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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Video Game Review: Dead Rising 2

Zombie season seems to be in full swing these days, especially with a lot of great stuff popping out of the woodwork that use the undead ghouls as plot material to bake into stories full of blood, carnage, and gore. Thanks to the influence of zombie lore godfathers like the great George A. Romero, you can expect popculture to utilize the "zombie apocalypse" scenario anywhere at any given time, and it could literally explode in your face just as fast as the ghoulish epidemic spreads with just a single bite.

In the case of video games, it's mighty obvious that almost every game developer and publisher out there wouldn't mind taking a crack at our favorite reanimated corpses and have gamers plow through scores of the undead with whatever weapons they have at their disposal. The most prominent company to excel in this art form is arguably Capcom, who have made a name for themselves in the survival horror genre via the Resident Evil/ Bio Hazard games. The passage of time has allowed them company to explore the series in a different direction without the presence of the ghouls, but other plans were brewing in the horizon for the undead. In 2006, Megaman character designer Keiji Inafune led a team of developers to create a game that not only let the player kill zombies, he could slay thousands of them with whatever he had at his disposal! That game was Dead Rising, and it was an ambitious game that had wicked adventure gameplay mixed with a Dawn Of The Dead type plot. Despite some concerns, the sandbox style gameplay was favorable to those who played the game, and that was reason enough to give the greenlight for a sequel, which finally saw the light of day 4 years later.

Flashforward to the end of September 2010, and Dead Rising 2 pops out of the woodwork as fast as a chainsaw cuts through zombie meat. Touting a bigger location and improved system than its predecessor, the sequel puts players in control of a new protagonist, Chuck Greene, who replaces the last game's head honcho, photojournalist Frank West. Taking place five years after the events of the first game, Chuck is a former motorcross champion who lives with his daughter Katey in the fictional amusement town of Fortune City. He takes part in a reality show called "Terror Is Reality", where contestants kill zombies for sport and prize money. Chuck participates in order to acquire enough cash for Zombrex - a drug that will keep his daughter from turning into one of the undead. After a sudden attack causes a zombie outbreak to spread throughout the city, Chuck and his daughter soon find themselves holed up in a safe house together with other survivors. Learning that they have three days until the military rescue arrives, Chuck has little choice but to venture out into the infested town and find more Zombrex for his daughter. His adventures will not only lead him to the drug and other encounters with survivors, but also to the truth behind the outbreak and certain mysteries surrounding it.

Dead Rising 2 - Official Trailer

At this point, I think I've said enough to get you familiar with the game's plot... now comes the gameplay, and boy is it fun as hell! As a sandbox styled game, players have free reign to explore the vast shopping and amusement facility that is Fortune City. This happens after finishing the prologue chapter and setting off for Katey's Zombrex, so you'll be a consumer heaven... with a lot of zombies standing idly in your way. Now, I know its tempting to just punch them to death, but you'll have better luck with weapons at your disposal. Just like in real life and in the world of Dead Rising, almost EVERYTHING you pick up can be used to deal with zombies! Whether it be a flashlight, baseball bat, wheelchair, kitchen knife, hunk of meat, etc... There's so many things to grab and use to deal with the undead! The possibilities are endless, and it's become more refined thanks to the inclusion of a new weapon combination system that allows Chuck to combine two different items and/or weapons and produce something extraordinary as a result! Those combination formulas can be acquired via Combo Cards, which are accessed as you level up and get more Prestige Points. You earn more "PP" as you kill zombies, rescue survivors, and complete missions. You level up more, and Chuck earns more life, attacks, and abilities that make his life a whole lot easier for you and him as you play through the game. It's that simple and it's that fun, and it makes Dead Rising 2 one hell of an entertaining game to play.

As part of the game's story, Chuck only has three days to navigate and complete tasks around Fortune City. Players will learn the meaning of multi-tasking and sacrifice in the initial playthrough, and its important to keep track of the time given and left in each mission. Navigating through Dead Rising 2 can be a pain in the arse given the size of Fortune City, but fortunately, there's a map of the entire town that's quickly accessible to look at while playing through the game. Alternatively, this can also be done with the foldout map that comes with the game, so it's wise to look at it ever so often if you feel lost or confused where to go. DR2 is full of zombies to hack along the way, so it always pays to be prepared when obstacles block your path. In the midst of the carnage, it won't be just the dead  It should also be noted that if you fail an important mission related to the game's story, you will automatically restart the tale from the beginning. Fortunately, players will carry over their earnings and current rank from their last playthrough as consolation. That's why it would be wise to save ever so often, and fortunately for DR2 players, the saving system has been improved in the sequel, allowing for more areas (bathrooms) for Chuck to go and save his progress in.

As far as the experience goes, Dead Rising 2 will definitely give zombie lovers the treat of their lives. As one man struggling to combat hordes of the undead for 72 hours, there's a lot to do in this game without losing sight of the game's ultimate objective. Released for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC, this is the first installment in the series to go multi platform. The 360 version, however, has extra exclusive scenarios that take place before and after the events chronicled in the main game, so owners of that system can't count themselves lucky. I own the PS3 version of the game, and despite finishing the main story already, I find myself coming back for more and playing to level up Chuck for my second playthrough. Some irks and loading times may hamper things, but bottomline, the experience is what counts, and if you're looking for a game with many ways to have fun killing zombies, look no further than here.

Rating  - 5/5

*Originally posted by Timzster and seen in The Crusader's Realm

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