is the Shemp of zombie games. 

That’s not to say it’s a bad game, but if you’re aiming to complete the game’s official “story”, you’ll find it a frustrating chore. Dead Rising 2’s plot comments broadly on the pharmaceutical industry. The game’s stoic, sturdy protagonist Chuck Greene and his kid daughter find themselves at the mercy of a wonder drug, and, more importantly to the game, the ticking clock. This basic source of conflict hides beneath a laughably flimsy story about a reality show pimp who frames Chuck for the outbreak, leading him to search the city for clues to clear his name. The story reveals itself through cutscenes – DOZENS of cutscenes – each of them opening and closing with a 30 second loading screen. Sluggish, floaty controls and a dodge skill that isn’t made available until Chuck reaches level 20 make boss fights maddening. In the game’s climactic battle, you’ll chase a jive-talking pimp around a winch for fifteen minutes. Oh, Capcom. You’re trying your hardest to get me to avoid playing through the story.

 FYI, this game won’t shut up about Mega Man

At its core, DR2 is a nearly identical experience to the first game: Hunt down clues and survivors in a zombie-filled mall, and ignore time limits at your peril. If you miss a clue by the deadline and didn’t use a save slot, too bad – you can either restart your game, or keep gathering survivors until the end of the game’s global 72-hour time limit. Thankfully, you’re given three save slots to choose from this time, which is an upgrade from first game’s needlessly perilous one.

Dead Rising 2’s biggest asset is its environment, but it’s worth noting that Fortune City is basically Willamette Mall with casinos. The bulk of the landscape, which is littered with vehicles, food, Mega Man references, and weapons, are the shops on the lengthy Silver Strip and the two malls that flank its edges. There’s a movie theater, an underground passage, and a rooftop helipad. The casinos offer a minor changeup, but add enough color to make Fortune City stand out.

So here’s the Dead Rising 2 conundrum: there’s an addictive, quasi-emergent survival game trapped beneath loads of terrible shit Capcom wants you to do instead. “So you like racing down the strip in a moose helmet goring zombies, eh? Well, how about we flood the whole map with toxic gas and superzombies at the game’s halfway point, making it an ugly, unnavigable mess? And you look like you’re enjoying those flaming boxing gloves. You will only be able to throw five punches with them, hahahaha.”

Often despite itself, Dead Rising 2 is a unique, enjoyable experience held together by the viciously inventive weapon combination system.  Chuck can collect “combo cards” by finding them scattered around the city or by leveling up. The cards themselves depict a weapon combo, like the rocket launcher (lead pipe + bottle rocket) or knife gloves (boxing gloves + bowie knife), and give Chuck added bonuses when using the new weapon. You don’t need the combo cards to create the weapons, but they’ll tickle your collector impulse and drive you to grind skill points for that next level up. There are around fifty combo weapons in total, and hunting each of the recipes and ingredients down will probably take longer than a single eight-hour playthrough. Barreling into a crowd of zombies with an electrified wheelchair is about as good as it gets.

Along with the weapons, Dead Rising 2 also gets survivor recruitment right. If you plan your playthrough accordingly, you can storm down the strip with a murdergang of well-equipped survivors, cutting down tough psychopaths and zombies with ease. Survivor AI is vastly improved, and since they can’t run out of ammo, you can also use them as mobile inventory slots. This teases the emergent, do-it-yourself gameplay that Dead Rising hints at rather than offers outright. You have to hunt for the fun in the game, which also means that it won’t be a good time for everyone.

The Replay

Since Chuck can’t hope to meet all of the inhabitants of Fortune City on a single pass, Dead Rising 2 was designed with replay in mind. There are a handful of different endings and achievements, but the game’s real reward is rampaging through the mall without any regard to the terrible plot.

Multiplayer doesn’t hold up as well on the replay. There’s a game show mode that lets you compete with three other players for in-game cash, but the events are button-mashing quicktime throwaways. Co-op can be sublime, but it depends mostly on the quality of the drop-in player. Prepare to do a lot of booting.   

The Verdict

It’s the otherworldly weirdness of Dead Rising filtered through the talents of a western developer, with very mixed results. Lengthy loading screens, frustrating controls, and a dumb story even by Capcom’s standards can’t fully hamstring this game. There’s a poster in a theater for a movie called Laser Knight with a tagline that reads: “He came from the past… to protect the future… from the present.” You could go three playthroughs without ever seeing it. This is Dead Rising 2 in a nutshell – all of the good stuff lives in the game’s vast periphery.

The last boss is fully concentrated “Oh, Capcom,” but try not to let it sour you on the overarching experience. There’s a lot of fun hiding out in the streets of Fortune City, but you’ll have to find it yourself.

7 out of 10