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Dead Rising 2 is a zombie slaying romp through faux Las Vegas. But beyond the mass slaying of the undead there is a gnawing balancing act of commitment and risk. The ticking clock haunts your play as those around you meet their demise and question you heroism.
I always like killing zombies, who doesn't (ed: Audio Gamer?). Simple for developers to design, and morally unambiguous, they are pop-cultures whipping boy of the moment. Like Nazis before them they just need killing. Killing vast swathes of them is not only fun but easy.
Really easy, and that's what Dead Rising 2 capitalises on, offering thousands of ways to dispatch the hordes. However, as the world of Fortune City (a town built on the destroyed Las Vegas) slowly floods with a never-ending stream of undead, developers Blue Castle Games manage to move them from an amusing nuisance to a stifling weight, as you force your way from one objective to the next.
From beginning to end Dead Rising 2 walks this odd tightrope. On one side sits the amusing comedy, as the mindless creatures advance into my latest jerry-rigged weapon, on the other sits a relentless wall of teeth and claws between me and my hope of achieving anything.
Killing vast swathes of zombies is not only fun but easy.
Dead Rising 2 is more than happy to allow me to sit in safety, concerned only with my own life but achieving nothing. I could easily watch my daughter change into a zombie without her medication, sit back while report after report comes in that "Henry died". I could even leave my character Chuck to twiddle his thumbs as pop-ups and tickers inform me that "the truth" (the main narrative thrust of the game) is slipping from my grasp. But none of these ever feel like options because the zombies are never really threatening, that is until they are.
Chuck, your character, is a fairly handy individual, a master of DIY, and much of the game's fun is seeing just what he can concoct by duck taping items together. The lower end of this mix and match fair sees simple items like baseball bats and nails combining to dole out the zombie beatings, but when more interesting items are found, and more inventive contraptions are devised, things really begin to get diabolical.
So with the excuse saving people or finding out the conspiracy behind the zombie outbreak, Chuck and I ventured out into Fortune City to mow our way (sometimes literally) through hundreds of these reanimated cadavers. For a time it was fun, until we overextend ourselves or ran into a psychopath.
It is the deranged psychopaths that are Dead Rising 2's biggest road block. Frequently these are almost impossible to foresee. Going to rescue a civilian, or simply navigating Fortune City, bumping in to one of these crazed, overpowered individuals usually resulted in death. Bizarre caricatures of American stereotypes they frequently left me cursing as I died at their hands' and trying to realise how long ago I last saved, a time invariably longer than I would desire.
But (nearly) all of the scenarios that result in death can be avoided. Care and planning render even the most lethal opponent toothless. But Dead Rising knows this and drip feeds you a constant reminder of deadlines ticking away.
They drive me, making me reckless and uncaring of the easily avoidable hazards.
These tasks tap into a creeping dread of missed homework deadlines with timers that appear on the HUD, each ticking away and changing colour to ever more urgent shades. Many remain mysteries, unknown names merely reminding me of my inadequacy as a hero, but those I become invested in are a constant force. They drive me, making me reckless and uncaring of the easily avoidable hazards of Fortune City until, in my haste, I find myself overpowered, dying, cursing my infrequent saves and impatience.
Dead Rising 2 is not a game for everyone. The countdown panic and inability to fulfil what is asked of you will resonate strongly for some people while most likely infuriate others. However, for those willing to focus and grind their way through story or those who simply relish in the ludicrousness of the world, it offers one of the more comically bleak experiences of recent years.
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