Bargain Bin Reviews: Dead Rising 2

It’s The Pletteau’s favourite video game related feature: The Bargain Bin Review!

Here’s how it works: I dredge the depths of video game stores / Steam looking for cheap games in the $1-$20 range. Games that were once $50-70 and were either very bad or have been out for a long time. I then review said title, taking into account the quality of game and its price. I pass this information on to you and we are both richer for it.

Today on the docket:

Dead Rising 2

Dead Rising 2 is the sequel to Dead Rising (and it’s Wii spin-off, Dead Rising: Chop till You Drop). It takes off after the events of the last game: the whole Willamette thing has been mostly resolved and Frank West and his new ladyfriend Isabela Keyes have more or less vanished. The game follows Chuck Greene, a former motocross star (I never knew that people followed or cared about motocross) who has had to turn to competing in a gameshow called Terror Is Reality, wherein contestants try to slaughter as many zombies as possible in a variety of events. It’s a bloody and dangerous sport, but Chuck doesn’t have much choice: his daughter, Katey, needs a daily dose of Zombrex, a drug that fights off zombification. Katey, as it turns out, was bit in the same incident that claimed his wife’s life, the Las Vegas outbreak.

So, here we are in Fortune City: essentially mini-Vegas, complete with two malls (and a third currently under construction), several casinos, tons of stores, a hotel, and the arena where these TIR matches are held. After the TIR event (which Chuck wins, by the way), there is an explosion below the arena and the hundreds/thousands of undead that were rounded up for this thing in the first place are released upon Fortune City. Chuck, Katey, and a handful of survivors (including the leader of a zombie rights group [CURE], Stacey Forsythe, and noted badass and handsome old guy Raymond Sullivan) make it to the nearby emergency shelter. Unfortunately, Chuck is all out of Zombrex and his daughter needs anotehr dose; after venturing out and recovering some, the gang sees a newscast shot from within Fortune City wherein reporter Rebecca Chang plays footage of the zombies being released… by Chuck Greene.

Like with Dead Rising, the goal of the game is to uncover the truth, save survivors, fight psychopaths, and kill zombies. The game adds in a new group of enemies known as Looters, who, as the name implies, are looters, who also happen to run several pawn shops throughout town. The shops carry a neat assortment of weapons and Zombrex, if you’re desparate. The game has online co-op (which I haven’t tried) and an online TIR mode where you compete with others to earn cash: this cash can then be designated to a save file. You tend to earn around $50,000 per game and this is a helpful cash infusion if you’re running low in-game. And, yes, there are still people online playing it.

As with Dead Rising, you don’t have an infinite amount of time to work. The game is divided into cases and missions. Cases are mandatory events which drive the story forward: giving Katey Zombrex, for example, is a mission you have to complete each in-game day. If you fail to do so, Katey becomes a zombie and dies. You can keep on playing, but there’s not much point because you’ve kind of ruined the game. This happens with other plot points, too. Say you fail to catch Rebecca Chang after she airs the footage of you releasing the zombies: you’ve failed. You can keep on playing, but the game is mostly over. Missions are just optional cases, really. They’re mostly concerned with fighting survivors or killing psychopaths, and that’s about it. They add rewards and so on but aren’t integral to beating the game.

Survivors and Psychopaths are two elements that have been key to the Dead Rising games. Survivors are just that: humans who’ve yet to be eaten by zombies. Psychopaths are a million times more interesting and are certainly the most interesting and even the best part about the Dead Rising games. Psychopaths are essentially individuals who’ve snapped as a result of the zombie outbreak. Some were clearly crazy to begin with while others needed the little extra push to become completely insane. They vary from people who just don’t have a firm grasp on reality (or any grasp at all) to people who are simply taking advantage of a horrible situation. They’re all a little crazy and they’re all fairly unique boss fights.

I really do think Psychopaths are one of the best parts of the Dead Rising game because there is something so abhorrent and something so disgusting about these individuals. Capcom doesn’t really shy away from showing these people doing absolutely disgusting things, like a pair who saw a woman in half or another individual who tosses another off scaffolding (with a noose around his neck) or another who is carving people up and serving them in stew. Showing them in action is really a bold move by Capcom and, to their credit, is a fairly realistic portrayal of what might happen in a zombie outbreak (it happens in most movies, too): one or two individuals either can’t handle their world falling apart around them or they see it as an opportunity to live out their fantasies or do whatever they want. They’re awful people, and Capcom’s handling of the situation makes sure that we hate them.

