The original Dead Rising was a game that people either loved or hated. Some people didn’t like it for the story, the gameplay, and especially the save system. Others worked through these problems, and were able to see a great game hiding underneath. So, when the sequel was announced some people were excited about it, while the skeptical bunch was hoping that their previous issues were fixed.
Along with the announcement of a sequel, Capcom announced a downloadable prequel to introduce the new hero, Chuck Greene. They have finally released the prequel, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, exclusively to Xbox Live Arcade. The game is an appetizer to the full experience, and already shows us that they have taken into account the issues from the first retail game, while still keeping what made it so much fun.
Case Zero begins the story of Chuck Greene, a man who is fighting for his life as well as to save his daughter. In this prequel case, you find out that your daughter is infected, and it is a new drug, Zombrex, that is the only thing keeping her alive. You must give her a shot every 12 hours, or she will turn into one of “them”. At the beginning of the case your truck is stolen, and it is up to you to find more Zombrex in the town of Still Creek, as well as find a means of transportation to get the Fortune City. The story doesn’t play a huge role in the game, and does give you a little emotional attachment to the characters, as you see a man struggling to help his only daughter.
As with the original game, you have a set time limit to do all the objectives. This means finding the aforementioned Zombrex, bike parts, as well as helping survivors is all on a time table. This can be fun and keeps the tension, but at the same time I found myself wanting to explore more. Again the game keeps up its “you must keep replaying the game to get the perfect ending” motif. You have to play through a few times to make you sure can accomplish everything, as you must keep remembering what you have done in previous run-throughs. This can be fun, as the gameplay as a whole is entertaining, but if you’re like me and would rather have a linear game from start to finish, then this may not be the game for you.
As mentioned the gameplay is just plain fun. Mowing down hoards of zombies with various weapons found about the town is gory and satisfying. There are a lot of weapons that return, along with some items that were in the original game. They have added some new ones which cater to the locale that this story is set in. They have also added a few new elements to the gameplay to spice things up a bit, with the biggest being combo weapons. This time around, you can create combo weapons to earn extra PP. They have some crazy combinations, with each being more fun and outrageous than the next. It is fun to experiment and find out what you can make, and you can also earn combo cards to have the “plans” to create weapons you haven’t found yet. This really is a good feature and gives the game a very over the top vibe.
The weapons do feel a lot better than in the first game, especially the gunplay. The guns feel better, as you are able to aim down the sights and have more precision when you aim. Also, the melee combat feels more solid, and the weapons have a better weight distribution to them. However, the animations can still be very awkward and hard to get out of, leaving you to be overwhelmed by the hoards of zombies. This doesn’t ruin the game though, just sometimes makes it frustrating and hard to control.
The game also fixed some of the other frustrating issues, such as the save system. You still save by using a restroom, but in Case Zero there seems to be more of them scattered around the town. Also, between case episodes you’re allowed to save your progress, which helps from having to replay the same sections of the game over and over. Also, rescuing survivors doesn’t seem to be as much of a hassle, as the AI seems to be more advanced at path finding, as you do not need to constantly save them from being attacked. Overall Capcom has made the experience to play the game better and more enjoyable.
The area to explore is fairly large and gives you different unique areas to explore and search for weapons and survivors. Complete with a hunting store, movie theater and bowling alley, the town is diverse in environments. There is even a pawn shop, which allows you to buy stuff with the money system in the game. You can find cash scattered around the town to buy useful weapons and even Zombrex from the pawn shop owner. The money system gives you more to manage, but at the same time allows you to get out of a bind if you are able to make it to a store to buy something.
The game looks good, and as I said each environment has its own feel and atmosphere. Some of the textures can be bland and ugly, and there is a little bit of slowdown when you are taking out too many zombies at once. The characters don’t really have any emotion on their faces, even in times when they try to get you to feel sorry for Chuck. The dialogue is cheesy, but that is as it should be in a zombie game. The over the top nature of the gameplay carries over to appearances, as you can change Chuck’s at will, as you could with Frank in the original game. There are some ridiculous combinations of clothing, from plaid suits to overalls to cowboy hats. It gives it a very comedic relief, and the game definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Overall, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero gives you a good sampling of what to expect in the sequel. You can even transfer over your level and acquired PP to the final game when it launches at the end of September. The game is not very lengthy, but if you have had an itch to dive into Dead Rising 2 early, this is your best chance to get excited for it, and get your hands on the closest thing to the final product.