There aren’t many concepts that I’ve found more appealing than a mall full of zombies, as found in Dead Rising, which now seems like it was released a lifetime ago. Similarly chronologically spaced from the original, Dead Rising 2 takes place several years later. The zombie outbreak wasn’t contained in Willamette, Colorado, and now a drug, Zombrex is used to temporarily hold of the zombification process for those that have been bitten. You take control of the father of one such unfortunate individual, and divide your time between uncovering the truth about the latest horrible outbreak, saving survivors, and finding more Zombrex.
The new protagonist, Chuck Greene, isn’t a wartime photojournalist, though. Hell, I bet he doesn’t even carry around photos of his daughter, Katy, around in his wallet, because he doesn’t even own a camera. Instead, he’s a crossbreed of a motocross rider and a handyman. What this means for the game, is that instead of taking pictures of zombies and certain things in game and looking for photo-ops with the other survivors in order to earn ‘Prestige Points’ (the name for experience points in what is essentially a zombie oriented action RPG,) you’ll be constructing strange and unusual weapons, and killing zombies with them! By ‘strange and unusual’, I’m talking about kayak paddles with a chainsaw on each end, MMA gloves with nails in them, or headgear with a lawnmower motor and blade on top. It all sounds really awesome – and there’s no deception to be uncovered here, it is awesome.
If you didn’t actually play the original Dead Rising, then you missed out on a zombie-killing good time, but you also missed out on its shares of issues and quirks that received a bit of critical condemnation. Things like an annoying guide that calls up on your radio and has text boxes you couldn’t skip through, or the fact that it only let you have one save file, with no autosaving or checkpoints. Rejoice, because now the radio messages are now no longer obnoxious, and some compromise has been made on the notion of saving; there are now three save slots you can use, so that you can now rewind the clock a little if your time management leaves you with a savegame in an unwinnable situation. Still no checkpoints though, which means that death can be thoroughly demoralising if you’re left with a lot of progress to re-tread from your last save. Dying will typically happen when you’re unprepared and underleveled for an encounter with a psychopath (survivor gone crazy) but I did manage to make it through the entire game solo (there’s a coop option, for those inclined) without having to restart without too much stress, so there’s not too much masochism this time around.
The presentation of Dead Rising 2 is pretty great across the board, only ever let down by the occasional weird repeated crying of survivors left fretting in the safe house, or the occasional area that looks a little lacking for detail. Faces seem a little more stylised than an attempt at realism, and the acting and writing of the dialogue expertly walks the tightrope line of being cohesive with the complete madness of the premise and events while not breaking it by being too self-aware about it all.
If you liked Dead Rising, there’s no reason in my mind that you wouldn’t love the sequel, unless you really really really love taking photos of zombies. If you liked it in concept but found that the execution had too many elements that didn’t jive with you, then it’ll be worth checking out this one to give it a chance to make reparations. If you didn’t like the first one at all in any way and have no interest in the sequel, well then you’re an odd one, especially for reading a review about it.