What is it about a zombie apocalypse that generates so much excitement in us? Is it the idea that you’ll survive where lesser men have fallen? That you’ll get to start again at zero; all mistakes made in life wiped clean by the rotting arm of your new zombie friend? Or is it simply the idea of finally levelling a shotgun at your neighbour?
Whatever it is about this mindless shambling horde that catches the imagination, it has enough bite to inspire numerous incarnations in almost all forms of entertainment.
From blockbuster movies and television to graphic novels and games they infect nearly all mediums, and while the means of the zombie outbreak may change from story to story, the formula remains: Everyone is dead and they want to eat you. You do not want to be eaten.
Dead Rising 2 is no different.
Starting five years after the Willamette outbreak in the original Dead Rising, this sequel does away with everyman protagonist Frank “I’m a journalist” West from the original and we’re introduced to Chuck Greene. All-American Chuck is a former motocross champion who is one of a handful of uninfected left in desert gambling oasis Fortune City.
After the Willamette incident, humanity suppressed the outbreak and imprisoned the walking dead. We first meet Chuck as he is about to take part in a piece of zombie-exploiting live entertainment - which is also the online multiplayer - known as Terror is Reality. Basically you, as Chuck, must ride your chainsaw toting motorbike round an arena scything down more zombies than your rivals. This is just a brief glimpse as to how the “recivilised” world has changed.
You’re doing this in order to pay for an infection suppressant called Zombrex that your daughter requires every 24 hours to remain human – the gathering of which is a recurring theme in the later game.
After the show, on the way to collect your daughter, the arena is attacked and a multitude of collected zombies are set free. You’ll rush your daughter to the safe house down the road as the city is lost. After this long sequence that is equal parts loading screens and gameplay, the real game finally begins.
Much like Dead Rising you are safe in your security office and this is where any survivors you rescue will gather. Your first foray out into the now-overrun city is to find some Zombrex for your daughter. These early areas reek of Dead Rising with masses of shops to rummage through for that perfect zombie-slaying weapon and an outfit to match. And so, dressed in a pair of onesies, it is time to find the chemist.
This first Zombrex run is more of a tutorial than anything else. You meet looters you must put down and guide the chemist owner to the safe house. It is only after you have administered the shot to your daughter that the time managed Dead Rising we are used to takes over.
A television news show points the finger of blame for the arena bombing and resulting zombie outbreak squarely at Chuck. A video is shown of a man in motorbike helmet and Chuck’s riding gear setting the bomb that released the undead.
After quarantining the area the army will make its way into Fortune City in three days, giving Chuck just 72 hours to clear his name and uncover the nefarious plot that lead to this disaster.
To do so you must work your way through a series of events, and an ever increasing zombie population, over the next 72 hours - but - like the original - you don’t have to. It’s entirely up to you how you play through Dead Rising 2. If you attempt to clear your name you are against the clock and spare time is a luxury, in the event you do have a break there are many side quests involving the rescuing of trapped survivors or taking down those dangerously deranged minds who revel in such chaos.
From a Las Vegas-style strip to Casino, mall to sporting arena there is masses of area to cover and a near unfathomable amount of zombies and psychos to dispatch. My only real gripes are probably of a more subjective personal nature.
As you move between zones you are hit with loading screens, and though not crazy, at times it takes away from the immersion when you have enough time to eat a sandwich while waiting.
The difficulty of psychotics – humans gone mad with the apocalypse – led to some explosive outbursts.
More importantly, most gameplay niggles from the original have been fixed. You can now move while aiming, taking important phone calls no longer leaves you helpless and the survivor AI understands that death is bad and keeping up with you is good. All of this leads to a much improved experience. Another positive change is the multiple save slots that leave you slightly more room to experiment with the time you have.
One of the most talked about features in Dead Rising 2 is the new weapon building system and it is a most enjoyable addition. Littered throughout the game are the hundreds of regular pickup weapons. Now you have the ability to use maintenance rooms located in most areas to combine these into more deadly tools.
Either by trial and error or the acquisition of Combo Cards you can learn new weapons that, when used, increase your experience (or Prestige Point) gains. From a simple Molotov cocktail to an axe-sledgehammer monstrosity called The Defiler there are seemingly limitless combinations to play around with.
New to the series is multiplayer. Players can join in an online version of Terror is Reality, mentioned earlier, to earn cash prizes that you can be reused in singleplayer, and a new online co-op feature means that friends can drop in and out of your game at any time to help you take care of business.
Dead Rising 2 confirms that this is a development team that listens. Taking the good from the original and cutting or fixing the bad. It still carries all the horror spliced with comedy from the first and creates a world that intrigues, entertains and disgusts in equal measure. With repeat play a probability and the new multiplayer options this is one of those games worth braving the mall for.