Review: Dead Rising 2
Drinking coffee at my desk, I can feel just how weighty my mug is, probably enough to smash a forehead or two into hamburger helper. Actually, come to think of it, my stapler’s on the hefty CQC-conducive side too. Oh yes, I could turn into a corporate commando. These are the things you start considering after playing Dead Rising 2. It celebrates the every-day MacGyver, the person who’s stopped and said, “why can’t I attach a super-soaker to a keg?” Or “That coat-hangar’s a Bat’leth crying to happen.” And though you may not be trapped in a pool with an Orca, you’re facing that other great threat to civilization: Zombies. So if you’re fond of weaponized arts and crafts as well as facing the undead, welcome home.
There’s a satisfying amount of story tying my slaughter-binges together, like the delicate lace of a hallmark card. Playing as Chuck brought a nice sense of purpose to my mayhem. Sure I’m still using a bucket with drills to liquefy Zombie brains, but now I’m doing it to save my daughter. Taking place after the initial outbreak in Dead Rising I, I expected the world to be rotting in the decay of the post apocalypse. But that wasn’t the case! Apparently, civilization didn’t come crashing down. There’s still a government presence but more importantly, Americans go back to what they do best: being Americans. There’s something disturbing about America’s ability to continue to wallow in capitalist-indulgence, something straight out of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and I absolutely love it.
The blaze of Vegasesque neon lights paired with driving an electrified wheel chair through a mass of zombies provides for countless psychedelic experiences. My absolute favorite moment of plump surreality? I unintentionally triggered a boss cut scene while wearing a blood stained Servobot mask. It turns out this particular boss was one of those bigheaded mascots for a department store. He was grieving over his mascot girlfriend, who by the way, was also wearing a bighead mask. So here I am, holding a lightsaber with my Servobot mask, arguing with a mascot…and there are zombies…priceless.
And as central as I regard story and atmosphere to most videogames, DR 2 is one of the few where I know I’m mostly playing to kill zombies. And for such a simple and practically flawless mechanic, Capcom found a way to evolve zombie killing in such a way that keeps it from becoming redundant. Sure it’s fun to kill zombies, but the next step is doing it creatively. You could honestly spend half your gameplay just finding creative ways to dispatch the undead, especially with combo weapons. As you forage Zombied Fortune City, you come across items with a wrench icon, indicating they’re one half of a combo weapon. Find the right item to combine it with, and you create a powerful, and usually hilarious, weapon of zombiecide. These weapons deal more damage and even grant you more experience per kill, adding incentive for the handyman. Some seem like an immediately logical step, like a nail-spiked bat. But did you know you could bowl like Zeus by combining a bingo-ball-cage and a battery? My favorite weapon though; I won’t giveaway too much, but if you combine a Servobot helmet with a lawnmower, well… you’ll bring new meaning to the word aneurism.
And speaking of aneurisms, I have to applaud the Capcom on making a very critical improvement over DR 1; it fixed the Otis effect. Remember that constant nagging that would ring on Frank’s radio just about every time he was surrounded by zombies? Well, now you have the option of just skipping through the message and having it lined up in your inbox. So you can answer the call, skip the text, and review later, all within the time that zombie is trying to perform a gastronomic MRI on you. Plus, it didn’t hurt that they replaced Otis with Stacey Forsythe, the cute red head who acts as your contact at HQ. No offense Otis, but I didn’t mind her calling me.
As alluring as it sounds, competitive multiplayer is still a project in the works. I really do appreciate the effort that was put into turning the multiplayer into a game-showesque experience, by having a Pay-Per-view intro of every session, but that cutscene got old the third time around. I just wanted to skip to a lobby where I could wait for other players. And unfortunately, you can’t select to play specific events. As I said, multiplayer goes in sessions with a few rounds of individual games, but you don’t get to choose those games. So if a game pops up that you’re not especially fond of, you have to suck it up and go through the motions. After a few sessions, I had no desire to even bother again.
The co-op multiplayer is fantastic though. Have you ever wondered if you were the zombie-chomping-lawnmower-record-time holder? Well here’s your chance to finally race someone down the promenade with zombie-chomping lawnmowers! As simple as it is, it really is nice to have someone along with you in the middle of Fortune City’s madness. I didn’t notice just how quiet and isolating playing DR 2 alone could be until I played with someone else. You really do go through hours of silent slaughter, so it was very encouraging to have some banter and coordinating in my antics. Now, the next step would be the ability to have some form of split screen co-op.
So if you liked the original Dead Rising, you’re definitely going to enjoy its successor. It builds and expands on that simple pleasure of cutting down masses of undead, and really allows for you to explore how to go about said pursuit. And the second playthrough just gets better. Keeping your upgraded stats, you can go about trying to find all of the survivors spread out throughout Fortune City. I managed to save about twenty and it turns out there were dozens more I hadn’t even run into. And of course, I have yet to discover all the possible weapons combos, and if these sound like menial tasks, trust me, they’re not. With my level 34 Chuck, I can’t wait to get into some more mayhem, and really get to explore the rest of the neon-lit sprawl. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go realize the full potential of a letter opener, duct tape, and a T-square.