Captivate 2010: Dead Rising 2 Hands-on Preview (single player)

by: Jeremy -
During the Captivate event, I got to sit down and spend some time with one of 2010’s most anticipated titles: Dead Rising 2. The sequel to one of the early success stories for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is back for me and promises to be bigger and better in every manner. Capcom had builds available for both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, which played exactly a like. Can it live up to the original? Read on…

The build of Dead Rising 2 that was available to Captivate attendees contained 2 separate modes, a free play area and an actual mission from the campaign. The free play portion had no time limits in effect and simply allowed you to roam a quarantined area of the casino and basically try out anything and everything that you could get your hands on. There was a wide variety of weapons and zombies present to ensure that you could get a little taste of “everything”.

The campaign portion that was available was very brief and consisted simply of you reaching a night club area of the casino in a set amount of time where you would face off against the “Twins”. The Twins are a pair of “sisters” who appear to have a career background involving the gentleman’s club in which you face them. You will face off against the two simultaneously and defeating them leads to a cut scene which ends the demo. It is a short mission, but it does give glimpse to the fast pacing that the game appears to offer.

Now for the good stuff: what was it look. I think that the best way to summarize Dead Rising 2 would be to take the original and speed it up. Overall, the game plays and feels exactly like the original, however Chuck doesn’t feel nearly as slow and awkward as Frank West often did. Chuck is an athlete after all, not just a journalist and you feel a physical difference between the two. All of the controls of the original game have made the transition to the sequel, minus the photography of course. You have a single attack button, which can be charged to trigger a more devastating attack with most weapons. The x button may simply swing a baseball bat, but holding it down leads to Chuck winding up and preparing to knock one out of the park.

The casino is littered with useful items that range from weapons to food / alcohol and even some environmental items that can be used, like drink carts and wheel chairs. Just like in the first game, you have a finite number of slots to which you can “store” items, be it food or weapons; you can cycle through the inventory using the trigger buttons but once all of your slots are filled, you will have to start dropping items in order to pick up more. Larger items, such as the wheelchairs and drink carts mentioned above do not occupy slots and can only be held onto while they are in use; switching to a different weapon while holding them will cause you to drop release them and leave them on the ground.

The game feels very, very similar to the original with the exception of one huge new gameplay element: weapon combinations. Combining your weapons is going to be the major tool that you will have to utilize to get through the game. The stronger weapons in the game are no longer just handed to you, you will need to find the parts to make them and construct them yourself. Construction of the weapons is done in janitor’s closets at workbenches, which can be found scattered throughout the casino. Simply approach the workbench with two compatible items in your inventory and place them, one at a time, onto the workbench in order to trigger a small (skippable) cut scene that shows Chuck constructing his new masterpiece. Not everything can be combined, so you will have to find and collect “recipe cards” which will inform you of the items necessary for different weapons.

The recipe cards can be found everywhere throughout the game; according to my discussions with some of the guys from Blue Castle, some may be obtained upon beating certain enemies / bosses, others may be found lying around, and others my be awarded for simply finding inspiration in the environment. The last one will require the most work as you will have to “look” for them. The developers gave me hints such as “perhaps Chuck will find inspiration on movie posters hanging throughout the casino” or perhaps “found in various reading materials”. Once you have obtained a given card, you can then take the two items listed on it to a workbench and construct a new, more powerful weapon.

There were a bevy of combinations available in the preview build, though we were promised that the game will contain many, many more. Some of the weapons that we were able to construct and play with in the game were:
  • Spiked bat: Baseball bat + box of nails
  • Insanguinator: vacuum cleaner + saw blades
  • Flame thrower: water gun + gasoline can
  • Death-copter (not official name): machete + toy helicopter
There were plenty of others included in the preview build, but I do not want to spoil them for you as the combinations are a huge focus of the game.

I did have a few concerns stemming from the build(s) that I played. The PlayStation 3 version, for example, seemed to have some series texture issues. Quite frankly, some of the textures looked pretty bad when you were up close to things such as doors. This was mainly noticeable on objects that led to new areas, such as doors and windows. I did not notice the same bad textures on the Xbox 360 version, which leads me to believe that this is something that will ultimately be addressed before the game hits stores. The two versions will be nearly identical in the end and we have to remember that what I saw was a work in process. There were some clipping and collision detection issues present as well, but I have full faith that they will be addressed as well.

These concerns were all simply cosmetic details; the fact is that Blue Castle has nailed the feel of the game and it plays like a charm. If you liked the original game, I have a feeling that you will absolutely love the sequel. Everything from the first game has simply been made bigger and badder. There are more zombies, more environments, and Blue Castle is promising more than double the weapons. There is going to be a lot of game here and the foundation for it is firm. Dead Rising 2 should be ready for launch this coming fall…
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