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Dead Rising 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: Sept. 13, 2016


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Xbox One Review - 'Dead Rising 2 HD'

by Thomas Wilde on Feb. 21, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Dead Rising 2 is set several years after the infamous zombie invasion of Willamette. Unfortunately, the zombie virus was not contained at the conclusion of Dead Rising and has spread unchecked throughout the United States. Dead Rising 2 depicts a country where zombie outbreaks continue to strike.

Buy Dead Rising 2 HD

If you're already familiar with the game, this isn't quite the Dead Rising 2 you remember. I went back and replayed the original a couple of months ago, and there were some late patches that nobody seems to have noticed. The survivors are considerably dumber, a couple of psychopaths may have been tweaked (Brandon's a lot more dangerous than I remember him being), and the Day Two poker game is significantly easier to beat. Aside from that, the graphics are a bit polished, but it's the same game as before, warts and all.

For those who are just coming in now, Dead Rising 2 is probably the highlight of its franchise to date, and if it isn't, it comes in a close second behind its non-canon expansion, Off the Record. Like the original game, it sets you loose in a large, sprawling building that's full of zombies and lets you use anything you can pick up as a weapon against them. Also like the original game, those zombies may be the big draw, but the real challenge is in racing the clock.

Dead Rising 2 is set five years after the original game in an America that's been transformed by occasional zombie outbreaks. Las Vegas was destroyed by one a year ago; Chuck Greene survived, but his wife didn't, and his young daughter Katey ended up infected. In order to keep buying Katey the medication she needs to survive, Chuck takes a high-risk job as a contestant on a zombie-slaying, pay-per-view event called "Terror is Reality," filmed live in the hastily built "adult playground" of Fortune City.

After the show, someone steals the outfit Chuck wore on the show, puts it on, and lets himself be seen as he releases "TiR's" supply of zombie fodder into Fortune City. Chuck manages to survive the ensuing outbreak and must spend the next three days trying to prove his innocence while also scrounging up more medication for Katey.

The big innovation of Dead Rising 2 is in Chuck's mechanical skills, which lets you jury-rig two items into a new combination weapon. This ranges from the practical (Molotov cocktails, a bat with a spike through it) to the outlandish (a fire ax taped to a sledgehammer's head, a water gun filled with gasoline) to the outright impossible (a homebrewed lightsaber, a giant stuffed bear that's been made into an antipersonnel turret). A big part of the fun of DR2 is in finding and wielding new combo weapons, and you can easily spend a few runs through the game just doing that.

Aside from the combo weapons, though, DR2 is a surprisingly faithful sequel, which follows the narrative structure of the original Dead Rising like a checklist. It has a fan-game atmosphere, which I absolutely mean as a compliment; DR2 absolutely does feel like a Western team decided to put its own spin on the original game, full of fixes, innovations, and its own weird sense of humor.

This re-release of DR2 is a straightforward port without much besides a fresh coat of graphical paint; it even still has the old Blue Castle logo on its starting screens, from before the company was bought and turned into Capcom Vancouver. It does come with the old pre-order bonus outfits, which makes the early game a bit easier (you can put on a ninja costume, which means most of the zombies will outright ignore you), but in general, it's the same old DR2 you may remember.

This means that the two big complaints about DR2 are still quite valid. The first is that it's still an incredibly janky game that's prone to weird glitches and errors. It rarely slows down under the weight of hundreds of on-screen zombies, even when you're running over dozens of them at once in a sports car, but getting that fluidity seems to have cost it in a number of other areas. The AI ranges from serviceable to just plain bad, the collision detection is wonky (bullets will sometimes miss their targets for no particular reason), and I've had a consistent problem with zombies hitting me from a couple of yards away.

The second big issue in DR2, as I was talking about in the review for the re-release of the original DR, is that itreplaces a lot of the original game's horror with scattershot humor. Worse, it's mostly just "random" humor, of the type that was briefly in fashion in the 2000s; the game expects you to laugh at a reference, or due to how bizarre something was, rather than because it's actually clever or satirical.

A good two-thirds of the survivors you can rescue don't seem to understand or appreciate that they're in a dangerous situation, and many ask for outright bribes before they'll agree to let you rescue them. The various psychopaths that serve as the game's boss fights include an obese furry with a giant pink chainsaw, a disgruntled postal worker (a "joke" that was about 20 years old when the game was first released, let alone now), and a pair of insane magicians who appear to be the demented love children of Penn, Teller, Siegfried, and Roy. There's no real theme, aside from how many of them seem to embody some vague element of Las Vegas casino culture, and most of the jokes don't really land.

A third complaint specific to this re-release is that Capcom hasn't bundled DR2 with either of its DLC add-ons, Case Zero and Case West, both of which provide useful parts of the story. This seems like an unfortunate oversight and would have been worth including, even if it meant raising the price. Case West in particular is a weird omission, as it serves to set up certain events in Dead Rising 3.

All that aside, DR2 is still surprisingly fun, even now. It's certainly flawed, but the core concepts are incredibly strong, and it's a game that encourages you to find your own way through it. There's a lot of room to explore and develop your own strategies, and unlike the original, it seems to understand that part of the fun is in letting you screw around a bit. In the first game, you had to deliberately let missions expire if you just wanted to go bomb around the mall; here, even if you're following the story, there are big windows of opportunity to do whatever you like. There's a much greater sense of freedom, which is part of the point of a game like this one.

DR2 isn't that old of a game and has been available on Steam for quite a while. If you only own a PS4 or Xbox One and you haven't played DR2 before, it's well worth your time. As long as you're willing to experiment, fail, and try again, you should get a lot out of it.

Score: 8.0/10

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