Dead Rising 2

The front cover for Dead Rising 2 shows humble hero Chuck Greene brandishing a handmade weapon consisting of two chainsaws strapped to a canoe paddle. It’s one of the cooler weapons that can be made in the game, but it’s not the coolest. That accolade goes to the shower head – an item so simple looking that many probably think of it as being useless. Once in Chuck’s hands though it becomes just as deadly as an axe or piece of lead piping. Behold as Chuck strolls confidently up to a zombie and then crams it into their rotting skull. They then stumble around, wondering what the heck has just happened, with blood gushing all over the place before falling to the floor. Just think how many other games could be spiced up by having a shower head included into their arsenal. Call of Duty, perhaps? Or maybe FIFA?

Weapon making is the big new thing here giving photography – which was the focus in the first game – the boot. The setting isn’t quite as new as promised, however – although it’s set in a different city you still spend most of the time looking around shopping malls for survivors. There are actually two malls this time, plus four casinos, an arena and a food court. Although there has been a good four years between this and the original the visuals aren’t a massive leap but the amount of zombies on the screen does often impress. Character design is brilliant too; especially some of the psychopaths Chuck comes across while waiting to be rescued.

Although bashing zombies and mowing them down with various vehicles provides countless hours of fun, Dead Rising 2 does have some schisophrenic game design behind it. You’re free to pick and choose missions, with five or six available during a day, but if you aren’t back at the safe house by a certain time then the story line can’t be continued. Chuck’s daughter needs a Zombrex injection every morning too, so not only do you have to give yourself time to finish off any missions you’ve accepted and head back but Zombrex has to be sourced as well. If you haven’t found any hidden around then you can always pay for it at one of the pawn shops, but it comes at a high price.

Fortunately cash can be easily gained by playing Terror is Reality – a series of online-only multiplayer mini games. Based around a tacky gameshow (think American Gladiators, only with zombies), the mini-games here include sniping zombies, cutting up as many zombies as you can while on a motorbike and, well, just general zombie harming. Online co-op play is a little disappointing as you can’t save your progress – Left 4 Dead it certainly isn’t. Fruit machines are also a good source for cash while some of the survivors will give you monetary rewards for taking them back to the safe house.

Speaking of the safe house, it does get a little tedious having to travel back and forth from there every half an hour or so. I can’t think of any other recent game that forces you to do so much backtracking. It’s also quite easy to screw up missions, loose survivors or simply run out of time. Smart players will quickly realise that it’s worth creating more than one save file. Another reason to do this is because the bosses are a right pain to kill until you’ve leveled up a bit. If you start a new game then your existing character is carried over, extended health bars and all, which is handy as it’ll take more than one play through to see and do everything.

Even with its faults Dead Rising 2 still manages feels like a real gamer’s game. There are references to other Capcom titles, tonnes of hidden passages and secrets to find, a pleasingly surreal sense of humour throughout and the boss battles feel very traditional. Weapon crafting encourages experimentation too, which can only be a good thing. And need I remind you, it gives you the chance to kill zombies with a shower head.

A shower head!