Saturday is a day of rest and comfort; at least for us working guys who slog it out on the weekdays. So I was not particularly enthused to know that I somehow set myself up to do a preview for Dead Rising 2 on a Saturday morning when I could rather be sleeping through the AM. However, the kind folks at Milestone promised me some hot tea to get me started. Sipping on my cup of tea, I was wondering how Capcom would improve on the original while staying true to the obviously basic idea. Do I hear “MOAR SAVE SLOTS”? Well, I will get to that briefly.
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Dead Rising is one of those Xbox 360 games that gave a genuine feeling of next-gen to gamers who were just coming out of the previous generation of consoles. HD graphics, hordes of enemies and solid gameplay ensured that everyone took notice of this great game out from the Capcom’s factory of legends. Four years and a two spin-offs later, Capcom has decided to deliver a sequel to a much wider audience, which includes PC and PS3 gamers. It is worth noting that even though development has moved to Blue Castle Games, Capcom’s very own Keiji Inafune is overseeing the project from a producer’s role.
Dead Rising 2 revolves around a period in the life and times of an ex-bike racer, whose name tries hard not to give you any sense of the extraordinary – Chuck Greene. The game begins with a shot of an indifferent looking Chuck as he readies himself to participate in a reality TV show called Terror is Reality, which involves – wait for it – taking out zombies. If it couldn’t get more hilarious and predictable, after a certain event, the zombies escape, or rather, they launch an offensive against the defenceless puny humans. Chuck must now save himself and his daughter from the onslaught of the undead.
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Much like its predecessor, the game revolves around a sandbox setting wherein Chuck is trapped for a period of 72 hours in which he has to undertake a variety of missions, which involves uncovering the truth behind the zombie outbreak. The first hour or so had me running here and there, saving people and carrying out some side missions, most of which I cannot reveal without spoiling the game for you. Most of the environment early in the game is basically set against the good ol’ backdrop of a game arena and a mall.
Needless to say, Dead Rising 2 improves on its predecessor by increasing the number of zombies on screen. While they are supposed to be dumb, the sheer numbers can very well overwhelm you if you are not careful. The best thing about a Dead Rising game is the number of weapon options the player has. You can virtually use any object you see lying around as a tool of destruction. Is that a water cooler you see in the corner of the hallway? Well, pick it up and smash it into that zombie you see in front of you. Tables, chairs, axes, lead pipes, guitars, baseball bats; you name it and Capcom has probably thought of it to include it as a weapon in this game. And it gets better. You can now merge different items to create a more powerful weapon. This almost works out in an RPG-like fashion, where you collect more experience points to get better power-ups. You collect cards, which give you access to weapon combinations. Did you know that nails on a baseball bat can make a sick combination? Ask the zombies I took out with that one for more details. As you progress, the game doles out some rather creative combo weapons, including one that involves a couple of chainsaws taped to an oar.
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You also get a digital watch to keep a track on the overall progression of the game, and it is particularly handy for some of the timed missions. There’s also a very elaborate map which shows you exactly where you need to go to next. A red blinking question mark was rather helpful to my cause when I was lost and traipsing around taking down random zombies. The save system in Dead Rising 2 has also been improved to include more than one save slot, which I am sure will bring relief to a lot of you.
The game looks pretty good from a pure visuals point of view. The characters have been modelled fairly sufficiently. Chuck has a perpetually constipated look on his face, which I am sure was done deliberately, while the zombies all looked more-or-less the same. You know, thin zombie 1, fat zombie 2, random zombie 3, rinse, repeat. Another thing I noticed was that the attack animations varied depending on the weapon you were carrying. For example, striking with a sledgehammer is a lot slower than with a knife, and you’re left quite vulnerable between strikes when using a heavy weapon, which can be prove to be quite detrimental to your health, especially when you’re surrounded by zombies.
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The only thing that bothered me was the consistent screen tearing. There was a bit of slowdown as well, although it occurs only when there are lots of zombies on screen. If it was any other game, I would probably hold it against the developer, but in Dead Rising 2, lots of zombies really means a lot of fricking zombies. However, considering that this is only the preview code, I am confident that Capcom will take care of these issues by the time the game hits retail.
Dead Rising 2 is due for release on September 27 for Xbox 360 and PS3, with a PC version to follow somewhere down the line.