Dead Rising 2 (Review)

“A playful zombie game that most gamers should get their hands on.”

If there’s one thing that is hard to do wrong, it’s zombies games. I’ve played plenty games that star the shambling undead, and very few have been anything less than average. Dead Rising 2, from Blue Castle and Capcom, is not just a fun zombie game but a fantastic one.

As someone who never played the original Dead Rising due to not having a 360, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. All that I was aware of was that this game was supposedly very tongue in cheek, excessively gory yet hilarious at the same time. While the story behind Dead Rising 2 is certainly very serious, the way in which the game presents itself is anything but. Think Shaun of the Dead, only without the silly jokes and with a strong and masculine lead.

Dead Rising 2 throws you in control of ex-motocross ace Chuck Greene, who is taking part in a reality show called Terror is Reality so that he can get some money to purchase Zombrex for his daughter Katey. What is Zombrex? In a nut shell, it is over the counter medication that people who have been bitten by zombies can take daily to stave off becoming a zombie themselves. Katey was once bitten by a zombie, and as a result Chuck has had to give her a shot of Zombrex each and every day since the accident.

The game show that Chuck takes part in, Terror is Reality, is essentially a show in which contestants kill zombies on bikes that have chainsaws attached to them (called slicecycles). The winner is the contestant who kills the most zombies. The player gets to control Chuck during the game show, which is the first time you get to do so. It is not a mandatory part of the game and can be skipped, but it’s best not to do so for story purposes.

Anyway, disaster strikes as somebody lets the zombies loose after the show. Security footage shows that Chuck himself did it, which we know is a lie since we were controlling him the entire time. After rescuing Katey and fleeing from the building, Chuck finds the entire city (called Fortune City) overrun. After finding his way into a safehouse, the objectives of the game are laid out for you, and then you get free control to do anything and go anywhere. While the game is an open world sandbox game, the objectives are quite rigid. Inject Katey with Zombrex each morning (you have to find Zombrex throughout the city), find out who framed Chuck and clear his name, and rescue survivors that you find throughout Fortune City.

Finding out who framed Chuck and then working to clear his name is essentially the main story of the game and is provided to you in the form of “cases” (like detective work). The story is pretty linear if all you do is follow that, but you are perfectly free to muck up the story and miss cases. This just means that you won’t get a good ending when you beat the game, and will then be allowed to restart from the beginning with everything you’ve earned (levels, attacks, combo cards, and so forth).

Rescuing survivors is a pretty big part of the game as well, as saving them will net you lots of PP (prestige points), which are essentially experience points. Earn a certain amount and Chuck will gain a level, just like in an RPG. Leveling up will grant Chuck one or two bonuses each level, such as an extra life bar, a new attack, or increased speed. Survivors are pretty fun to rescue, as you have to guide them back to the safehouse on your own. Their AI isn’t too bad and, if you arm them with a weapon, their chances of being grabbed by zombies is reduced greatly. Some survivors will refuse weapons though, or will even need to be carried. Many survivors will also ask you to do something before agreeing to go to the safehouse. For example, one survivor is starving and wants to eat something first so you have to find some food for him before he agrees to follow you to the safehouse, while an embarrassed female survivor in her undergarments will only go with you if Chuck strips to his underwear as well. You will learn about potential survivors from Stacey, a character who texts Chuck and tells him what to look out for in Fortune City. She’ll often tip the player off with locations of survivors or things worth checking out, and Chuck will have a set amount of time to look into Stacey’s findings.

Between zombies and a few regular human enemies, there is a type of enemy called a psycho. Psychos are people who have gone insane from the zombie outbreak and are, most of the time, extremely difficult to kill and will trample over you with ease. Since you are allowed to restart the story at any time and keep your abilities and stats, it is best to leave psychos until you are certain that you will be able to take them down.

Going back to zombies, it is impressive how many can appear on the screen at any one time. It’s not uncommon for there to be well over a hundred zombies on your screen, provided you’re not in a very cramped location. This game doesn’t hesitate to give you the full zombie apocalypse atmosphere, and it shows. Unfortunately with so many zombies on screen at once, it’s easy to see a few clones shambling around. Even still, it seems that Blue Castle did a good job of keeping identical zombies to a minimum, as it seems like there are several dozen different zombie models to encounter. The graphics in Dead Rising 2 may not be pushing any boundaries, but they certainly suffice and the diversity among the zombies is appreciated.

