Dead Rising 2 Preview

When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will hit the casinos.

The mall-zombie, snarky social-commentary conceit for Capcom’s original Dead Rising… well, we had seen it before, hadn’t we? Like, literally seen it, on movie screens (twice, in fact—once in George Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead, and once in the remake). The blatant ‘inspiration’ provided by the films didn’t make the game any less entertaining, of course—in fact, I would argue that the blaring homage only made the game’s entertainment factor that much higher—but you can really only get away with something like that once. Everybody knew there would be a Dead Rising 2, but the question was: “Where do we go from here?”

[image1]To contrast the dread of the slow, shambling dead, we need a suitable lively, hopefully ironic, set-piece—an entertaining, hugely-unlikely backdrop to the carnage, something that proudly (or at least loudly) shouts “America!” and then in a macho-yet-mock-fearful voice, happily burbles “Zombie Apocalypse!” We can hardly do shopping malls again; the ‘gangsta’-fied urban jungle is hopelessly lame and played out; there’s entirely too much room to easily avoid the Risen around the iconic American environs of Yosemite, Niagara Falls, or the Grand Canyon; and Disneyland—as awesome a zombie-bashing environment as that would be—would rightfully sue the living Winnie-the-Pooh out of anyone who dares challenge her. What have we Americans got left? Vegas.

That’s right, baby: Casino-strip gaudiness, WWE-style, pay-per-view, pyrotechnics-riddled ostentation, and game-show, ‘reality TV’ shamelessness. Welcome to Dead Rising 2—praise the Loud, pass the ammunition, and God bless (what’s left of) America!

Set a handful of years after the original Dead Rising, DR2 posits a near-future United States consumed by the Zombie Apocalypse from sea to shining sea. The game is set in the fictional gambling mecca of Fortune City. Popular knowledge has it that it’s based on Las Vegas, but at Capcom’s DR2 event in Tokyo, Community Manager Chris Kramer assured me that it’s more closely based on Reno—the Deadest Little City in the World?

Players take the role of Chuck Greene, who is a former motocross champion—sure, why not—as evidenced by his nifty custom leather jacket (designed by Japanese motocross-apparel manufacturer Kadoya, a one-of-a-kind replica of Greene’s in-game jacket was one of the competition prizes at the Tokyo event).

Capcom’s Inafune Keiji describes Greene as ‘more interesting’ than Dead Rising protagonist Frank West. Among the human survivors whom Greene is charged with saving is his own daughter, which gives him (and us) all the more motivation for hacking a one-man swathe through hordes of the walking dead. While DR2 wasn’t on the show floor at Tokyo Game Show, I did get some hands-on time with both the single player and multi-player experiences at the Zest Cantina in Ebisu, Tokyo (if I happen to be in Tokyo when the big Z.A. finally drops, Zest is where I’m making my last tequila-fueled stand).

[image2]If you logged any zombie-killing time with the first game, you’ll feel right at home here with the comparable gameplay mechanics, picking up weapons that range from the near-useless to the satisfyingly-deadly to the exquisitely-ridiculous. My first taste put me (and at least 600 reanimated dead) on the combined bar/casino floor of some tastelessly-flashy Fortune City resort. You can imagine the sort of setup: Craps tables, tasteless neon, banks of slot machines, a large, trendy circular bar in the central hub, plus enough bar-stools for all of them, ready for use against the zombies as impromptu, last-ditch weapons.

Long before things get that desperate, however, you’ll find lots of more effective—or at least entertaining—weapons lying around: One of my personal favorites is the good old medieval sword, good for two-handed, round-slash attacks that don’t merely fell the zombies in its blade-reach, but actually slice them into the appropriately-proportioned, bloody chunks—not ‘canned’ damage-animations, but true wedges, slices, and/or wafer-thin bits as determined by the physics of your swing. There are also pistols, craps-table rakes, golf-clubs, and of course, chainsaws—zombie games do have rules, after all. Still more effective than all of these is the long pole with chainsaws mounted on both ends; it’s inelegant-looking, but does let you go all crazy-pants Darth Maul/Star Wars Kid on anything that moves in your vicinity that ought not to move.

A quick dash to the central, circular bar-area yields the Big Guns, literally: Pick up a light machine gun there and, at least while the ammo lasts, you can really start mowing the lurchers down in serious, impressive numbers. About the only way I can think to crank up the kill count from this point would be to take a properly-timed shot at some sort of (ah, yes) a canister of gasoline, inexplicably abandoned in the middle of the casino floor (keeping the LMGs at the central bar next to the top-shelf vodka, by contrast, at least makes some kind of sense). And yes, here comes a serendipitous clump of mindless shamblers, conveniently clustering all around it like ‘grinders’ on a dance-floor. Smile and say ‘Ballroom Blitz’, everyone!

