Review: Dead Rising 2: Case Zero (Xbox 360)

Dead Rising 2: Case Zero
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Genre: Survival/Action
Release Date: 08/31/2010

Back during the first blurbs of hype for the then-fledgling Xbox 360, a screenshot of a gentleman standing atop a vehicle with an army of zombies closing in on him caught my eye. With Dead Rising, we were basically given a method to chop through thousands of zombies using the processing of the Xbox 360 and you can bet I did indeed purchase said title when it released. While it didn’t exactly match my idea of a Dynasty Warriors-style title with zombies, the title was solid, if not rough around the edges, and it’s still one I come back to every now and again.

Now we’re a handful of years beyond Frank West’s launchpad into Capcom icon character, and while the former is too busy starring or making cameos in fighting and shooting games, we now have a latter character thanks to an upcoming Dead Rising 2, set to release in September. In the approach to the release, instead of just slapping up a constrictive demo of the title, Capcom decided to go the route of what we experienced earlier this year with NBA 2K’s Draft Combine. In this concept, players pay a small fee to receive a full, supplemental experience that gives them a taste of the game while leading them into the upcoming full release. Thankfully, Capcom has dished out a much more standalone experience than 2K’s b-ball sim with Case Zero and, while this bite-sized entry might not change someone’s feelings on the series as a whole, it will definitely provide fans of the original entry hours of brain-bashing fun.

The premise of Case Zero sees a new protagonist Chuck Greene, a celebrity motocross racer, fleeing with his daughter to Las Vegas, where he can prove himself in a twisted competition that will allow him to save his kin. During an outbreak, Chuck’s wife turned zombie and bit their child, infecting her with the virus that will eventually turn her as well. Through modern science; however, an injection drug known as Zombrex prevents this from happening for a solid 12 hours. In the pursuit of this drug, Chuck finds himself in a town called Still Creek, where upon gassing up his vehicle and diverting his attention to his surroundings for a moment gives a thief ample opportunity to take off with his ride … and his supply of Zombrex.

This is where Case Zero kicks off, leaving Chuck in a bit of a pickle. He has no transportation, his only safe spot from the entire town turned zombie is an abandoned gas station, he has no Zombrex and an endless wave of monstrosities want to eat him alive. From here, Chuck has just over half a day to secure his daughter and find a way to get the hell out of Still Creek before the military arrives and tries to quarantine the only surviving member of his family. It is a pretty cut-and-dry delivery, but the deadline hits the Dead Rising gameplay style and serves up a bit of tension, especially in your first go when it isn’t so clear what you have to do. Chuck will also meet up with a scant few other survivors, so as players investigate, they will come across others that have their own stories to tell. It’s up to players to discover the full experience the game has to offer and, considering the scope of the download, while it isn’t a huge chunk of narrative and it gets straight to the point, Case Zero serves its purpose in bridging a gap to the full release.

Case Zero only has one featured game mode, but, given the sandbox nature of the title, this mode gives players a lot of freedom. They don’t have to save Chuck’s daughter if they don’t want to, and, instead, they could spend the blunt of the 12 or so hours doing nothing but tearing away at zombies. The game does have a small number of possible endings depending on whether or not Chuck can save his daughter, so this factor does weigh in on the performance of the player and ups the replayability a little bit. Also, while the main flow of the game has Chuck saving himself and his daughter and getting out of town, the other survivors throw in side missions for the player to tackle. In Dead Rising form, the player can also re-start the story from any game save file and keep their stats in order to build a different game experience. Players can work their way up to level five and carry these boosts into the full retail game when it releases, so, as you can see, even though there is only one true game mode, the way Capcom has crafted this installment makes this single method a worthwhile one.

Again, with this entry, the graphics really fail to wow the eyes but considering Capcom packed this entry into a respectable file size and considering its format, Case Zero throws a lot out to players. I would personally say the entry is on par with the original installment of Dead Rising. You’ll get a lot of variety in visual appearances of the zombies, there is a lot of attention to small details in the environments and, given the game’s view, the character models all look quite respectable. Unfortunately, there are a bunch of animation quirks in the title including sudden jerks when some zombies attack, weird instances of clipping with the camera and in-game none of the characters speak with fluent animation such as having their mouths move. The cutscenes make up for this, though, giving players full animations and voice acting that hits the nail on the head for the most part, and the menus are live with designs and cutscene stills that hold the attention long enough for the game to load up. Those that gave up on playing the game because of owning a non-HD television can also breathe a little easier as my quick test yielded very few issues in reading text and navigating the game (some of the smaller print in the pause menu was what kept this from being a complete non-issue). In all, Case Zero holds up well in visuals, but it really lacks a hefty punch in detail.

Through the speakers, Case Zero fares a little bit better, with solid voice acting, tunes that are appropriate for the situation, the ambiance of the shambling undead and occasional military jets flying overhead and the satisfying sound effects that differ depending on what tool you are using to dispense of the denizens of evil. The scripted storylines have quality voice acting, but this doesn’t always carry over into the one-liners and minor characters. Even though a few of the other characters have a little bit of a cheesy delivery, the end result is quite respectable. There is a good chunk of conversation inside the gameplay that players will have to read, so it is a bit disappointing these don’t have full voiceovers as well, it really doesn’t break the experience. There actually isn’t a lot of music to be had in Case Zero, so the ambiance and sound effects really carry the load here, but as players get to the end, the psychopath fight and escape sequences really pump out suitable music to get players going. For the players’ ears, the ambiance of the environment is mostly what players will take from it, but suitably sets the mood and variety of sound effects really stands out.

