seemed like a zombie-lover's dream game: It had a shopping mall, thousands of zombies, and seemingly thousands of different ways to kill said zombies. But Dead Rising
wasn't really about annihilating zombies: It was a time-management game that required lots of multi-tasking; the undead really only served as speed bumps as you raced against the clock. Throw in some awkward controls, bad artificial intelligence, an annoying janitor and a very restrictive save system, and Dead Rising
was a game that was just as easy to hate as it was to love.
A Dead Rising
sequel was inevitable, and Dead Rising 2: Case Zero
serves as a prequel to Dead Rising 2
, taking place in between the first game and the second one. Case Zero
is currently only available as an Xbox Live Arcade title and while one could argue that it's a paid demo, Case Zero
features characters and a setting that won't be seen in Dead Rising 2
, as well as one dozen achievements and the ability to carry over character progress and items to Dead Rising 2
. So it's not really a demo.
Now, for the burning question: If a person hated Dead Rising
, will they like Dead Rising 2: Case Zero
? The answer to that question is no
: Case Zero
improves on Dead Rising
in a few ways, but it won't convert the unconverted. Dead Rising
fans on the other hand will probably love Case Zero
, since it doesn't fix what isn't broken.Dead Rising 2: Case Zero
takes place two years after the events of Dead Rising
, but three years before Dead Rising 2
. Stepping in for original Dead Rising
hero Frank West is new protagonist Chuck Greene, a former motocross racing champion. At the start of Case Zero
, Chuck and his young daughter Katey have escaped a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, Nevada. While the pair managed to get away from the zombies, their freedom came a macabre cost: Katey was bitten by one of the undead and while she hasn't turned into a zombie yet, she will if she doesn't get an injection of a drug named Zombrex every 12 hours.
After stopping in the small desert town of Still Creek to get gas, Chuck's vehicle - with the precious Zombrex inside - is stolen, leaving the Greenes stranded. They aren't alone though: Still Creek is crawling with zombies. Chuck and Katey manage to take refuge in a junkyard, safe from the undead but not the ticking clock: the military will be arriving in a few hours and will be quarantining survivors; this will seal Katey's fate, since she'll turn into a zombie without Zombrex.
Chuck's - and the player's - goals are two-fold: get some Zombrex and find a way out of town before eight o'clock. Sounds easy enough, but those pesky zombies are going to make things difficult.
From this jumping-off point, Case Zero
plays like Dead Rising
: players will guide Chuck through the town, mindful of the clock as they search around for Zombrex and motorcycle parts. Zombies choke the streets and while they'll ignore you for the most part, they'll attack if you get too close. Like in Dead Rising
, pretty much anything that can be picked up in Case Zero
can be used as a weapon. Expect to get your hands on stuff like sledgehammers, chainsaws, bowling balls, crossbows, baseball bats, knives, frying pans, guitars, footballs, potted cacti, planks, rolled-up newspapers, and playing cards; there are tons of items to pick up. There are a few guns too, and the aiming and firing controls in Case Zero
are much improved over Dead Rising
, making ranged combat a more effective option this time around.
Still Creek consists of only a few small streets, but there are lots of areas to explore and most of the buildings (movie theater, diner, casino, bowling alley, department store, bar, police station, sporting goods store, etc.) can be entered and investigated. As in Dead Rising
, learning Case Zero
's environment is one of the keys to success.
Besides theaters and diners, Case Zero
also has a couple of other locations worth visiting: work benches. New to Case Zero
is the ability to combine items. Items that can be combined are identified with a wrench icon and when added to something else with a wrench icon at one of the work benches, the results are new weapons. Combine a baseball bat with a box of nails and you get a nail-studded bat; adding a newspaper to a bottle of whiskey rewards you with a Molotov cocktail; a rake taped to a car battery allows you to zap zombies with electricity; two chainsaws strapped to a kayak paddle lets you messily part the Undead Sea. There are about 10 different item combinations in Case Zero
, and any successful combinations you make can be carried over to Dead Rising 2
Chuck is so handy with a roll of duct tape he makes Red Green
Using combined weapons to kill zombies awards players higher amounts of Prestige Points (PP) which are used to level up Chuck, much like in a role-playing game, allowing for extra health, faster running speed, and more powerful attacks. PP is also awarded for rescuing survivors. Any PP earned in Case Zero
can be carried over to Dead Rising 2
, although here the level is capped at five.
