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Dead Rising 2 Review
Just when you start to get bored of impaling everything in sight with a stuffed swordfish you'll notice a humble stick of dynamite sitting quietly in the corner. The aforementioned dynamite might also be just within eye sight of a carelessly discarded bow. Exploding arrows, you might think to yourself, but surely that's too obvious for a connoisseur of zombie dispatchery like yourself.
Then suddenly it hits you. That boring ole' machine gun in your backpack might suddenly become a whole lot more exciting if it were strapped to the hands of that giant mechanical stuffed bear that's been slyly winking at you from the across the way. After a quick trip to a conveniently located work bench and a few seconds thinking up a bear related pun your new furry friend will be hard at work making sure those damned zombies stay dead.
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Review at a Glance
If the previously described scenario sounds just like a little slice of heaven then Dead Rising 2 might just be the game you've been waiting for. Moments like those aren't just scattered through the game, they're waiting for you around every corner, in every shop. Giving you a wink and a nod and letting you know that even when that laser sword runs out of juice there will be a pair of flaming boxing gloves waiting to be assembled just around the bend. Capcom has without a doubt created the best zombie slaying sandbox game the world has ever seen. The only problem is that sand box is littered with occasionally frustrating controls and boss fights that seem left over from the first Dead Rising, which just don't ever work out the way the designers must have envisioned them.
Dead Rising 2 is one of those games that you will almost undoubtedly love or hate. If you liked the original Dead Rising just stop reading right now and head out to buy it because it's everything you loved about the first title and more. If you didn't like Capcom's first zombie opus you'll likely not find anything changed enough to warrant another chance here. When it comes down to it Dead Rising 2 does a lot more refining and expanding on the original formula than breaking any new ground.
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Good Ole' Fashioned Zombie Manglin'
Dead Rising 2 does a fantastic job of throwing lots and lots of zombies at you. In fact there's an achievement for killing 72,000 of the shuffling denizens of Fortune City in one play through and considering the amount of zombies that are generally on screen at any given time it's not even an unrealistic goal. But what would that many zombies be without an equal amount of ways to take them out?
Fortunately when it comes to the shear variety of stuff to behead the undead Capcom has delivered. There are hundreds of unique items in the game and just about every thing you can pick up can be used to off a few zombies, and thanks to a really well done combo system half of what you find strewn around can be combined with something else to create a glorious new way to mash up zombies.
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The item combination system ends up being a really great addition to the series and the developers were smart about the way they handled it. Items that can be combined have a wrench icon by them and all it takes to make something new is to find something else that can be combined with it and bring them both to a maintenance room and throw them on the work bench. Most of the weapon combinations make sense and maintenance rooms are plentiful but always tucked just out of sight. On top of that every workshop has a few items lying in, or nearby it that can be combined. It's a system that could have ended up as more of a minor distraction than a major feature but luckily for Dead Rising 2 it's intuitive and fun.
What makes the combo system even more satisfying are the combo cards. These are rewards are handed out for completing tasks, beating bosses, leveling or occasionally part of posters sprinkled through the environment. Earning a combo card gives you an easy way to learn item combos that you might not have noticed and after gaining a card next time you use that weapon you'll gain bonus experience and in most cases unlock the weapon's heavy attack. On the next tier down are scratch cards, these are rewarded for figuring out an item combination on your own and while you won't be able to use the heavy attack until you find the right combo card the scratch cards are a good way to catalog what creations you've discovered.
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The Cards themselves have a campy horror movie look to them and that subtle style crosses over to the rest of the game. There are plenty of one liners and nods to the previous game and jabs at the zombie movie genre in general. They're generally funny enough to elicit a laugh or two and fans of the previous game will likely find themselves in stitches over a reference to a meme that spawned from the original Dead Rising forums.
The entire game from the menus and intro sequence in the Terror is Reality multiplayer suite to down to little details in the game world are incredibly well polished and it seems clear that this game was a labor of love for the developers.
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Dead Rising 2 keeps the same race against time formula as the original. You only have 72 hours of in game time to uncover the central plot, save as many survivors as you can and keep the undead at bay. While at first the time limit feels constricting Dead Rising 2 generally gives you plenty of time to do everything you need to while maintaining a real sense of urgency. Of course if you just want to spend your time in Fortune City gambling and slicing up zombies with a pet tiger you can throw all of the survivors and timed events to the wind and just have fun. You won't be penalized in any way other than a “bad” ending when the game finally concludes.
