Dead Rising 2 Preview (PC)

A number of things had made me very worried about the status of Dead Rising 2 throughout its development. First off it was being made by a different developer, and then it was revealed that it was an all-new engine, reusing no code from the original. Then there was no Frank West – a new protagonist was in charge.

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Colour me worried. Then the game was delayed. Then, worst of all, Capcom’s president said that collaborations with Western developers – of which this is one – weren’t working, and the company wouldn’t be undertaking any more. Colour me terrified – I loved the first Dead Rising. In the end it seems that the months of fretting on my part and the part of the fans all over the world was misplaced – at least, that’s if what I played of Dead Rising 2 at E3 is any indication. To cut a long story short, the game is awesome.

The moment I picked up the controller and took control of the motorcycle-jacketed Chuck Greene it was clear that developer Blue Castle Games spent a ton of time making their new engine feel exactly like the old. It has the same old slightly-plodding movement about it, and the controls are literally identical save for the fact Chuck doesn’t have Frank West’s signature camera.

So you’ll be hitting B to pick up weapons and tapping X to attack – unless it’s a projectile based weapon, which you’ll be aiming first then pulling the right trigger to fire. It’s all very familiar. So familiar, in fact, that one might believe that Dead Rising 2 is merely a ‘churned out in a year’ sequel to the original on the same tech – and that’s no bad thing – but the closer you look the clearer it becomes that this is much, much more.

Past a superficial level Dead Rising 2 is vastly improved over the first game with larger seamless areas, more zombies on-screen at once and overall better, crisper and cleaner visuals. It runs smoother, and the ability to display a simply unholy number of zombies on screen now is a welcome addition to any zombie apocalypse game.

We’re told by Capcom that the number of zombies on screen in the original game topped-out at around 800 – it now sits at 6000 to 7000. It’s so high that the Capcom reps themselves aren’t entirely sure how far it can go before crashing the game – but rest assured, areas are jam packed with the undead.
Meet... the paddlesaw!

The core dynamics of the original Dead Rising are still in place including the PP and Level Up system which tracks your progress. PP earned can be used to level up and unlock new moves and bonuses, though without Frank West’s camera Chuck needed a new way to actually gain PP – and what Capcom have come up with is - to quote Frank – Fantastic.

Chuck’s a handy-man, y’see, and there’s now items around that can not only be used as weapons but also combined with other items to create new, powerful weapons. You can combine nails and a bat to make a spiked bat – that’s a simple one – or on the more extreme edge combine circular saws and a vacuum cleaner to create... a grindy thing that rips zombies to pieces with ease. My personal favourite was a combo I’d found that our guide hadn’t seen before – a combination of a machine gun and a robotic teddy bear that becomes a sentry gun which can be placed down and automatically guns down anybody it spots.

Using weapons you’ve created gains you healthy amounts of PP, while it can also be gained by saving survivors, completing missions and defeating psychopaths, who also make a return in this new title.

In amongst these changed old systems are some new ones, too – there’s money here, which can be found and earned and then spent at shops run by humans who are so greedy that even the zombie apocalypse won’t stop them selling their wares. Money can also be spent on things such as drinks and food to replenish health at a vending machine or on items, weapons and combo cards – cards which show you a new item combination to create another new deadly weapon.

All these new systems add a ton to the already diverse gameplay of the original, and while I thought I was going to miss the camera the seemingly massive number of options the item combining system provides makes me forget all about snapping pictures and shouting ‘Fantastic!’ I also got to go hands-on with the Xbox 360 exclusive prologue known as ‘Case Zero’ – and that seems to be more of the same telling some of the story before the game begins in the full retail game’s engine despite being a downloadable title. It’s impressive in size and scope at a glance for a downloadable title, but much there is going to depend on how it is priced – which Capcom weren’t telling us.

Dead Rising 2 seems to be a by-the-numbers guide of how to make a sequel that’ll hit all the bases the original game hit and hit some exciting new ones. The new additions on show so far are definitely exciting and the fact the game now runs incredibly smoothly goes a long way to negate the issues with the original.
I'm going to need a bigger boat

That said, there’s much that wasn’t on show at E3 – the multiplayer mode was absent and players were only able access one area out of a map that is significantly larger than the one from the original Dead Rising. There’s lots left to see of Dead Rising 2, but if the rest matches up to what was shown at E3 it’s going to be one of the top games of this holiday season when it launches in September and October.

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