Developer: Blue Castle Games
ESRB rating: Teen
Release date: Available now
To look at him, you’d think Chuck Greene was a formally trained, zombie-killing badass. Unlike Dead Rising’s shutterbug hero, Frank West, and his doughy features, Chuck looks more than comfortable clutching a baseball bat porcupined with ten-penny nails. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, either, because unlike Frank’s selfish need to get the best coverage possible, Chuck has something far more valuable at stake if he fails: his daughter. Dead Rising 2: Case Zero is the beginning of their story, a downloadable Xbox Live lead-up to the forthcoming Dead Rising 2.
In it, you and your recently infected daughter, Katey, are holed up in a gas station garage in the podunk town of Still Creek. It started as a routine fuel stop, but no more than a few minutes into the fill up, Chuck’s pickup truck sped off without either he or his daughter in it. To make things worse, Katey’s supply of Zombrex (the zombification-impeding drug invented in the first Dead Rising) was in the front seat. Now, forced with time constraints and the busted chassis of a dirt bike, Chuck must scour Still Creek for the parts and replacement medicine that can provide their salvation, all the while keeping a sharp eye out for survivors to rescue.
And did I mention that all of this must be done before the military arrives to “clean” Still Creek? That’s right, the mechanic of having X amount of time to do all of this, this and that along the way is present and accounted for in Case Zero, just like in the original game. From start to finish, it’s a mad dash around the tiny burg, collecting just the right weapons, opening all the right doors and utterly destroying gratuitous amounts of undead using the nifty weapon combination system. You can attach chainsaws to kayak paddles, shotguns to pitchforks and much, much more with the scattered objects found throughout the town. And while I liked the photography aspect of Dead Rising a whole lot, it didn’t take too long for me to warm up to the thought of extending my creative slaughter capabilities.
Limbs started flying, gallons of blood began pouring, and for a moment I felt the summer of 2006 all over again, only improved in certain key areas. For starters, the save system allows for three slots instead of DR’s single-slot configuration, so saving for strategy can finally come into play. Also, the shooting mechanics have received some much needed attention, allowing for far more control, such as strafing and aiming while moving. Purists might cry foul, but it’s very welcome in my book. There was nothing worse than pulling out a projectile weapon in the first game and being firmly rooted to the ground. Case Zero, and presumably Dead Rising 2, have fixed this.
Some things, however, have not been fixed, and whether you put them down to “quirks of the game” or a genuine need to advance the gameplay is a matter of how devoted you are to the original. For example, the conversation system still feels clunky, forcing you once again to click though each window individually, and Chuck’s movements don’t really translate too well to some of the required acrobatic feats needed to get to certain items. Then there’s the case of the graphics, which look okay when viewed from afar, but turn into a low-res nightmare when viewed up close, especially in cutscenes.
As a rabid lover of the original game, I had my fears that Blue Castle would botch Case Zero (and Dead Rising 2, for that matter) up pretty badly. I’m glad to say that, judging from what I’ve seen here, anyone who has even the slightest affection for the original will be well served in not only downloading this, but also in feeling a bit more confident about what’s coming out later this month.