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Dead Rising 2: Case Zero Review

By Matt Cabral, 9/14/2010

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Capcom’s latest zombie-slaughtering romp, Dead Rising 2, doesn’t shuffle onto consoles until later this month. But if you just can’t wait another couple of weeks to slice and dice your way through hungry hordes of brain eaters, you may want to check out Dead Rising 2: Case Zero. An appetizer of sorts to the meatbag-slaying main course, the DLC entry offers a prologue to new series’ star Chuck Greene’s adventures in the Vegas-like Fortune City. The bite-sized entry finds him and his infected daughter trapped in a small, sun-baked desert town that is, of course, crawling with flesh-craving monsters.

I’d heard Case Zero criticized as being little more than a demo you have to pay for, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover it’s quite a bit more than that. For starters, its content is not in the main game; you will not be replaying any of Case Zero when you play through Dead Rising 2. It actually feels more like DLC that would be released after the game, in which case no one would complain that it was a pay-to-play demo. Additionally, it offers more than just a sandbox to creatively kill zombies in. There’s a decent little story, some challenging objectives, and environments unique to this standalone chapter.

Oh yeah, and there’s also an endless zombie block-party going on in the streets, serving as the perfect place for players to test out Dead Rising 2‘s new weapon-building mechanic. For those who haven’t been following the upcoming sequel, this system replaces the first game’s picture-taking gameplay as a means of earning experience points (or pp) with the morbidly satisfying ability to create inventive death-dealers. This means taking a box of nails and a baseball bat to a workbench, and coming away with the “spiked bat”, an effective melee weapon when a hungry horde is closing in around you. Combos are predetermined, so you can’t make anything you want, but there’s still dozens of blood-bringing mash-ups. My favorite from Case Zero is the “boomstick”, a shotgun with a pitchfork bayonet that allows you to skewer a baddie just before blowing off chunks of his body. Unsurprisingly, appropriately blood-soaked, limb-flying, head-rolling animations complement each weapon combination’s kill spree.

You could have a hell of a time just running around Case Zero‘s town, discovering new weapons and unleashing them on the infected populace. But again, there is a story here with objectives leading to its completion. First off, you need to find a dose of Zombrex--a pharmaceutical that temporarily staves off the zombie virus-- within 12 hours, lest you want Chuck’s young daughter to suddenly find her dad’s brain more appealing than a Happy Meal. Additionally, you need to seek out five individual parts of a damaged motorcycle so you can repair it and make your escape before the military quarantines the area and takes your pigtailed offspring into custody. The game is short--about 3-4 hours--but completing the objectives and getting your fill of eviscerating the foot-dragging locals requires at least two play-throughs, more if you want to save some of the clueless civilian survivors.

There’s even a fun boss battle, fashioned after the psychopath encounters in the first game, that pits you against a hillbilly who’s not convinced your daughter’s worth saving. Best of all, whatever experience level you achieve in Case Zero can be carried over to Dead Rising 2. The cap is level five, and you’re probably looking at a third play-through if you want to achieve it. This alone should be incentive enough for fans of the franchise to sign up for a little pre-game massacre.

Case Zero also works as a nice tutorial of things to come. On top of learning the new weapon system, it introduces you to the sequel’s more forgiving save system--you get three slots instead of one this time--and teaches you all the other basic stuff you’ll need to know to take on Fortune City’s freak show. You’ll learn about collectible combo and scratch cards that add experience and power to your makeshift weapons, and discover that a woman’s purse still isn’t a solid defense against an undead dude snacking on your neck. Of course, no Dead Rising experience would be complete without the ability to don silly outfits, and Case Zero does not disappoint; I spent one entire run through the campaign dressed as a diner waitress.

My only real gripe with Case Zero is that it doesn’t tie Dead Rising 2’s narrative to the original game‘s. Capcom had billed it as a chapter that would fill the gap between the two games, which it certainly does. However, I was secretly hoping that meant it would offer some explanation as to how Frank West’s terrifying experience in the Willamette Mall led up to Chuck Greene’s story. That said, if you’re a fan of this franchise who plans on buying the sequel, there’s plenty here to sink your chainsaw-outfitted kayak paddle into. And, at just five bucks, the dead zombie to dollar ratio can’t be beat, especially in this economy.

Overall: 9 out of 10



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