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Dead Rising 2: Case West 360 teams up the series two heroes, Frank West and Chuck Greene, to further the storyline by investigating an isolated laboratory facility. While this is another solid slice of light-hearted zombie-mangling, the setting is a little bland by this series' vivid standards.
After an extended cinematic bringing Frank and Chuck together, Case West drops them into a room full of the undead and presents the player with a refreshingly simple, stern instruction: Survive!
Does this mean that Capcom is taking Dead Rising back to a more old school survival horror experience? Well, not really. Although the laboratories and zombie-processing facilities bring to mind the later sections of virtually every Resident Evil game, the tone couldn't be more different: instead of dank, spooky, rusty environments Case West is brightly lit, an open play-space for cheerfully mashing hordes of the undead.
Survival isn't actually that difficult, with Chuck powerful from the off and Frank an effectively immortal sidekick. Even survivors can look after themselves rather than requiring an escort. Human enemies are the main problem, and even then it's a matter of not staying still enough to allow your life bar to be whittled down by distant sniping.
Contrary to the usual Internet whinging, this is a distinct story with its own environments, enemies and custom weapons.
Time and geography are the main enemies here, with frantic runs back and forth through the relatively small, but complicated, map to reach various objectives. While core objectives are a simple matter of following the reliable guide arrow, the survivor missions are scuppered by Case West's main flaw: the blandness of the laboratory complex as a game environment.
Dead Rising has largely been set in shopping malls, areas with plenty of diversity and visual interest, as well as novelty props for battering zombies. The laboratory complex in Case West is less like a mall and more like an out-of-town supermarket: an indistinguishable warehouse full of crates, steel cages and other bland industrial areas populated by interchangeable lab-coated geeks rather than the usual oddball survivors.
Not only is this setting not very atmospheric, but it also makes the survivor missions a real pain - each survivor sends you on a fetch quest, but it's very hard to remember exactly which identikit lab area or corner of the holding pen you left them in. It's frustrating to get lost in such a small area due to the lack of landmarks, and it'll take much map consultation and a good memory to get the achievement for rescuing all the survivors in one play through.
That irritation aside, Case West is plenty of fun and good value. Contrary to the usual Internet whinging, this is not an add-on or a slice of content that could easily have been part of the main Dead Rising 2 game, but a distinct story with its own environments, enemies and custom weapons. There's some great new lethal toys to play with and build, and the usual joy of using them to inflict destruction on zombies and human enemies alike.
The introduction of a bold, Bond-style villain and henchman is a bit of a departure from the usual depraved psychopaths.
For fans, a big part of the appeal will be seeing Frank again, and teaming him with Chuck. They're a proper mis-matched double-act, boastful jerk Frank chafing against the dour, obsessive Chuck, and their interactions are really fun as they slowly wind each other up. There's proper advancement for the ongoing Dead Rising story as well, although the introduction of a bold, Bond-style villain and henchman is a bit of a departure from the usual depraved psychopaths that function as bosses in the series.
Case West gives the player plenty to do and kill, and anyone looking for 100% completion will get a solid few hours of gameplay before the last achievement is unlocked. It pushes the story of the series along, and hopefully won't be the last of these standalone downloadable Dead Rising games to come from Capcom. If they can find a more interesting and vivid setting for the next one, that'll be even better.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
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