The Dead Rising universe hasn’t lost its sense of humor, and there’s some goofy stuff, too: Jam a blinding ‘Servebot head’ on a deader’s noggin just to screw with it; bean a rot-walker or two in the face with a funny, squeaking but otherwise functionally-useless beach ball; and for the ultimate in four-wheeled, handi-capable zombie-dropping, there’s the wheelchair you don’t need. On the other hand, it’s outfitted with the array of strapped-on full-automatic weapons you do need .(And oh Lord, I really, sincerely hope and pray that some sensitive, politically-correct advocacy group out there gets a major wasp up its water-spout over this; it’ll be fun to watch—and I can make a lot of easy money writing about it. Don’t let me down, media watchdogs!).

[image3]The multiplayer, however, is where DR2‘s already-admirable goofiness factor absolutely drunken-missiles its way up into the stratosphere (not The Stratosphere—at least, as far as I know at the moment). In DR2‘s story, post-zombie America has dealt with the global horror by making ‘reality-TV’ entertainment out of it. ‘Terror is Reality’ is the name of the spectacle—a sort of ratings-bonanza transporter accident between American Gladiators and WWE television, with a little extra fur-coated, blinged-out, hip-hop, X-Games ‘MC’ gaudiness thrown in for good presentational measure—and the festivities are naturally designed around the creative, competitive, conspicuous-consumption disposal of the world’s surplus undead.

(I just gotta give it up for Blue Castle and Capcom for some really katana-sharp cultural insight, here. When the Zombie Apocalypse does come, you just know this is exactly where pop-culture America is going to run with it.)

One of the TIR multiplayer competitions, ‘Slicecycles’, is fairly straightforward—and rather a lucky break for our motocross-ready protagonist. It is a massive, sunken pit bounded by the sloping walls of a skate-park into which is put: A) a snotload of zombies; and B) a number of contestants riding motorcycles equipped with protruding bladed weapons and chainsaws—may the highest scorer win.

The game called ‘Ramsterball’ is, well, very close to what you probably already think it is: human-sized hamster-balls. You’re in a slope-walled pit like the one already described, except that its floor is studded with towers, atop which are zombies. Only one player at any given time has the glowing power to activate the towers by ramming them—at which point a big mashing pylon comes down on said platform and makes Jelly-Doughnut Surprise out of said tower-top zombies. Thing is, all the other, non-glowing players are constantly out to tag your Ramsterball and steal the pylon-activating power for themselves. Naturally, the floor of the arena is also alive—er… well, you know—with additional target-of-opportunity zombies to roll over.

‘Headache’ is just sick, even for pay-per-view mass slaughter. You can only carry three ‘hats’ of your team color at one time (but you can run and get more from a dispenser). The object is to jam as many of your hats on as many undead as possible, and then run back to hit a switch… which activates the blades inside all of your currently-deployed hats at once, instantly Cuisinarting all said heads into sprays of point-scoring gore. If your opponents seem to have crammed more of their hats onto the dead-heads than you currently have, you can use your one stick of TNT to blast hats off the heads they occupy—but this will take out any of your own nearby hat-wearing point-makers, too, so be careful.

[image4]Finally, there’s the game where each contestant uses the oversized moose-antlers mounted on either side of his special helmet—and yes, I saw this well before I’d had anywhere near my ‘limit’ of alarmingly-blue drinks—to sort of flip any nearby zombies into a special receptacle, like so many Tiddlywinks from the grave. In fact, if I worked in the appropriate capacity for Capcom, “Tiddlywinks From the Grave” is exactly what I would call this multiplayer challenge—which probably goes a long way toward explaining why I do not work at Capcom in any capacity whatever.

(And yes, this is all playable online; offline and network play is still TBD).

Gore-splattered gameplay goodness, familiar don’t-fix-it controls, radically increased numbers of on-screen enemies (Capcom spits on your DR1, 800-zombie grave; now try several thousand, at the most recent estimate), hectic multiplayer, and a stepped-up dose of overall goofball humor—Dead Rising 2 promises all this and more when it brings its shambling hordes to the bright lights of an all-American gambling mecca—where what happens in the grave doesn’t stay in the grave. Check back with Game Revolution for our continuing coverage of the Zombie Apocalypse; if it’s important enough to the University of Florida, it’s important enough to you.