Zombies + Vegas = Fun?: Dead Rising 2 Review

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No, what’s bound to get on your nerves is the architecture of the game. Load interrupts in DR2 are stunningly frequent. There will be times when the action stops once every two minutes or so to load up a scene or a new environment. It’s apparent that Blue Castle’s built a huge gameworld filled with interactive objects, zombies of all types and gaits. As amazng as that accomplishment is, there’s no way to create any kind of continuity of experience when a play session is chopped up so much. And the loads aren’t just frequent, they’re pretty long, too. It doesn’t help that Chuck is slow, either. He’s got one of the slowest runs I can rmember in any video game. Yes, he shouldn’t be able to easily outpace the zombies. I get that. But, having him so sluggish makes the game feel lugubrious and makes getting around a real chore.

DR2’s a game with a ton of real estate but it’s not quite an open-world game. There’s no way to set a waypoint, which sucks. Fortune City’s divided into sections and you’ll pick up side missions involving other survivors in each. You can toggle between side missions and the guide arrow resets to tell you where the objectives of each are. You’ll have to hustle to complete multiple side quests at the same time, and the fact that you likely won’t isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In terms of gameplay, DR2 takes a kitchen sink approach. Lots of different systems knitted together stamp Dead Rising 2 with a heavy RPG feeling. There’s weapons-based melee combat, there’s guns, there’s vehicle chases and there’s leveling-up. The killer mechanic is the combo weapon system. You can combine different objects into deadly, jerry-rigged weapons, so a propane tank + nails = I.E.D. Or, chainsaw + paddles = paddle saw. Chuck can also carry around magazines that buff various  attributes and even combine different juices to make power-ups that let you run faster. So, the game encourages experimentation but limits it, too.

You can’t make a combo weapon until you’ve earned its combo card and you’ll be limited to a certain number of items until you level up and earn a new slot. The game gives you a lot of info and options to keep track of and it’s easy to get confused or overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it all.

The save system of the first Dead Rising game was controversial, since it bumped you back to the beginning if you didn’t finish the game in time.  DR2 solves that, partially by giving you save points and partially by giving you a Sophie’s Choice when you die: either you restart the story and keep your stats or you load the story and have to start the level all over again. Like its predecessor, the whole game’s on a clock. But the new tweaks seem like they’re meant to encourage replay and not glaring flaws. Another significant improvement from DR1 is the improved survivor AI, meaning that the other non-infected humans can protect themselves a lot better. The psychopaths–surviving humans who are the game’s boss characters–are a lot tougher than in DR1 and you’ll need to manage your health and inventory.

Dead Rising 2 delivers a crazy level of inventiveness, semi-serious characters and a well-populated gameworld spilling over with shambling denizens and interactive objects. You can lose yourself for hours by trying to piece together satisfying and LOL-worthy ways to slaughter zombies. Still, you do feel sometimes that you being forced to choose between improvisatory fun and the demands of game progression. You’ll be having a ball freezing and shattering zombie tourists and then check Chuck’s watch and realize that someone somewhere needs medicine or some other kind of saving. With smoother, more discreet loading and design elements that fit together better, Dead Rising 2 could’ve been a dark horse Game of the Year candidate. Nevertheless, it’s a lot of fun and a great step forward for the franchise.

Official Techland Score: 8.4 out of 10

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