Jeff Markiewicz On November 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Dead Rising was Capcom’s first foray into developing a title specifically for western audiences. When it came out late 2006, it was an Xbox 360 exclusive and one of the early showcases for the relatively new console. It did well critically and commercially but it definitely had its flaws. The save system was a particular pain and how everything was timed just made everything worse making for a lot of frustrated people. But in the end, it was a well made title that was quirky, charming, and most importantly fun. Now four years later, the Japanese publisher has handed Blue Castle Games, a western developer, the reins to the franchise. Will they fix all the problems and build upon this promising franchise or will it merely start to rot away?

In the first you played as Frank West, a freelance photographer trying to get the story behind a zombie outbreak in a mall. Dead Rising 2 takes place several years later and with a different protagonist, Chuck Greene. He is a contestant on Terror Is Reality, a game show that pits players against each other in ridiculous minigames against zombies to see who will come out on top. Unfortunately this day things don’t go as planned and somehow the zombies get out and you get the blame. In addition to this, you have a daughter who’s been bitten some time before and requires daily doses of Zombrex to prevent the infection from spreading. It’s up to you to get to the bottom of this conspiracy while saving your daughter. The story is as satirical as the first. It’s not incredibly ridiculous but out there enough to show that it’s having fun. It can be fairly generic and predictable at times as well but it serves as a decent fodder to push the story forward.

Dead Rising 1 brought us to a mall full of zombies with all the tools there for their destruction. This simple premise gave rise to one of this generation’s early classics. It certainly wasn’t a perfect experience, but it was one that was unique and fun. Dead Rising 2 changes the location but it still feels like home. The core mechanics are largely the same with some new additions. The leveling system is virtually identical except that you get experience not from a camera this time, but from killing zombies and saving survivors. You still pick up items off the ground to use as weapons, health, or perks. Weapons still break after a certain amount of usage. There is a new weapon combo system where you can mix and match items to make devastating and typically ridiculous contraptions of death. You can either experiment yourself or wait until you get combo cards, which are instructions on how to make certain items. It’s quite similar to the food mixing of the first which is also here.

Finally magazines make a comeback and boost certain facets of your character. The main aspects of the first title that were complained about were fixed. The biggest of those were the single save system. Considering how everything is timed, it forced some impossible situations and hence restarts. Now you have multiple saves and while the time-based system has returned, once you figure it out you have no problem getting what you need to get done. If you choose to though, once again you can easily restart the game with your characters level intact. While the timed-based gameplay was disliked, here it’s a bit tamer. As long as you don’t try to tackle every single side quest, you have enough time to play around and get the main objectives done. At times you can find yourself with quite a bit of time on your hands to do things you otherwise wouldn’t. Unfortunately though, some things haven’t changed like when a weapon breaks, it switches to the next item slot regardless of it is a weapon or not. All too often your weapons breaks and you pull out a magazine. Slamming the attack button you accidently read it leading to panic as you start to get swarmed. Sometimes you even waste a crucial health potion you’ve been carrying around. It can be frustrating. Trying to pick things up or talk to NPCs is also another frequent issue since it’s done all on the same button. Basically the main game breaking issues of the first were fixed but some lingering annoyances still remain.

The competitive multiplayer story is actually integrated into the single player. In this mode, you are a contestant on Terror Is Reality. Each time you play, the game randomly pieces together several minigames and scores you accordingly. One mode will have you riding a motorcycle with chainsaws on the side mowing down zombies. Another has you dressing them up with different items. Then there is one where you’re in a giant ball and play keep away. There are several other modes and they are all relatively simple minigames. Unfortunately, after the newness wears away, they don’t feel that great or deep. The money you make online transfers into your character in single player but other than that, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to play more than a couple sessions. On the other hand, there is an awesome cooperative multiplayer included. You can bring your character in from your game and join forces in the campaign together. You’re not tethered to an area and you can join forces and tackle things together or separate and tackle different things simultaneously. And the best part is its drop-in drop-out. You don’t have to leave your game and join a lobby, just answer your phone and your buddy is there. In the end, competitive is quickly forgettable and cooperative is amazing.

