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Dead Rising 2 (Xbox 360) artwork

Dead Rising 2 (Xbox 360) review

"For the longest time, I, and I think a lot of gamers, believed a sequel to Dead Rising was never going to materialize."

For the longest time, I, and I think a lot of gamers, believed a sequel to Dead Rising was never going to materialize. When the original game came out back in 2006, it was met with mostly positive feedback and sold well. Then nothing... Capcom commented a few months or so later that they wanted to turn it into a franchise, but after that, they were abnormally silent about any type of anything being in development. Years went by, and Dead Rising was slowly fading into history as a distant memory. Then, when something Dead Rising-related popped up, it was just news of a stripped-down port of Dead Rising 1 coming to the Nintendo Wii. It perplexed everyone. But when all hope was lost, an announcement of a successor was finally made, which was then followed by the hype train, promotional events, various special editions, and pre-DLC, titled Case Zero, to hail the coming of this once-mythical sequel.

With a four year gap between the two titles, was the long wait for Dead Rising 2 worth it? Would it be able to impress veterans accustomed to the ways of the first?

In-game, five years have passed since the zombie outbreak at the mall in Willamette, Colorado, and the scene has shifted to Fortune City, Nevada, where a new outbreak has occurred just after an airing of a sports show there involving captured zombies. With Frank "Covered Wars" West no where in sight to document and fight through the chaos this time, another unlikely hero takes control of the situation: the blonde and rugged Chuck Greene, former Motocross champion! From there, players participate in the Dead Rising experience, being placed in an oval-ish sandbox with an overall time limit, where they must go from scheduled case file to scheduled case file in order to solve a Scooby-Doo mystery. Then again, the series intentionally revolves around multiple playthroughs, so they can also say "Screw destiny!" and kill the hundreds upon hundreds of zombies clogging any given area in an attempt to level up their incredibly weak avatar, carrying over stats into future plays.

"Oval-ish? You can't be serious."

It gets better. Not only does this game share a similar shape to its predecessor, but, once you start exploring DR2's environments, you'll realize it's just a slightly bigger mall with more flash and casinos placed in specific spots. To be fair, though, the game offers enough structural variety to make it enough of a departure from DR1. A grand example is the outside area in the center of the map, featuring poles lighting up in unison, stores aplenty, and neon signs and light bulbs flashing everywhere. It's a huge change from DR1's outside area, which was just a big green park... that had three annoying convicts that kept respawning after you killed them.

DR2 definitely also has its share of attractions and goofball moments which you'll get a kick out of, too, from the erotica store where a "massager" can be used as a weapon and peep shows that gain you experience points, to being able to jump on mechanical dolphins and plow through hordes while riding a tricycle for little girls. There's even a new mechanic that allows for weapon combinations, and man, the dev team didn't hold back in this department. You'll get neat, effective weapons like the spiked bat and the knife glove, but there's tons of absurd creations, like the Blitzkrieg, a wheelchair with assault rifles, or a Beer Hat, which is not really a weapon and does exactly what you think it does. It's nice that the humor survived the leap from the previous game.

So, even with those positives, DR2 ends up sounding more of the same with touches here and there. If this was any other game series, I'd be disappointed, but the opposite applies here. I enjoyed the first Dead Rising, but that game had several irks that hampered what could have been a better product. With DR2, quite a bit of these nuisances are subtly fixed, providing a much smoother journey; one notable change is the ability to move while aiming guns, which is such a life saver against fast bosses and when you need to pop out of corners during heavy gun battles. Another pleasant change is the easy access to the safe house, where you basically walk through a few empty corridors. It's a far cry from the zombie-infested, maze-like warehouse that you have to bend over backwards through with others in the original.

This leads me to the greatest improvement DR2 has going for it: better survivor AI. The most frustrating issue in the original is how boneheaded the numerous survivors act when being escorted. With most survivors, there's always a five in five chance they're going to be groped and ganged up by a group of walkers multiple times before reaching the safe house. Even with your help fending off the dead, some either die regardless or take up incredible amounts of time to escort, nearly to the point where you're desperately trying to reach the safe house before a case file expires.

The sequel reduces these incidents drastically, as most survivors easily push zombies to the side like champs while running. It's still going to be a workout getting them to safety in one piece, but at least it's tough in a good way. You'll be caught in many situations with these people, as well, making each encounter unpredictable. Some will force you to give them large chunks of money before following, and in one instance, you begrudgingly help put on a show for zombies. Don't ask. However, you will be rewarded from time to time, like with the discovery of a wonderful toilet warp that shaves off tremendous time, and even some free Zombrex, a drug that Chuck has to administer to his infected daughter every 24 hours in-game time. Thanks to the improved AI, this aspect of DR2 can become fun and addicting, something I will never say for the first game's rescue missions. I can't even begin to tell you how good it felt finally getting the achievement for saving 50 survivors.

For someone who liked Dead Rising and was disappointed in its obvious flaws, DR2 felt like redemption, rectifying most of these issues. Sure, there's still the rough boss fights and the constant load screens between areas (can you really fault this considering the amount of zombies?), but the overall product is more polished. That's the accomplishment of Dead Rising 2: it's a challenging and fun ride that can be enjoyed by players coming in with DR1 experience, as well as newcomers to the series. The emphasis on fun is made even more evident by the inclusion of co-op, allowing people to jump in and join the zombie-bashing calamity!

The wait was long, but was worth it for all this.


pickhut's avatar
Featured community review by pickhut (July 08, 2012)

Slime Rancher feels like its concept and ideas are more interesting than the game's execution itself. Like, Slime Rancher has a lot of neat looking merchandise I would contemplate getting.


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zippdementia posted July 08, 2012:

Good comparison of the games and I'm glad to finally see a Dead Rising 2 review! I agree that by the time it finally came out the zombie phase had sort've moved on to more fertile ground and no one seemed to care anymore. I don't remember the game getting a lot of buzz or even selling particularly well, but it sounds like the Dead Rising to buy, if you wanted to get into the franchise.
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pickhut posted July 08, 2012:

I wasn't able to dig up any actual sales figures for the first week of the game's release, but I've managed to find it was a top seller its first week in Japan, and that worldwide sales reached 2 mil only a month after it came out.

Thanks for reading the review, too! I've yet to play DR2: Off the Record, but at the moment, yeah, this is the Dead Rising game to get.

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