From the arcade smash hit House Of The Dead to the quintessential gaming experience of the Resident Evil series, zombies have successfully embraced the video game world over the years and provided us with a level of violence that has become the norm. After all zombies aren’t real, are they? Now, thanks to the fantasy worlds that developers have created we get the freedom to tear these walking dead from limb to limb without any hassle from the censors. Step forward Dead Rising, which is one such franchise that pushes the boundaries of fantasy violence in such a way that it’s actually quite funny to embed a scythe into the head of a zombie and watch him spurt with blood.
In Dead Rising 2, Chuck Greene just loves to crack zombie skulls. In fact he enjoys it so much he does it for a living. The former national motocross champion gets his kicks from taking part in a twisted game show called “Terror Is Reality,” where he makes his money by slaughtering hordes of the undead for the pleasure of the viewing public. However, his career is about to come to a premature end. Somehow the contained zombie masses have managed to escape and break loose into the city and, just like Frank West in the original Dead Rising, Chuck finds himself fighting for his life against hundreds of soulless, groaning corpses who have one thing on their mind…“brraaaains!”
Chuck hasn’t just got himself to worry about either. During the zombie outbreak his daughter gets bitten by one of the infected. With her locked away in an emergency shelter, Chuck has to supply her with the antidote, Zombrex, on a daily basis otherwise she’ll turn into a zombie. This serves as the perfect excuse for the game’s protagonist to scavenge around the mall in search for the precious drug. There’s one huge problem though. To get to the drugs Chuck has to get past the zombie hordes shambling around the neon-lit shopping centre of Fortune City in search of human flesh to feast upon.
Dead Rising 2 delivers a predictably, over-the-top storyline full of humorous moments, yet still manages to make those meetings between father and daughter tender and soft as you seek frantically for the Zombrex against the clock in order save her life. Still, it’s the humor that takes center stage. Through a script tinged with funny one-liners and some amusing objectives, such as having to save a red-faced woman who has managed to get herself stuck under a sun-bed during the zombie outbreak, there’s an unpredictability about the storyline and people you meet that keeps things feeling fresh.
In between bouts of Zombrex gathering, you’ll also spend time butchering psychopaths, scaring off looters and rescuing survivors trapped in Fortune City, but gameplay largely revolves around slaughtering zombies. Prestige Points are earned for everything you do across the city, including finding inventive ways to kill the undead and racking up those kills. The more points you gather the quicker you level up, which in turn makes you stronger and gives you access to new skills and, something new to the series, combo cards. The Prestige Points system works extremely well, encouraging you to stray off the beaten path in search for more bizarre items and keeps you eager to level up just so you can see how much carnage Chuck can cause.
There are some crazy weapons lying around Fortune City. Everywhere you turn there’s something to pick up, whether it’s a fire extinguisher stuck to the wall, or a golf club from a sports shop. The addition of combo cards adds to the variety and makes these weapons all the more insane. Stick a piece of dynamite onto a slab of meat with some duct tape, for example, and create the Dynameat, or whack a kayak paddle in between two chainsaws to create the Paddlesaw. Like the first game, there’s a lot of entertainment to be had out of mashing up zombies, but this time around there’s more variety.
As you level up you can access these combo cards from the menu and can see what items need to be fused together to make new ones. The Drill bucket is one of the first combinations you’ll get hold of, and what can be more fun and sadistically evil than wacking a bucket on a zombies head and powering up the drills right through his skull?!! The combo cards are a great new addition to the series that really encourage you to hunt around for the best weapons and level up your character.
One of the most impressive things about Dead Rising 2 is the sheer amount of zombies on screen. Despite thousands of moaning undead wandering around, plus the obvious repetitive nature of constantly killing zombies, there’s still plenty of variety and amusement to be had out of the various death animations. As a result of the sheer number of A.I. roaming around, however, the game does occasionally suffer from poor frame-rates. Also, like the first game, this isn’t the best looking title on PS3 by a long shot with some poor resolution textures and some dreadful looking character models and awful lip-synching during the cut-scenes.
Where Dead Rising 2 really rises above its predecessor is with the new game modes. It’s a shame there’s no local co-op mode, but online co-op is a great inclusion, allowing a player to drop in at any time and help you out during the single player campaign story. This takes the game to a new level, giving you the freedom to tactically slaughter zombies, perhaps luring a huge pack into a store and then letting rip together with some horrible looking weapons.
There’s also an online multiplayer mode that is based on the "Terror is Reality" game show that Chuck plays at the beginning of the campaign. Right at the start of Dead Rising 2 you’ll ride a motorbike equipped with a chainsaw around an arena full of zombies. There are three other A.I. opponents all looking to score the most points by killing the most zombies. In the online mode, the A.I. is replaced by humans giving a little bit of extra replay value after you’ve completed the campaign.
In the cold light of day, after spending half the night putting drill buckets on zombie heads, Dead Rising 2 is not that much different than the first game. It may be set five years after the original game, with a brand new storyline and lead character, but the framework is identical. If you didn’t like the repetitive zombie bashing gameplay last time around then it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy it in this second instalment. If you did, however, then you’re in for a real treat. The new additions and features, including the robust online co-op mode, should have you drooling like the very zombies you’re about to pulverise.