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Dead Rising 2 Case Zero Review
Dead Rising 2 Case Zero is a prequel to Dead Rising 2. While some harshly label this title as a glorified demo, it's actually quite a bit more. For instance, all of the content in Case Zero is completely original; Still Creek and the short adventure it provides is not in Dead Rising 2. Case Zero also has its own set of 12 achievements, and Chuck's leveling progress is carried over to Dead Rising 2. Finally, it only costs 400 Microsoft points, or approximately $5 USD, so it won't empty your wallet.
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Dead Rising 2 Case Zero Review - Story
Dead Rising 2 is set five years after the events of the first Dead Rising. Case Zero however is set only two years after the Willamette outbreak, and showcases Chuck Greene's first encounters with the zombie horde. He and his daughter have fled the zombie-infested Las Vegas and now find themselves in the remote town of Still Creek. Chuck needs to keep a low profile, as the army has been ordered to quarantine anyone that's been infected. Katey Greene has been bitten and continues to survive by taking doses of a drug called Zombrex, a medicine that prevents zombification for 12 hours. It is extremely scarce, and the need for more doses is Chuck's primary motivation for wading through the undead masses.
There admittedly isn't a ton of story to be told in Case Zero and those who decide to skip it won't miss much. It is a good primer to the current situation in the Dead Rising universe, and gives us a solid understanding of Chuck's character, but ultimately doesn't do much to advance the overarching plot.
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Dead Rising 2 Case Zero Review - Graphics and Sound
Dead Rising 2 has received a noticeable graphical upgrade over its predecessor. The first thing you'll notice is the sheer amount of zombies displayed onscreen at once. The developers claim that Dead Rising 2 can have thousands of undead onscreen at one time, whereas the first Dead Rising was limited to hundreds. Character design and animation have also improved, particularly in the main characters of Chuck and Katey. Some of the supporting cast, like the stranded survivors you can rescue, react a little oddly to their surroundings, but still behave much more realistically than in the first game.
The voice acting is handled very well in Case Zero. Of particular mention is Katey, Chuck's daughter. Time after time child characters are portrayed with irritating, nasally voices (by voice actors that aren't even children, on occasion). Katey, however, sounds like a real little girl, and when she begs her father not to endanger himself for Zombrex since she doesn't even like the medicine, it tugs on the heartstrings. Chuck's care for his daughter is evident in his tone and mannerisms, and their father/daughter bond feels very genuine. Considering this relationship is the foundation of Dead Rising 2's story, these performances definitely sell the premise.
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Dead Rising 2 Case Zero XBLA Review - Gameplay
In the first Dead Rising, Frank West's special ability was photography. Chuck Greene's expertise lies in fixing equipment and crafting combination weapons. Combo weapons are integral to combating the enemy horde and leveling up. You can combine a baseball bat with a box of nails to form a Spiked Bat, or a canoe paddle with a chainsaw to make a Paddlesaw; the options are endless. Utilizing these weapons earns more Prestige Points (PP) than traditional weaponry, which levels Chuck up and unlocks new abilities faster. Every time Chuck levels up he earns a combo card that contains recipes for new combination weapons.
Objectives in Case Zero come in two varieties: item fetching, and survivor rescuing. Most of the storyline objectives are fetch quests, involving tracking down bike parts or Zombrex doses for Katey. Rescuing survivors is optional, but doing so nets big PP rewards. There is a bit of variety in the rescue missions, depending on who you are rescuing. For example, when leading three women who were trapped in a bowling alley back to your safehouse, one of them is injured and needs to be carried. Another example is a washed-up drunk who won't budge until you've drowned him in alcohol.
The biggest draw to Dead Rising of course is mowing down throngs of zombies, and Case Zero doesn't disappoint. Even in the small town of Still Creek you'll find a myriad of unique and brutal weapons to experiment with. Sledgehammers, assault rifles, pitchforks, lawn darts; they all dispatch undead in their own special way. Variety is the spice of life, and it's supplied in spades here.
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Dead Rising 2 Case Zero XBLA Review - Controls and User Interface
Those who have played the first Dead Rising will feel right at home in Case Zero. The controls are more or less lifted directly from the first game, albeit with some minor tweaks. The interface, while also familiar, features one standout improvement. Mission text is now much larger and easier to read in Case Zero; fans of the first game will remember the tiny text that wasn't even legible on standard definition TV sets.
The map makes a welcome return, clearly outlining objectives and highlighting key areas. Health and leveling progress bars are displayed in the upper left corner, and your inventory in the upper right. It's all very straightforward, clean, and intuitive.
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Dead Rising 2 Case Zero XBLA Review - Lasting Appeal
Case Zero only takes about two hours to complete, and there's not a ton of incentive to return to Still Creek. For completionists, earning all the achievements and collecting the combo cards might be enough to warrant a second visit. Fortunately, your level progress carries over to a new game if you should decide to play through once more.
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Dead Rising 2 Case Zero XBLA Review - Final Verdict
Though Dead Rising 2 Case Zero is short, it's packed with entertaining content. The price point is accessible at a mere $5, which makes up for its scant two hour length. Given the reasonable price, I wholeheartedly recommend giving Case Zero a spin before diving into the full Dead Rising 2 experience.
All screenshots/references from Capcom's Dead Rising 2: Case Zero and author's own experience.