Zombies + Vegas = Fun?: Dead Rising 2 Review

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Dead Rising 2
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom Vancouver (formerly Blue Castle Games)
Systems it’s available on: Xbox 360, PS3
ESRB rating: M for Mature
System reviewed on: Xbox 360

The thing you need to know about Dead Rising 2 is that the Blue Castle-developed game will remind you of nachos. In the game as in the dish, lots of ingredients get stacked up on top of each other. Of those ingredients, the shredded cheese may be the most important, as it holds everything together.  Dead Rising 2 delivers the cheese early and often, but what kind of cheese is it and how does the whole thing taste?

The game opens with the first of many zombie killfests, this one at a taping of Terror is Reality. “America’s Deadliest Game Show” pits contestants against each other t see who can kill the most zombies in a series of bizarre contests. (It’s also the bulk of DR2‘s competitive online component, which had issues preventing me from getting any time in before the game’s launch.) As protagonist Chuck Greene guns a motorbike with chainsaws bolted to the front through a swath of the undead, you can’t help but smile at the depravity of it all. And the B-movie vibe–the cheese, if you will–really does bind everything together. After the snuff-film reality show, the game introduces a zombie-rights protest group, a safehouse bunker run by a stereotypically no-nonsense sheriff and instructs you to visit the bathroom to save. Character dialogue is cheeky throughout, and no double entendre goes unmined in DR2.

The locale of Fortune City is meant to stand in for Vegas and that only cheeses it up more. There may be some annoying things wrong with Dead Rising 2 (more on those in a minute), but it gives you undead showgirls and zombie croupiers. There’s something unapologetically farcical about Dead Rising 2 and the self-awareness around that makes it kind of charming.

But, for all the farce, DR2 uses genuine emotion for one of its key gameplay pillars. Chuck’s daughter Katey got bit by a zombie (it’s detailed a bit more in the Case Zero DLC) and he needs to give her a dose of the Zombrex medication once a day so she doesn’t change to a permanent diet of human flesh. This means that, no matter how much fun you’re having or what other mission you’re doing, you’ll have to steer Chuck back to the safehouse and give Katie her dose. It may sound like just another rule to keep you on the main quest but sometimes, when you’re chopping through waves of zombies, the fact that Katey could join their ranks does chill you to the bone.

So that’s the reason that Chuck goes to compete in Terror Is Reality, but a power outage lets zombies loose and he runs to find Katey. He then has to shepherd her to safety and finds a safehouse with other survivors. They tell him that the military is supposed to come and quarantine the city and pull out survivors. His plan then is to forage for some Zombrex and wait out the horror until a news report airs that accuses him of causing the latest outbreak. The rest of the game then becomes a hunt for clues to find out who framed Chuck and why.

Staples of zombie fiction are well-served in Dead Rising 2: scattered human survivors who let their ids run free as society crumbles, loopy action set pieces, the fragile security of a safe haven getting breached and the conspiracy/mystery of what caused all of this undead-ness. The story doesn’t break much in the way of new ground, but the tone’s so knowing that you don’t mind that.

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