One new addition that had plenty of fans grumbling with it's announcement is the need to keep your daughter Katey up to date with her daily shots of Zombrex. Fortunately there's plenty of shots lying around in hidden areas and they can always be purchased from the pawn shops. They generally tie into the story missions fairly well and really aren't much of an annoyance. That being said if keeping your daughter from joining the ranks of the undead becomes too tedious you can just forget it and it will only effect your ending.
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While Dead Rising 2 is a real joy when you're running around saving survivors, leveling up to unlock new combat moves and generally skipping through life with a machete when it comes to the boss fights, or psychos, it hasn't improved at all from the original.
Occasionally you'll be sent to investigate something or another and instead of finding a survivor looking for help you'll find a psychopath waiting to send you back to the title screen. Each boss is introduced and ended with a generally amusing, and occasionally disturbing cut scene and you're rewarded with a combo card upon their demise. On paper it's great and while the controls work fine when it comes to dispatching zombies, fighting bosses generally ends up involving you figuring out the best way to exploit the environment or just slogging it out chugging health items. It's clunky and not particularly fun and if the series continues the boss fights are one of the biggest areas needing improvement.
Luckily when you almost inevitably do die to one of the bosses you can either reload from a previous save slot ( you can have up to three individual save states in Dead Rising 2 up from the original's one save spot system ) or start over with all of the levels and some of the items that you've unlocked.
While some of the boss fights are a pain, overall the game is a blast to play and you'll likely be able to forgive the tedious psycho fights.
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Dead Rising 2 may not be the prettiest game on the block if you hold it up to titles like Mass Effect 2 but considering the incredible number of enemies and items that are on screen at any given time there are plenty of times that you'll likely be impressed.
The game suffers from the rare slow down but for the most part the frame rate almost never dips, the camera rarely gets hung up on anything and the whole experience is generally glitch free and it's always fun to watch the carnage unfold.
That's not to say that such impressive technical feats don't come without a price. There are load times a plenty in Dead Rising 2 and while they're not inordinately long they do occur every time you switch areas like from the casinos to the strip. It's most annoying when you have to run in and out of the safe house in a small amount of time but that generally only happens if you leave a survivor outside too far away to load into the safe house with you.
For the most part Dead Rising 2 is a bloody mess, in just the way it needs to be.
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The music of Dead Rising 2 isn't particularly memorable but it gets the job done. That is of course aside from the hilarious lyrics of a band you'll run into which keep in line with the games campy sense of humor.
The sound effects involved in zombie slaying are what you'll likely be hearing most of the time anyway and they are a satisfying lot. Chainsaws give just the right amount of rumble right before they slice into a zombie's arm and the constant moan of the undead is never irritating.
The voice acting is also well done with all the puns and one liners you'd expect delivered with just the right touch of sarcasm.
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The controls are really where Dead Rising 2 falters. When fighting zombies they work just fine and commanding the survivors following you is simple and effective but as previously mentioned everything is just too clunky for any kind of interesting combat with the bosses.
It's not necessarily a case of poorly designed controls, it's just that they seem to have been designed around fighting the hordes of fairly benign zombies and when you get faced off against flame thrower wielding maniacs things just seem to break down. Nothing quite works the way you want it to.
Luckily those problems are fairly easy to forgive as everything else works well, just don't expect to be dancing around the bosses.
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Surprisingly Dead Rising 2 actually offers up a fairly robust set of multiplayer options. There's a much appreciated coop mode with the host player continuing their story and the second player dropping in or out as they please. Keeping stats and experience but not advancing their own story.
Beyond the coop play there is a whole side mode of zombie themed mini games called “ Terror is Reality” that ties directly into the story. They aren't much more than a fun side note and I doubt that the competitive aspect will be knocking Halo Reach off the Xbox Live charts but it's a thoughtful addition by the developers. The cash you earn in even continues over into your main game.
That's not to say it's all sunshine and rainbows out on the multiplayer front though. For some reason many users are experiencing a bug where as soon as one player saves in coop the other gets the option to save then are immediately booted after saving. It's not game breaking as the second player can just hop back in but it is incredibly annoying and it is common enough that it Capcom should have caught it before release.
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Dead Rising 2 doesn't do a whole lot to redefine itself, but what it does do it does bigger, better and bloodier than the original. The new item combo system and drop in coop really add a lot to the experience and Fortune City outshines the shopping mall of the previous game by leaps and bounds. The experience is marred however by clunky controls and some incredibly frustrating multiplayer bugs.
That said if you haven't given the series a try yet and a homemade saw blade launcher sounds like a good time then Dead Rising 2 might just be the game for you.