While I am well within my Resident Evil Retrospective I cannot help but think of not only the nostalgia of the games that were intricate in creating who I am today and how I view video games but also the stories that seemed to supersede RE as the years have gone on. While The Walking Dead over took my opinion on the greatest zombie story ever told, even in the realm of video games I find the spot of best zombie video game has over taken the survival horror series. While there are multiple games that have stepped ahead of Resident Evil in my eyes as the best zombie themed video game, I feel compelled to talk about the first of the games that changed my opinion. Dead Rising 2 may not be the greatest zombie survival game out there it was the first to make me reevaluate my stance on the game that held my undying affection for the better part of a decade.
The game itself takes on a more tongue in cheek approach to zombie survival. While it does have some aspects of a survival horror type of game, it does have a much more light hearted feel and a much more cheeky tone. Out of the two games that have come out the story revolves around a central protagonist either a photojournalist named Frank West or a former Motocross star named Chuck Greene. Both are archtype Bruce Campbell like protagonists, a mans man type of character who are thrust into an enclosed area in one case a Mall and in the other case a Vegas like theme park where they must survive the zombie hordes, save other survivors, and uncover a conspiracy within the 72 hour time limit. Both settings are filled with goofy themes and very loud and cartoonish villains for the either Greene or West to face.
The first game I was unable to really play to any extent as it was an XBox 360 exclusive and the idea of buying a console just to play a cool looking zombie survival game did not really appeal to me. It wasn’t until the second game came out for all major consoles that I was able to truly enjoy the series which I have to say did not disappoint in the slightest. The game has both elements of a very serious but at the same time very light hearted and comedic tone and setting which is a very difficult feat to pull of no matter what medium you are attempting to go for. The game has a lot of interesting concepts and seeing as how this game overtook RE as my personal favorite zombie survival series I feel it is time to talk about what makes this game as fun as it is.
Setting and Tone Walks a Fine and Intelligent Line Between Batshit Insanity and Serious Story
The story is a very well done and is a story that walks the line between plausibility and bat shit insanity. While taking part in a game show known as Terror is Reality, Chuck Greene a down on his luck former Motocross star who lost his wife in the Vegas outbreak and had his daughter Katey infected with the virus is thrust into another zombie outbreak where he is blamed for starting the outbreak. Chuck agrees that if he cannot clear his name in 72 hours before the military arrives, he will turn himself in. He later discovers that the Terror is Reality host Tyrone ‘TK’ King is partially responsible for the outbreak. The game then follows Chuck as he attempts to clear his name, his battles with TK, and the discovery of who is truly behind the outbreak.
As you can see this story is all over the fucking map. It has very serious elements such as Chuck’s daughter Katey needing daily doses of Zombrex or else she will die and reanimate and having to clear his name after being accused of a crime that he did not commit. But at the same time one of the perpetrators is the host of a damn game show and the setting is a living breathing willingly admitted stereotype of Las Vegas.
This is something that I love about the Dead Rising series is that it has something for everyone and the idea that it can present a setting that is by all means Pie in the Sky crazy but presents it in a way that you can not only see happening but actually can vision happening in real life. That is the showings of a great game with writers and creators who know how to structure a world.
The Game is Challenging
With the inclusion of the 72 hour ‘ticking clock’ type of setting adds to a very difficult and challenging game. The game is constantly packed wall to wall with zombies with very few moments of rest from this large mass except when locked away in the safe zone and not to mention that you do have the feeling that you need to accomplish several feats within the time limit or risk losing the objective.
It truly gives a sense of dread and a sense of urgency that you need to complete these objectives within the given time limit and adds a whole other level of suspense to the game.
You Choose How You Want to Play
Games like this are very hard to come by that allows you to play a game the way that you would like to play it. For me personally, I enjoy a very serious, very straight forward zombie survival horror story. I like ones that feel like they are based in reality and in plausible scenarios. This game allows you to do that with its serious plot of a Vegas theme park being overtaken by zombies and you as the protagonist Chuck Greene have to clear your name after you are framed for committing the outbreak and all the while protecting your little girl who has been infected with the virus and is in desperate need for her 24 hour dose of Zombrex. The story covers conspiracies and also provides a very compelling mystery that keeps you suspenseful to the final confrontation when everything is laid out on the line and with a character like Chuck Greene being the man’s man it does help to have a serious John McClane/Ash Williams type of protagonist.
However having this man’s man type of protagonist combined with the fact that you have a free range to wear any type of clothing you find and I do mean ANY type of clothing (which includes woman’s apparel, lego heads, or nothing but heart covered boxer shorts). These add ons combined with the idea that each of the cut scenes have a very serious tone to them adds for a good amount of comedy. Not to mention each of the sub villain quests that you can undertake have very loud and very cartoonish types of antagonists which includes a cannibalistic chef, a dim witted tiger handler, Siegfried and Roy type of magicians, and a guy in a cartoon mascot uniform just to name a few. Then there is the idea that you can kill zombies with some of the most cartoonish weapons imaginable which includes a kayak paddle with duel chainsaws on the ends of each of them.
The game walks a fine line between comedy and drama and it does it very well giving players the option to take the game very serious and straight or making the game as goofy and cheerful as they choose and by walking this fine line they are able to open themselves up to a wide variety of gamers.
The Ticking Clock Can Hamper a Player Who Wishes to Explore the Setting
Now personally I really enjoy games that have a ticking clock perspective to it. I loved Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and I love Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2… But that doesn’t mean that I cannot see why people would not like the system.
While I feel that the system adds a level of dread and urgency to the game, I know many other players that would argue that they hate the ticking clock system. That they prefer to take their time and explore the game, giving them free range to do what they want to do and not have to worry about the time limit looming over their heads. The ticking clock aspect in gaming is one that is not widely argued but it is one that players have their preferences on if they like it or if they do not like it. It all depends on what kind of gamer you are and what you want to see in your game. It does not help that Dead Rising 2 presents a very fascinating open world that is ripe for exploration with very little time to actually get to explore it.
So in other words I personally like the ticking clock aspect of the game but I can see why people would not like the ticking clock aspect.
Villains and Characters Can Get Unbearably Cartoonish
Some of the villains are just plain annoying because of how cartoonish they are. This is another part where I like my games like this to be very serious and very suspenseful but with the comedy aspect of the game to take in part the idea of facing certain cartoonishly stupid villains really breaks the mood for me and makes it difficult to take it seriously.
Granted they do portray these villains in a very plausible scenario as to why they are acting the way that they are… But really the idea of facing a 19 year old kid in a cartoon character outfit dubbed ‘Slappy’ is something that really makes me not want to undertake the quest just because I have no desire to break the serious tone of the game.
It is another area where if you like the cartoonish aspect of horror games you will enjoy it, but for me it just isn’t my thing.
This game is a very smart and very intelligent game that does a good job of giving everyone what they want. By doing this they do have the problem of giving just pieces of what certain fans are clamoring for and because of this some people will find themselves disliking certain aspects of the game (IE the cartoonish villains and the ticking clock setting). But by accepting the fact that some people will be slightly disappointed in certain aesthetics of teh game they are able to make something that will resonate with just about everyone and because of that it makes the game both memorable and enjoyable.
Final Score 4/5
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