Dead Rising 2 makes zombie killing supremely gratifying

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      Dead Rising 2 (Capcom; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; rated mature)

      Dead Rising 2, the sequel to 2006’s hit zombie sandbox, is aware of its camp value and wallows in it—think Shaun of the Dead more than Dawn of the Dead. But that isn’t what makes it great.

      Structurally and mechanically the game (which takes place during yet another zombie outbreak in a casino/shopping complex) resembles other open world games, but a number of gameplay characteristics distinguish it.

      MacGyver them to death

      Dead Rising 2 includes a supremely gratifying layer: a weapon-crafting system, similar to the alchemy system in the most recent Dragon Quest; though instead of transforming silver into gold, we’re talking duct-taping a sledgehammer to a fire axe, to make something the game calls “The Defiler.”

      And that bucket and drill, each looking so innocuous on its own, together make a piece of headgear, which—well, use your imagination.

      As Chuck Greene—devoted father, motocross racer, and zombie killer—you’ll learn dozens of weapon “recipes” (printed on collectible Combo Cards) while progressing through the game, and it will be a long while before you’ve built every weapon, and witnessed every comically brutal means by which a zombie can eat it.

      Not sure you’ll care? There’s plenty of incentive for the player to fully explore this combo system—you gain substantially more experience points for kills made with combo weapons, than if you just pick up a crowbar and start bashing.

      Level up to curb-stomp

      Furthermore, with a linear XP progression, Chuck gains abilities over time, as he levels up—move more quickly, sustain more damage without dying, carry more items at once. Rewards are well-staggered. Eventually he becomes super-Chuck, the game becomes even more fun, and your attributes and unlocks will also carry over to subsequent play-throughs.

      Hurry up, Chuck

      DR2 is largely defined by time management challenges, too—the player must locate survivors and escort them to safety (many of these interactions are well-written and funny) in addition to carrying out core mission objectives. All of these errands have countdown timers, and you frequently must juggle multiple tasks at once, to get everything done.

      In addition, the core mission’s thrust is “survive the zombie outbreak for 72 hours, until help arrives”. But you also must clear your name (you’ve been framed, fingered as the perpetrator of the outbreak), and your daughter Katey must be administered a scarce medicine called Zombrex every 24 hours, or she’ll “turn”—Chuck is always on the clock.

      Everything does something

      Another standout characteristic is that players may pick up and utilize virtually any object in the environment. A novelty foam hand, however, may not be as useful during a zombie outbreak as a dead security guard’s nightstick.

      You can get creative too—use benches as battering rams, raid garbage cans for tacos to restore your health, smash open an ATM for cash. And if the mood strikes, dress up in a plaid suit and coon-skin cap. Given that the game takes place inside a mall, there are literally thousands of items to interact with, and you’ll be uncovering new stuff for awhile, and inventory management becomes essential.

      Okay, okay, maybe it is the humour

      Dead Rising 2 does many things well. But it’s funny, too—right?

      The sound of dark and foreboding zombie outbreak music, contrasted with the sight of Chuck hefting around a large stuffed elephant, moments after running amok with a spiked bat—with no change to his facial expression—might be worth the price of the game by itself.

      Chris Vandergaag is a Vancouver-based freelancer. When he's not gaming, writing, or forwarding links of questionable moral repute, he's asleep.