In terms of weapons, it is pretty safe to say that anything that is not nailed down can probably be picked up and used as a weapon by Chuck. Common weapons include baseball bats, crowbars, fire axes, and sledgehammers. Chuck can use a few obscure items as weapons as well, such as golf clubs complete with golf balls, robot teddies, fuzzy dice, and pineapples. Pretty much anything in the game world can be wielded by Chuck, which makes exploring in Dead Rising 2 a lot of fun. Fortune City may not cover a lot of ground, but there are so many shops and rooms to check out that it feels so much larger than it really is.

Chuck can also find combo cards, which teaches him how to combine items to make special weapons. At the beginning they are rather simple, such as the baseball bat with nails in it, but eventually Chuck can do things such as combine a flashlight with gems to make, well, a lightsaber. It may not be very realistic, but realism should not be expected from a game that treats urinals as save points! It’s worth noting that the weapons Chuck makes are, most of the time, exceptionally powerful. Even the basic baseball bat with nails is a very deadly weapon that can be obtained very easily.

Also worth noting is the multiplayer. Dead Rising 2 offers two forms of multiplayer. First, there is the standard co-op mode in which you can hop into another person’s game as they play through the main story. Only the host’s story will progress, but both players in the co-op game will acquire money and PP. It’s a fun mode, and it is certainly very enjoyable causing havoc with another player in the casinos and malls of Fortune City. The zombies really don’t stand a chance against two Chucks!

The second multiplayer mode is Terror is Reality, the game show that Chuck contested in. In Terror is Reality, four players are pitted against each other in goofy minigames that all involve zombies being killed, maimed, or even just played with. One minigame involves sniping zombies that appear in random doors in front of the players, so it’s like whack a mole with guns. Another minigame forces players to don caribou antlers, which they use to throw zombies onto weights. Heavier zombies award players with more points. There are probably about a dozen different minigames in Terror is Reality to play, and fortunately most of them are somewhat enjoyable. Another bonus to playing Terror is Reality is that all of the prize money you earn playing the minigames can be transferred to the singleplayer game. Considering I’ve never finished Terror is Reality with less than $20,000, it’s pretty easy to rack up money fairly quickly which makes the minigames pretty beneficial to play.

Overall, Dead Rising 2 is a very good zombie game, and it’s not unusual to have a lot of fun laughing at the game due to crazy situations you’ll end up in with various weapons. The multiplayer is well worth it as well, as it is not only enjoyable but very beneficial to the singleplayer campaign. Dead Rising 2 is a zombie game that does not take itself very seriously, and I recommend it to anyone who needs a good zombie game to play through, or at least a game that likes to poke fun at it’s own cheesy nature.



Fallout 3 (Review)

“Bethesda’s fall from grace is as depressing as this game’s setting.”

I once said that I would never review Fallout 3, but with a lack of games to review at the moment (I need to buy more!) I’ve had to dip into my collection a bit and pick something to review. Fallout 3, a game that I’m not afraid to express my dislike for, stood out over quite a few other games. So now here I am, ready to review a game that an overwhelmingly large portion of gamers like. This is going to be good!

Before its release, I didn’t really pay much attention to Fallout 3. I had played Fallout 2 and couldn’t get into it at all, mostly because the combat system felt far too dated for my tastes. That dislike for Fallout 2, along with the “wasteland” setting that the series is set in, was all that I had to go on with Fallout 3. The fact that Bethesda, the developer of the Elder Scrolls series which I have a love-hate relationship with, was in charge of the new Fallout was enough for me to ignore what I knew about the series from Fallout 2 and focus on this brave new installment in the popular franchise.

A lot of people pegged Fallout 3 as “Oblivion with guns” before it was released, a view that the diehard Fallout fans did not appreciate to hear. I was in the “Oblivion with guns” camp, which is interesting since I wasn’t a huge lover of Oblivion. I still looked past my feelings for Oblivion though, because Fallout was very different overall from the Elder Scrolls, so I assumed that the game would play very differently overall. Boy, was I ever wrong.

When I picked up Fallout 3, I was actually very impressed with the opening sequence for the main menu. The subdued music, coupled with the projector slide-like presentation, had me sold. It gave me a great feeling for this game, as I felt that Fallout 3’s main menu was the coolest I’ve ever seen in a Bethesda game.