Once you actually take a look at the meat of the game, as I mentioned before, virtually nothing has changed from the original title, which will make or break this purchase for you. Players are still on time deadlines in order to get the fullest story possible, weapons and items still need to be managed, zombies are still cluttering your path, the controls are exactly the same and all of the game’s weapons and items behave exactly as one would expect. If you’ve tackled the first title, you’ll be able to jump straight into this prologue and start busting heads without much thought. Through Dead Rising 2, the photography gimmick gets dropped and is replaced with Chuck’s knowledge of mechanics (i.e. duct tape), creating the game’s “Tape It or Die” slogan. If a player comes across an item that sports a blue wrench icon, it can be combined with another in predetermined combinations to create uber weapons that not only kick ass, but, sometimes yield bonuses such as extra attacks and experience point boosts.

While this hardly turns the genre on its head, it does become an interesting experiment and leads to some satisfying weapons such as drill buckets, electric rakes and the infamous chainsaw paddle. Combining two weapons into one will also alleviate some of the inventory management woes found in the first title and with that being mentioned, ease of use has really become a sort of theme for the sequel. Considering the fact the strict time management and survival skills turned a lot of people away from Dead Rising, Case Zero seems to be a little more tuned in favor of this crowd. The entry now allows for three different save slots as opposed to one, weapons seem to be a little more durable this time around and having more than half a day to accomplish everything in Case Zero really takes some weight off the player. Don’t interpret this as me saying the game is now a cakewalk, as it still serves up a decent challenge and I certainly had many moments of frenzied self preservation, but using the framework of the sequel, Capcom has really tamed some of the nuances that drove players away from the first.

Another addition sees Chuck being able to accrue money, which, in Case Zero, allows Chuck to gamble at slot machines and purchase items from the pawn shop. One of the first events in the title sees Chuck saving a town resident named Dick, who turns out to be the owner of said pawn shop. In this shop, Chuck can purchase combo weapons if the player can’t find the source materials or is too lazy to find a workbench to slap them together, receive leads to key items and even outright purchase a key item Chuck needs to escape the town. Unfortunately, Dick is a very appropriate name for the shopkeeper as he charges thousands of dollars for even the most basic of tips and items. Players can easily cheat the system, though, making money a non-issue, and your cash total is one of the figures that carry over should you decide to restart the story. Otherwise, the money doesn’t play much of a part in the game and once players learn Case Zero inside and out, they will find themselves making very little use of it.

Aside from that, again, Case Zero is Dead Rising. Much like in the mall, players will easily experience new things in at least the first handful of playthroughs. Items are stashed in out-of-way places, players will find new ways to get to different areas of the town and there are a few fan service moments waiting to be discovered. Even though Case Zero is a downloadable title, there is still a good number of items and weapons to toy with and the supply of zombies to use them on never cools down, so if you’re into zombie busting, you’re in for a good time. You’ll get some downers such as some weird collision issues when navigating vehicles, slightly wonky jumping and an odd perspective angle that makes it hard at times to judge the distance between you and a zombie, but, overall, you’ll definitely get your five dollars’ worth out of this one.

So, not only does Case Zero allow players to essentially get an advance look at a heavily-hyped game, it’s perhaps the best zombie experience you can get through Xbox LIVE. Given one playthrough will tide players over for between one to two hours, the multiple rewards will keep players coming back time and again and all of the mysteries of Still Creek will keep players glued to the game for that duration. Being able to take stats into the full retail version of Dead Rising 2 is just icing on the cake, as, on its own merits, Case Zero is a blast to play.

The Scores
Story/Modes: VERY GOOD
Graphics: GOOD
Control/Gameplay: CLASSIC
Replayability: GREAT
Balance: GREAT
Originality: ABOVE AVERAGE
Addictiveness: INCREDIBLE
Appeal Factor: GREAT
Miscellaneous: GREAT

Short Attention Span Summary

If you didn’t like Dead Rising, the adjustments given to the second title and implemented into Case Zero will probably do little to change your mind about the series. Even though some of the restrictions placed on the player in the first title are now loosened up, the experience is essentially the same the second time around. That being said, for those that enjoyed the first title and can’t wait for the second, Case Zero is a guaranteed purchase as it is more of what you loved. For those that can’t claim either side, this $5 download does have a few quirks in its presentation, storytelling and gameplay, but the sandbox elements and investigation really set this one apart. There are a number of reasons to play through the one to two-hour adventure multiple times and if you like what you see, you can carry a set amount of stats over into the full retail Dead Rising 2 title. If you just like messing around in a game, this is a title for you, as there are endless supplies of zombies to demolish, hidden items to find and a handful of side missions to occupy you, making it one of the best zombie experiences to be had on Xbox LIVE.



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