Rescuing people is something else you'll be doing in Case Zero
: Still Creek has around 10 folks who haven't become infected, and if you find them you can lead them back to the junkyard and a big PP bonus. The artificial intelligence shown by the survivors is much better than it was in Dead Rising
: rarely will they allow themselves to get surrounded by zombies, and if they do get swarmed they can generally break free on their own. The escort missions in Dead Rising
were made infuriating because of bad AI; for the most part Case Zero
In between picking up motorcycle parts, looking for Zombrex, buying stuffed moose heads from the pawn shop, trying on dresses and running a survivor shuttle service, you might want to take a minute out of your busy schedule to kill a few zombies in Case Zero
. Annihilating zombies in Case Zero
is highly amusing, just as it was in Dead Rising
. There seem to be even more undead onscreen than before, and as mentioned there are many many weapons to try out. Zombies die in over-the-top fashion with lots of flying limbs and showers of blood and gore spraying all over the place, which makes destroying them a lot like eating Lay's potato chips: you can't stop at killing just one. It's all darkly humorous: when Chuck barfs from drinking too much beer and zombies slip in the vomit and flop around on the ground and you impale them on a pitchfork shotgun and blow their limbs and heads off, you'll probably laugh.Case Zero
treats zombies not as something to be feared, but something to be laughed at and humiliated.
Luckily if all you want to do is goof around and wear funny hats while knocking zombies around with gumball machines and park benches you can do that without fear of screwing up the story mode, since Case Zero
allows for three save slots; Dead Rising
only had one. One save slot can be for serious business, while the other ones can be used for not so serious business, like running over 1,000 zombies with a dumpster. Dead Rising 2: Case Zero
improves a lot on Dead Rising
without changing what people liked about the original game. The storyline, while brief, is fairly good and fills in the backstory pretty well. There's even a good late-game revelation that adds a dark twist to the events that led to Chuck and Katey ending up in Still Creek. The rapport between Chuck and his daughter is handled well too, without ever becoming cloying or maudlin.
If there's anything really wrong with Dead Rising 2: Case Zero
it would be having to sit through numerous loading screens (annoying), and while the controls are a lot better overall, the motorcycle getaway at the end of the game is hampered by some sloppy vehicle handling. Fortunately, this sequence is pretty short.
Visually, Dead Rising: Case Zero
looks a bit behind the times; the engine powering the game hasn't been upgraded a whole lot since 2006. There seem to be a lot more zombies present this time around though, which is an okay trade-off in exchange for the less than stellar graphics. The game doesn't look bad by any means; just a bit old. The frame-rate is mostly good, although it sometimes stutters a bit when there's a lot of onscreen activity. There are also a few instances of visual clipping (objects partially sinking into solid surfaces) here and there, and the final cutscene is plagued by disappearing models; the last shot in the game shows Chuck riding an invisible motorcycle into the sunset. A small "seam" in Chuck's waitress outfit also allows you to see right through his character model when he's standing at a workbench.
The sound in Dead Rising: Case Zero
is done well, with lots of bone-crunching and blood-splattering audio effects bringing the violence home. Zombie growls, snarls, and groans sound good, and the guns and explosions are nice and loud. Voice-acting is decent, although Chuck sounds slightly dazed when he's ordering survivors around. Music is sparing, limited mostly to the title and loading screens. A bad Celldweller song plays over the closing credits.
Achievement hunters won't have a lot of trouble picking up the majority of Case Zero
's 12 Xbox 360 achievements, which range from finishing the game, rescuing all the survivors, making all the weapon combinations, and defeating certain numbers of zombies. A couple of achievements might take more than one playthrough to get, though. Still, none of them are impossible.
If you're on the fence about the Dead Rising
series, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero
won't make you want to rush out and buy it. As a solid dose of zombie-killing fan service and a precursor to Dead Rising 2
, Case Zero
is five dollars well-spent, though.