Regardless of whether you call it a demo, prologue or vignette, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero is an exciting way to drum up hype for what promises to be one of this year's biggest games. This five dollar download features a couple hours of gameplay, a new area to explore, civilians to rescue, a boss to fight and a motorcycle to build. It's just enough to make you crave a larger helping in much the same way that zombies crave brains.
Case Zero takes place two years after the shocking events of Willamette Parkview Mall. We're quickly introduced to Chuck Greene, a desperate survivor who finds himself stranded in the small town of Still Creek, Nevada. He's not alone, Chuck is also protecting his young daughter, who has already been bitten and will likely turn into a zombie before long. Thankfully there's a treatment, but it's rare and comes at a price. If Chuck can keep her alive, they may be able to wait out a cure.
Much like the first game, a time limit is in place. Chuck has have twelve hours to find the medicine his daughter requires, repair an old broken down motorcycle, and escape Still Creek before the government quarantines the whole town. That doesn't leave you with much time to save the survivors and put up with a nasty old mechanic who doesn't take kindly to strangers using his workspace.
Although the small town of Still Creek (pop. 700) may not sound as exciting as the Willamette Parkview Mall, longtime fans won't be letdown by the variety of gruesome ways to dismember the thousands of zombies flooding the streets. Chuck holes himself up in a well-protected gas station, venturing out to the hunting supply store, grocery store, pawn shop, bowling alley, movie theater and much more. His objective is to help survivors and locate the five missing pieces to his motorcycle project.
Of course, the real stars of Dead Rising are the weapons. Just like the first game, Case Zero allows Chuck to battle the zombie outbreak in all kinds of creative ways. If players are serious about chopping off zombie limbs, they can take the broadsword or a chainsaw. But what's the fun in that? Why not use a shower head or a newspaper to defeat this scourge? Or maybe just put on a stuffed moose head and mow down a whole crowd of brain eaters. There are so many exciting ways to take down zombies, I have a hunch many players will jump right back into the mix of things after the credits rolled.
The controversial leveling-up system from the first game is back. In case you missed the original Dead Rising, the idea is that Chuck carries his experience points with him, no matter how many times he has to restart the game. You only have a short amount of time to do everything, so the first play-through will likely involve players getting the lay of the land and battling zombies. After leveling up a few times, Chuck may be ready to take on the task of saving everybody and making sure his daughter makes it out alive. This means that players will see the same story elements over and over again. Perhaps it's because you only have to worry about 12 hours (and not the original's 72), but the unorthodox leveling up system is a bit more manageable this time around.The game itself isn't very long, but because players will likely have to go through it a few times, Case Zero turns into a full two or three hour affair. Those looking to max out their stats, make every available weapon and earn all 200 achievement points will be able to extend the time well over three hours. Needless to say, if you're the kind of person who loves Dead Rising, then this five dollar purchase is a no-brainer. Mmm brains.
Unfortunately I had a few presentation issues while playing through the game multiple times. There are a number of texture problems associated with the backgrounds, especially as you get closer. I also found that most of the character animations are stiff and unrealistic. And while it's not a major sticking issue, it's odd how only a couple of characters have spoken dialog. The game seems to think that the supporting cast has voice acting, but I definitely didn't hear it.
I'm also not sold on the game's control, which are practically a carbon copy of the first game. When Chuck is just running around the city killing zombies the controls are fine, but things get frustrating when he has to fight the one boss battle in the game. He can't crouch, he can't sprint and there's no way to make him dodge/roll -- Chuck is woefully unprepared to do any one-on-one combat. I would like to believe that these are special moves he learns in the full Dead Rising 2, but I'm not holding my breath.
Case Zero is a delicious taste of what promises to be an incredible sequel. This download isn't trying to be more than what it is, a way for players to get used to the gameplay mechanics and learn a thing or two about the new protagonist. At five dollars, it's hard to find fault in this exciting (albeit brief) action game. Throw in the ability to export player progress to the full game next month, and Dead Rising 2: Case Zero is a bloody good time.