Where Are My Bookends?
HIGH Chainsaw + Kayak Paddle = the most fun you’ll ever have navigating a horde of zombies.
LOW That last boss fight somehow manages to be a worse version of Dead Rising‘s worst boss fight.
WTF Chuck, you’ve been framed for mass murder, so stop telling people who you are. And lose the jacket.
Dead Rising 2 was built by people mindful of its predecessor’s shortcomings.
The original Dead Rising was so obsessed with creating huge areas packed with zombies that the developers didn’t stop to confirm that the Xbox 360 would be able to display them with a stable framerate. This issue was obviously a priority in the development of DR2, as it’s an assemblage of choices made to avoid the same pitfalls — for example, large open spaces have been replaced by narrow, claustrophobic ones designed to get an equal amount of challenge out of a smaller number of zombies.
However, now that horsepower is no longer an issue on PS4, the biggest question surrounding this re-release of Dead Rising 2 is whether the design compromises made for smoother operation seem like mistakes when there’s no longer a need to be conservative with system capacity. The answer? No. DR2 remains a great example of focusing on what worked in the previous iteration, while being willing to throw out everything that held it back.
Dead Rising 2 introduces players to Chuck Greene, a motocross star whose wife was killed and daughter infected between DR1 and 2. He arrives in Fortune City looking to make enough money to keep buying his daughter the drug that prevents her from turning, and the only way to do that is by appearing on a game show where contestants battle the undead for the pay-per-view masses. Naturally, things go awry and Chuck is left to slaughter zombies, seek out survivors, and track down medicine until the government arrives to set things right.
Right away it’s clear that DR2 has a stronger hook and bigger stakes than the original. Chuck is a more sympathetic, interesting character than Frank West, and the story goes to fascinating places that the first was unable to.
There have been plenty of stories about zombie outbreaks and apocalypse scenarios, but DR2‘s main innovation is to imagine a world where zombies are real, but largely controllable — no one considers them to be a particularly big threat. Most of the characters in Dead Rising 2 have an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude towards the living dead, and don’t give much thought to the disease until it’s (figuratively or literally) biting them in the ass.
Seeing the differing reactions in this context is part of what makes the story so special — there are people with PTSD, there are people struggling to survive with the zombie disease, and yes, because it’s America, there are plenty of people trying to turn a profit. It’s a better story than a game like this requires, and it’s one of the best in the genre.
As for gameplay, this one hews fairly close to its predecessor. The franchise is all about saving people and fighting psychos, but the interesting-yet-awkward photography mechanic that former protag Frank West employed (he was a photojournalist, remember) has been given the axe. Trying to catch a snapshot of psychos or zombies was always better in theory than in practice, so I was pleased to see it replaced with weapon-building as the new hook.
Among the random tools, weapons, and foodstuffs scattered throughout Fortune City are items marked with a wrench icon. This indicates that Chuck can combine them with other wrench-marked items to create a variety of weapons that are more effective at slaughtering the undead than anything Chuck can find lying around. In addition, any zombies killed with combo weapons offer a significant experience boost, emulating the leveling curve of the first DR despite the removal of points awarded for photography.
While DR2 remains a worthwhile experience half a decade later, in some ways it’s the worst of the Dead Rising remasters because Capcom’s desire to re-release without tweaking or fixing anything but the graphics causes them to miss a huge opportunity.
In my opinion, Dead Rising 2 is just a few nudges away from being an all-time classic — just improve the durability of combo weapons to make them worth the trouble of creating them, and then add map markers listing which components are available where. Players will already be trying to get through DR2‘s open world on an incredibly tight timeline, so asking them to remember where vital combo pieces are is too much.
Even worse, Capcom made the bizarre decision to not include DR2‘s standalone prologue and epilogue — these DLC episodes were great, and somewhat vital.
Case Zero let players see Chuck just moments after the death of his wife and infection of his daughter,and his task was to build a motorcycle and escape from the outskirts of Fortune City. It was a great introduction to the world, and the narrative arc of Chuck going from shell-shocked victim to worn-down burnout to a man who becomes a hero was a great experience that is now sadly lost. Case West wasn’t quite as dramatic, but it sets up the plot of Dead Rising 3 — also good information to have. Hopefully they’ll be made available at some point (unlikely) because players coming to the franchise now will be missing out on a good part of what made Dead Rising 2 so special.
Despite the disappointments, Dead Rising 2 is still a solid game. Survivors have better pathfinding AI and make it back to safety more often, and the combo weapons make zombies easier to manage and more satisfying to kill. Even the psychos are more manageable now that Chuck has access to effective combo weapons at the start of the game. The multiplayer — while not central or necessary — can take even more pressure off since players can request help with a particularly difficult boss or horde.
While the smooth framerate on PS4 is nice, the lack of the bookending stories actually makes this reissue of Dead Rising 2 worse than the original. If I wasn’t aware of the two missing cases, I’d say this was the gem of this trilogy. However, I know better and I can’t pretend that something important isn’t missing. Dead Rising 2 is strong, but if I had to make a recommendation, I’d suggest grabbing the 360 version and downloading the extra stories to go along with it.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Capcom Vancouver and published by Capcom. It is currently available on PS4, XBO, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 20 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 2 hours of play were devoted to multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M. It contains blood and gore, intense violence, language, sexual themes, and use of alcohol. At least they noticed the sexual themes this time around! All in all, this is actually far less scandalous than the previous entry. Yes, there are some sexualized female characters and some skimpy costumes, but the amount of threatened rape has dropped to zero, so that’s something. In case it’s not clear though, kids still shouldn’t play this game! Older teens at minimum.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game doesn’t have any audio cues of note. All dialogue is subtitled, so the only thing you’ll be missing out on is the calls of stranded survivors, but they almost always have very visible onscreen nametags which can reveal their locations.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are colorblind modes available in the options.
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