Review: Dead Rising 2

Wife dead, daughter infected, motocross superstar Chuck Greene is forced to compete on nationally televised zombie killing show Terror is Reality to earn the cash to help keep his daughter from turning. But then things go sideways.

Dead Rising 2 is the Canadian-developed sequel to 2006's incredibly popular, though slightly flawed, action survivor horror game Dead Rising by Japanese developers Capcom. Developers Blue Castle took to their mandate to Westernize the game by improving the gunplay and allowing gamers to slice and dice zombies that can pack the screen shoulder-to-shoulder. The sequel's protagonist loses the ability to take pictures, but brings with him a skill for building his own weapons.

Ideal Player

People who don't mind getting a little blood on their television screen, a little vomit on their floor, a little humor in their zombie apocalypse fiction.

Why You Should Care

Dead Rising reminded us just how much fun it is to take an object, any object and use it to beat a zombie into submission. Dead Rising 2 amps that up with oodles more zombies to decapitate, defenestrate and immolate. It also gives us not just new things to do that with, but the ability to build our own weapons.



Wasn't the game supposed to explore the ultimate power wielded by multinational pharmaceuticals and the corruption that can cause. Did it? The game's story revolves around the importance of Zombrex, a drug that can stave off, not cure, zombie bites. That means that the infected need a dose every 24 hours. Dead Rising 2's story taps into that potentially meaty idea, but only superficially. Even the most thought-provoking moments of the game, the emotional opening and ending of Dead Rising 2, are lost amid hours of vomit pratfalls, absurd costume changes and zombie liquefying do-it-yourself weaponry.

I kind of liked the story in Dead Rising, but the ending wasn't satisfying at all. I hate cliffhangers. You're probably not going to like the ending. What both Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2 do very well is deliver memorable characters that we grow to love or hate over the course of the story. But the storyline itself doesn't quite ever live up to the characters that inhabit it. I was bit a disappointed that not only does the game never really bring clarity to the ending of the original Dead Rising, it muddies the water even further for the franchise with its own murky ending.

That's too bad, but I still love the notion of a big zombie game relying on physical humor to entertain. In the past I've talked about games that are organically scary. The developers set up the situation, build up the tension and then the scares just sort of happen, they're not programmed in. That's how Dead Rising 2's humor works. There aren't a lot of scripted jokes in this game, instead they've filled it with awkward zombies and absurd props. Check this out:

That mustard doesn't really do anything in the game. Unlike other food, you can't use it to heal yourself. You can't kill zombies with it. It serves no purpose, but not only did Blue Castle decide to include it, they seemed to put a lot of effort into making it look real. That's the epitome of why Dead Rising 2 is so much fun to play: That attention to detail is found in everything they include in the game.

And you can combine some of those things to make your own weapons, right? Absolutely. While you can't take anything you find in the malls, casinos and strip of Fortune City and build something with it, there are still plenty of options. The weapon creation not only livens up the gameplay, but it also adds humor and gives you a reason to more thoroughly explore the dangerous zombie-filled city. Learning how, for instance, to create your own laser sword and then seeking out the parts you need to build it are a big part of Dead Rising 2's draw. I spent a ton of time looking for the parts to create my favorite weapons, when I could have just been hanging out in the shelter watching the clock.

Clock watching? Why would you do that? The game's pivotal moments, the things that move the story along and march you and your rag-tag band of zombie-outbreak survivors toward the ultimate conclusion, are all pinned immovably to specific times in the game. You have to dose your daughter with Zombrex every 24 hours (within an hour window). That's a great way to force you into risky situations as you fight against time to find those few doses of the drug. But what initially adds a sense of suspense to the game quickly begins to anchor your freedom. Once you've accomplished the task at hand, you're often left with the choice of whiling away your time killing zombies or hanging out in the shelter looking at your watch.

Wasted gameplay? How can you call playing through a game, even if it's not to accomplish a game-progressing mission, wasted? This is where the game's save system comes into play. While there are a few auto-saved moments in Dead Rising 2, a bulk of your saves have to be done manually, when you find a rest room. Forget to save and you lose all of that time spent paddle-sawing zombies, and hunting down gems for a laser sword.

It sounds like you weren't much of a fan of the game? That's not true, there were certainly things that annoyed the hell out of me, but Dead Rising 2 is a fantastic game to play on your own or with friends. Once you get through the story, the game really opens up because you're not worrying as much about trying to complete the game, and you can concentrate on things like saving all of those oddball survivors, taking out the wonderfully erratic psychos in the game or having a friend drop in to help you cut and shoot your way through the unbelievable number of zombies that Blue Castle manage to pack into a single space.

Dead Rising 2 in Action

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Buy It

If you've got a sense of humor, love engaging gameplay that doesn't require player creativity but still stimulates it, and are up for a zombie-killing romp through a undead Sin City.

Don't Buy It

If you're not a fan of gore, bodily fluids or bodies that get up and walk around after they're dead.

The Bottom Line

Dead Rising 2 is a mixed bag of fun and annoyance. The heart of the game, the endless zombie killing, is pitch perfect. But this time around you can't capture your favorite moments on film. The game seems to try and make up for that by allowing you to create your own weapons, but given the choice, I'd still pick photography over weapon construction. In the end, it's the ability to invite a friend to join you on your zombie-killing rampages and the game's odd collection of gory mini-games that make this the sort of title I'd tell people to buy.

Dead Rising 2 was developed by Blue Castle and published by Capcom for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on September 28. Retails for $59.99 USD on console, $39.99 on PC. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through the entire campaign on the Xbox 360. Checked out the multiplayer Terror is Reality mini-games and multiplayer coop.