The biggest and newest feature of the game is the ability to build combo weapons. The premise is simple: take two household items, put them at a workbench and bam, you have something cool. Promo art (like the screenshot above) featured Greene using a paddlesaw, essentially a pair of chainsaws attached to a kayak paddle. You can build all sorts of crazy things, like laser swords and rocket launchers and knife gloves (think Wolverine) that are all mostly pretty lethal. In the first game you tended to have hunt down the good items and remember their spawn points. There were items that were useless and items that were useful (and lethal). Now, you can take many of the not-so-great weapons (like a box of nails and a pair of MMA gloves) and combine them to get something that’s really quite useful. You can mix and match items (or look online) to build these combo weapons; doing so gets you a Scratch Card that gets added to your inventory so you can make it again easier (because the game remembers it for you). Alternatively you can unlock Combo Cards by leveling up, looking at movie posters and getting ideas, or as rewards from survivors and psychopaths. The Combo Card is better than the Scratch Card: the Scratch Card limits you to one of the weapon’s attacks and gives you a lower Prestige Point bonus whereas the Combo Card gives you a bigger bonus, both (or all, in the case of some weapons that have 3+ attacks) of the weapon’s attacks, and a higher damage bonus. Awesome.

The game also puts a slightly larger focus on vehicles: there are dozens of carts above and below ground and a few vehicles that you can buy the keys to and drive around in. The biggest addition here is the introduction of the motorcycle. You get the keys and a trailer for one pretty early on at which point you can customize the thing to make it a lot more lethal. You can, for example, slap on a wheelchair and have a sidecart for survivors. Or you can tape two chainsaws on either side and make what is affectionately referred to as a Slicecycle.

Slicecycles: not as delicious as they sound.

Fortune City is fun to explore but for the most part, it’s the same map as in Dead Rising except with a few casinos tossed in. The game features two shopping malls, a food court, a big central courtyard, a sprawling underground, and a mall that’s under construction: much like in the first game. The map is overall much bigger and I think there’s a greater sense of exploration, but some areas feel very cramped (like the malls). The main courtyard however is huge and feels very open — in addition to hordes of zombies, there are a dozen or so shops or kiosks that you can enter and screw around in and it definitely feels a lot more open than the first game’s courtyard. It’s a welcome addition and even if it feels like we’re treading over some of the same territory, the concept of the game kind of forces that; a GTA-style Dead Rising where you wander around a full city would be cool but would probably take years to make and be pretty taxing on the system, especially with the game’s focus on usable items and so on.

I really enjoyed Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2 for many of the same reasons: killing zombies is fun, rescuing people is rewarding, and the missions are equal parts challenging and simplistic. Rescuing survivors is pretty much the same no matter where you are, but you always have to plan things out pretty carefully and decide when and even who to save. Some survivors need to be carried, for example, and that has to figure into your plan. You can escort some survivors but you can obviously only carry one at a time; you also have to be careful because if you run into a psychopath, your survivors could be endangered as you escort them to safety. And if you don’t time things right, they could die due to your delay or you could miss a part of the Case because you’re escorting. You also need to plan a route figuring on the lowest volume of zombies combined with the shortest route. And if you’re picking up more than one survivor, you need to decide in what order to pick them up. What could have been an incredibly simplistic feature ends up being incredibly complex and adds to the game immensely.

Pick up Dead Rising 2 if you can. I picked it up on the PS3 and the game is beautiful but there is a serious lack of DLC: Xbox players can pick up Case West, which adds an extra episode after the Fortune City outbreak with you teaming up with Frank West from the first game, and Case Zero, which is a prequel case that takes place in a town called Still Creek, just after the Las Vegas outbreak and just before the Fortune City outbreak. Finally, you can (if you want) pick up Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, which adds a bunch of features to the game but is a reimagining, with you playing as Frank instead of Chuck. It’s apparently cool but is largely the same game; you can probably pick it up for cheap, if you want, and if you really like Frank West (who is, let’s face it, a badass) it might be worth it.

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