Bad news first: Dead Rising hasn't changed. It's still the same clunky, pop-up-packed jog through malls of stumbling zombies first introduced in 2006. In four years the series has failed to shake off its patchy controls and its worrying survivor AI. The awkward psychopath fights are as gummy as they were back in the days when Pluto was still a planet, while the imprecise item catchment areas (resulting in grabbing the wrong items at the worst moments) remain as bothersome as ever.
On to the good news, then, and it's this: Dead Rising hasn't changed baby! The first Dead Rising was never about tins of polish or mechanics wrenched tighter than Arsene Wenger's summer transfer budget. It was a toybox. A playground crammed with dozens of tools to gut and dismember the legions of undead shambling around Willamette Mall, plus scores more objects to just bat the zombies about for laughs.. Some people liked holding the undead at bay with a chainsaw. We liked doing so with a baguette.
Despite packing scores of zombies onto its screens, Dead Rising wasn't the most technically gifted game on the 360 and it didn't need to be. Dead Rising delivered a medium-rare world of entertainment and topped it off with an unexpected overtime mode.
Dead Rising 2 is the same as the first game. Everyman Frank West and the Willamette Mall have been traded up for Everyman Chuck Greene and Fortune City - but the changes prove to be purely cosmetic. Fortune City is still essentially a donut-shaped arrangement of buildings with an open-air 'park' in the middle and the familiar maintenance tunnels deep underground. Chuck is still essentially the same clumsy fighter punching above his weight until he learns new moves, incapable of firing a gun accurately without reverting to the slow, over-the-shoulder shatto-view which leaves him vulnerable to bites on the bum.
Because it's been four years coming, Dead Rising 2 sates the Dead Rising craving with a reassuringly familiar retread of all the old favourites. The simple pleasures of ploughing through a crowd of zombies in a golf buggy while dressed in a lumberjack outfit or poking a rotting stripper in the face with foam fingers while wearing nought but a banana hammock aren't your everyday 360 experiences. For those kinds of kicks, we can excuse a few frayed edges.
Dead Rising 2: Game mechanics
The story still unfolds on a case-by-case basis governed by a tight time limit. Fail to trigger the next chapter within the allotted window and it's curtains for your play-through. Blue Castle has been a bit naughty when it comes to the timer situation: it's all-too possible to scratch and claw your way through the throng of walking husks and scrabble to the target location with seconds to spare, only to discover the clock o' doom carries through to the next chapter and an entirely different location. Instant fail.
It makes gunning for survivors on the first play-through dicey business although the blow is softened somewhat by the inclusion of three separate save slots rather than just the one, meaning reloading an earlier save erases all mistakes.
Dotted about the gambling haven are shops manned by greedy hoodlums, and for a price you can even get your hands on the keys to the various vehicular prizes found throughout the plazas. Driving survivors to safety using a sports car taken from a pedestal surrounded by slot machines is one of the game's real highlights, especially as your drive takes place inside the actual shopping malls.
The Zombrex bar cluttering up the right hand side of the screen hammers home the idea that anti-zombie medicine Zombrex governs all. Prior to Case Zero, Chuck's wife turned undead and took a chunk out of daughter Katey's arm. Every twelve hours Chuck needs to find more medicine and leg it back to the security office where the survivors are ensconced in a zombie-free bunker to stave off Katey's transformation for another half day.
Jump into the online-only Terror is Reality games and you can gamble and win money that's then importable back into the single-player story. The online mode's obviously plenty of fun in its own right but by linking the experiences Blue Castle has smartly guaranteed a buzzing online community of zombie-killing contestants.
The game is built to be replayed. Unlocked skills and powers carry over to second run-throughs to the point where it's nigh-on impossible to do everything first time through. The psychopaths as just as amusing as the first game's batch and just as terrible to fight - especially if you haven't stocked up on guns before taking them on. Again, during a second run you'll shred through them without difficulty, but the first encounters are problematic and, we're sorry to say, fairly rubbish.
Whether the rest of the game is equally poor depends entirely on your mindset. Anybody after a polished adventure with faultless mechanics is likely to find the antiquated controls and systems too much of a stumbling block to hurdle. Approach Dead Rising 2 to have fun and to mess about with the costumes, weapons and vehicles and it'll gift you weeks of content arguably more entertaining than anything else on the 360, the first Dead Rising included.
Dead Rising 2 is out now on Xbox, PC and PS3