Unfortunately, once I got to the character creation process, I was already starting to feel cautious. Everything felt like it was copied and pasted straight from Oblivion. The faces, sliders, and options all reeked of Oblivion. I also realized that like Oblivion, it was extremely challenging to create a decent looking girl or guy. Actually Fallout 3 makes it even harder, since you have to view your character on this ridiculous looking ingame computer screen which lacks everything from proper clarity to adequate contrast. Your character’s face in the computer screen looks much different from how they actually end up, which is simply because the visibility on the screen is so terrible. I’ve never seen anybody make such a crucial mistake with character creation, and it’s pretty shocking that Bethesda messed it up so much after the high quality of their character creation processes in the latest Elder Scrolls games.

I won’t even get into the part where you play as a baby, but I realized very quickly from playing through Vault 101 that Fallout 3 suffered from many of the problems which made me feel lukewarm towards Oblivion.

In Oblivion, facial animations were absolutely terrible and the voice work was cringe-worthy. I remember feeling upset over how poor the lip syncing was, and how the tone of the characters’ voices never matched their expressions. It was a little odd to see a character scream at me angrily while keeping a completely calm, straight face. Fallout 3 did not improve upon any of these and, in some cases, I actually felt that Bethesda took a step backwards and made these issues more prominent. Fallout 3 also copies Oblivions poor body animations and terrible physics, making the game’s characters behave and move like psychotic freaks on very wild trips.

While the game was overall fairly decent looking, at least outside in the Wasteland, a lot of problems with model animations and such really hurt the visual presentation of the game and if you ignore the game world and just focus on the models themselves, the game as a whole looks like a very amateurish experimental game.

The immersion is destroyed even further by the dull music in the game. I’m not sure who composed the tunes for Fallout 3, but it wasn’t even close to the high quality that I typically expect of music from Bethesda. Why didn’t they utilize Jeremy Soule, the composer of the awesome tunes in Morrowind and Oblivion? Those games were immersive from their music alone! Fallout 3’s music is boring, quiet, and lacks the depth needed to connect to me as a player.

The Wasteland, which is the wilderness you traverse through, is pretty decent looking. Unfortunately, it suffers from the same problems that Oblivion’s neverending forest was plagued with. The Wasteland, while cool looking at first, quickly grows fairly boring as a lot of things simply look the same, and like Oblivion, I found myself feeling a lot of deja vu frequently due to a nagging feeling that Bethesda used copying and pasting to an extreme level. The interior areas, such as the Vaults and city buildings, are extraordinarily boring. Maybe that fits the whole post-apocalyptic setting, but then perhaps Bethesda should have made that very setting more visually appealing. Even Oblivion had more interesting looking interiors.

The combat. Oh, how I hated the combat! Fighting baddies in this game was the most boring experience I have ever had to endure. The VATs system, which I hear was supposed to simulate the turn based battle system of the original games, made Fallout 3 an annoying trial of my patience. All VATs did was serve as a way to slow combat down drastically just so that we could get a few glimpses of body parts exploding. Yeah, no thanks.

The menu system in Fallout 3 is beyond horrible. The Pipboy interface, while somewhat cool looking, was just an awful mess. Having to scroll through so many different menus, all which did their damndest to keep themselves from being user friendly, was an absolute chore. There’s far too much clicking, scrolling, and navigating for the menus in Fallout 3 to be at all efficient.

There’s little that I wish to say about the story, other than the “searching for dear old dad” story has been done to death and, in many cases, has been done far better than what Bethesda has managed in Fallout 3. I never felt compelled to do anything in this game. The writing is dull and every character I met had the personality of a mattress. I didn’t want to help any of those people, and I didn’t really care about finding my father, either. Why should I have? Why should anyone have wanted to find him? Bethesda forced us to care about a character that we only knew for a few minutes, and then based the opening portion of the game around finding him. When you do find him, it’s not even any bit overwhelming. I couldn’t have cared less. Bethesda dropped the ball somewhere with the story here, and I couldn’t connect with it at all. Morrowind had a fantastic story and Oblivion, while being a pain in the ass in terms of gameplay, had a good story too. Fallout 3 does not.

I know that many people like Fallout 3, so I can’t say “don’t play this game” nor can I not recommend it. I’m in the minority, and I’ll acknowledge that few others share my opinions. Fallout 3 is a mainstream game with hugely mainstream appeal. If you feel confident that you will like Fallout 3, then give it a go.

Final Score