Hordes of zombies fill the screen at all times. It’s not as impressive as it was when it first hit several years ago but it definitely doesn’t look bad. There is enough variation between the zombies so that you never feel like you’re killing the same one over and over. Killing them is satisfying but the blood can be a little cheesy at times but considering the tone of the title is fine. The cutscenes are done well and animations are pretty good. One of the really nice things about the cutscenes is that they are done in real-time so if you’re wearing something ridiculous, that’s what you’ll be wearing. The biggest issue, at least early on, is an abundance of loading through relatively small sections. Considering the open nature of the title, it’s kind of disappointing. Even going to certain cutscenes require a short loading phase that kicks you out of the experience. Even saving the game has an awkward pause where you don’t know if your game froze (which it never did) or if it was really saving. The design of the game made it sound like you’re going to be in Las Vegas but it feels as much of a mall as the first title. You might have different stores connected on a strip of outdoor turf but that’s the definition of a strip mall. This is not a bad thing though, and it makes you feel like you’re at home. There is enough thematic changes that set it apart from Dead Rising 1’s mall with all the fancy glitz and glamour of Las Vegas. Graphically, it feels like a side step. There hasn’t been much of a jump other than a new location but Dead Rising 1 definitely wasn’t a bad looking title. Overall it’s a nice looking title, but it doesn’t feel like there was four years of improvement in this department.

Despite the location change, it still feels like a mall and the music supports it greatly. Most stores have their own theme music. When you pull up the map, it plays some nice elevator music that you actually enjoy listening to. Bosses have rock music that get your heart pumping. That’s part of the charm they pulled off musically, in real life you’d never want to listen to these tunes but in this world, it builds the atmosphere brilliantly. The voice acting is similarly well done and believable. The biggest letdown is that the random NPCs which are typically relegated to side quests aren’t voiced at all. Really jars with the otherwise great atmosphere they’ve created. Weapons sound great and when a weapon looks like it should sound wimpy, it does sound wimpy. When you’re carrying a fluid, you hear the liquid swooshing around. From the music to the sound effects, the game builds a great atmosphere which only gets broken when you talk to talk to NPCs.

Dead Rising 2 succeeds in bringing Dead Rising back to our hearts. Despite the loss of the charming camera mechanics, the game seems to retain most of its quirky charisma. It still feels relatively different and unique in the sea of other zombie titles. The multiple saves are a godsend and while everything is still timed, unless you run off for hours on end, you seem to have plenty of time to finish your main tasks. The multiple side-quests that appear can never be all done in a single playthrough which lends itself to replayability nicely. Cooperative play is amazing with a friend or even stranger. Competitive multiplayer unfortunately doesn’t live up to the rest of the title. The minigames are okay and the presentation is nice but they quickly get old and after a couple sessions, don’t have much to offer. The graphics are nice and the in-game cutscenes show whatever you’re wearing, regardless of how ridiculous it may be. The sound is immersive until you encounter the NPCs that have no voice acting, which is a disappointing misstep. The music is charming and while sticks closely to the mall/elevator stereotype, is actually decent to listen to. Overall the major issues of the first have been fixed or tweaked and the little annoyances left behind are brushed aside because it’s simply fun. The quirky charming game that hit at the beginning of this generation is back again, if you liked the first, you’ll definitely enjoy this one.


Core mechanics are mostly the same. Combo weapon system is great. They added multiple saves and give you a little more time to accomplish your tasks. Terror is Reality competitive multiplayer is quickly forgettable. Cooperative experience is perfect.


Still feels like a mall even though you’re supposed to be in Las Vegas. In-game cutscenes look good and let you wear whatever you want. The early game has a lot of loading which is jarring until you get into the main areas.


Most stores have their own charming theme music. Bosses have rock music that gets your heart pumping. Sound effects are great. Voice acting for the main characters great but literally nonexistent for random NPCs. Builds a believable atmosphere only to get broken frequently by nonverbal NPCs.


Dead Rising 2 successfully brings Dead Rising back to our hearts. The major issues have been fixed or tweaked and the little annoyances left behind are brushed aside because it’s simply fun. The competitive multiplayer gets dull quick but cooperative is amazing. Music is great. The quirky charming game that hit at the beginning of this generation is back again, if you liked the first, you’ll definitely enjoy this one.

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