The setting is new -- Fortune City, Nevada -- and the cast is different, but Dead Rising 2 sits very comfortably in the "more of the same, but better" school of sequel development. That's not meant as a disparagement, since Dead Rising 2 just doesn't stray from the core principle of the original. Murdering zombies in creative ways is immensely entertaining.
Before we get into that, let me save you some suspense: If you didn't like the original Dead Rising, there won't be much to sway your opinion in Dead Rising 2. The overarching design is the same. As Chuck Greene, you have three days to survive a zombie outbreak, discover the truth behind said outbreak and round up as many survivors as you can, all while dispatching the undead with any means available. The occasionally frustrating boss fight is back (protip: a bit of pre-fight planning and preparation goes a long way), as are the lengthy loading screens.
Also, love it or hate it, Dead Rising 2 utilizes the same save system as the first. In other words, apart from a few major checkpoints, all saving is done manually, and can only be done in certain locations. Given the sandbox nature of play, it's entirely possible to lose half an hour of progress (or more) thanks to an unexpected death. I like the suspense and risk it adds, but it's not for everybody. Of course, killing zombies with a firesledge axehammer is for everybody, so I hope you can get past it.
Wheelchair + Lawn Mower = Zombie Salad Shooter
With that out of the way, I believe we were discussing the entertainment value of creatively killing zombies. Dead Rising 2 goes one step beyond this principle, inviting players to take part in the creative process. Rather than relying solely on found weapons, Chuck can combine items to create his own weapons in the various maintenance rooms of Fortune City. And there you have the driving force behind Dead Rising 2.
Right off the (spike-covered) bat, it's the hunt for new combo weapons that steals the show. It's simple: grab two items, head to a maintenance room and try to put them together on the workbench. There are dozens of weapons to be created, ranging from electrified wheelchairs to homemade rocket launchers to the infamous pitchfork-shotgun. Hunting them all down becomes a game within itself, one that's almost as fun as actually killing zombies.
Nearly everything revolves around this creative set of weapons. Rounding up survivors means finding more maintenance rooms. Each maintenance room, in turn, generally offers up enough items to create two new weapons. Saving survivors helps Chuck level up, which often grants him new weapon recipes. Leveling up means more item slots, which means he can hold more weapons. Kill one of the many delightful psychopath bosses, level up, earn a new weapon.
Although I was unable to try out the multiplayer modes thanks to technical limitations, Dead Rising 2 also lets you share the zombie slaughter with your friends via co-op and versus multiplayer. A multiplayer version of the Terror is Reality gameshow, which factors into the main story, pits your zombie-murdering prowess against that of your friends, and also lets you earn in-game cash for the single-player campaign. Co-op drops a friend into the role of another Chuck Greene. The ramifications of two wheelchair mowers running at the same time should be self-evident.
Dead Rising 2 doesn't stray from the core principle of the original. Murdering zombies in creative ways is immensely entertaining.
The story is told competently enough, filled with the requisite conspiracy and ruminations on the evils of capitalism. Personally, I found the consumerist warnings of the original Dead Rising to be a bit more poignant. In theory, Chuck's infected daughter Katey adds an emotional anchor to the action, as she needs daily doses of Zombrex, an anti-zombification drug. In practice, however, the search for Zombrex really just amounts to another fetch quest.
That doesn't really matter though, because it all leads to the next discovery, the next magical zombie death engine. I mean, sure, I'm worried about the fate of Chuck's daughter as I search for her next dose, but what I'm really wondering is what would happen if I tried to cram an umbrella into a leaf blower ...
This review is based on review code of the Xbox 360 version provided by Capcom. Dead Rising 2 is available now on Xbox 360 and PS3.