It has been argued for quite some time now that gamers these days have things far too easy. Bona fide challenge has frequently become a bone of genuine contention; offer too much of it and you alienate gamers with a limited amount of leisure time; offer too little and you end up with something that many people will end up dismissing outright as either flippant or softcore, and thus not worthy of their time.
Dead Rising 2, very much like the original game that spawned it, isn’t afraid to put some immovable rules in place. Some players complained about the structure of the first game, but even more championed it as a wholly original and boldly compelling enterprise. The fact that autosaves were almost entirely absent places the onus completely upon you, demanding multi-tasking aptitude and an ability to prioritise your tasks at every single turn.
Capcom’s new sequel does ease things up a little bit. Autosaves are now triggered more often (although only after primary story chapters conclude) and you are now allowed to use three save slots instead of the original’s one; a dynamic that inspired even the most dedicated players to resort to juggling a hard drive save with a memory card one. Other than that, the glorious core fundamentals of play remain pretty much unchanged.
The cocky, misogynist (but oddly loveable) buffoon Frank West, star of the first game, is nowhere to be seen here. The hero this time is ex-motocross idol Chuck Green, an incomparably more sympathetic hero whose young daughter Katie shapes much of the plot’s root structure. One thing is absolute in Dead Rising 2 – your daughter needs Zombrex medication every 24 hours, and if she doesn’t receive it, you won’t have the resilience to continue on with your fight against the undead.
Dead Rising 2 features an elegant drop-in/drop-out co-op system that is sure to be a big hit. Because a single play-through inevitably results in several missed opportunities, returning with a friend to prioritise the missions that you missed the first time around is extremely addictive, and this is primarily down to the strength of the writing. You’ll probably want to save as many different people as possible, even if it is just to see what pearls of wisdom they have to offer when you finally deliver them back to the safe house.
One of the most enjoyable new additions involves the ability to create hybrid weapons. These are essential if you want to level up quickly, as each kill with a combo weapon earns you a great deal more Prestige Points than simply wielding a regular vanilla tool. One of the first combo weapons that you are given the recipe for – a combination of a baseball bat and some rusty nails – is pretty much an essential utensil for getting through the game’s opening tier with as few scars as possible.
Some of the plot’s ideas are truly inspired too. ‘Terror Is Reality’, the ultra-violent gameshow which features in the early part of the story and forms the basis for the multiplayer component, might have been inspired by a gag that capped the classic 2004 zombie comedy Shaun Of The Dead. Similarly, the story’s ever-present protest group, who (hilariously) object to the dehumanisation of dead people, could have come straight from the script pages of an unmade George Romero film.
The game’s multiplayer component isn’t throwaway either. Each online contest involves taking part in four different mini games; all of them amusing, and all of them impeccably well designed. Brilliantly, if you’re boxed into a corner in the main single-player game, and are forced into purchasing Zombrex for your daughter because you weren’t able to find any, you can grind for cash in multiplayer and then have the funds transferred to the save slot of your choice.
So the plot’s better, that arcane sense of humour is still very much to the fore, and the hero’s plight is more involving. It may have discarded one of the most amusing aspects of the first game – the photography – but online co-op play and an uproarious multiplayer mode more than make up for it. Like any great thriller, Dead Rising 2 gets its kicks from placing you in a series of very dicey situations, and then fully expects you to find your own way out of them. This isn’t a walk in the park. It’s a zombie apocalypse. Act accordingly, and man up.
Watch the Dead Rising 2 trailer here: