The original Dead Rising was a fairly lonely affair. It was pretty much you against the world… or what was left of it anyway. Fighting hordes of zombies in the Willamette Mall was admittedly great fun, but it lacked the companionship that most games seem to offer these days, and we’re not talking the unsuspecting buffoons that you have to drag to safety - although they still exist in the sequel. Dead Rising 2 looks to cure the loneliness by letting you take a friend along for the ride and at this year’s E3, that’s exactly what we did.
Starting from the beginning of the game, we went hands-on as Chuck and his friend… Chuck, and took to the new streets of Fortune City to partake in some zombie slaying madness. A few bits of general housekeeping before we move on though: Dead Rising 2’s co-op acts in the same way – from a co-op perspective – that many other games tend to follow. What that ultimately means is that the host’s story is the active one, but the guest can bring in their character and take advantage of their stats and experience that they gather along the way. In other words, there’s no reason not to do it.
As far as character freedom goes, the two characters are not tied to a tether per se and can pretty much wander off in different directions as far as the area will let them go. Should you want to move on, then you both must be in the close vicinity of the door you are trying to get through, so it does pay to work together as a unit. However, if you want to wander off to dress Chuck up in some zany gear whilst your co-op partner causes a zombie bloodbath on the other side of the area, you’re more than welcome. That’s the beauty with Dead Rising in general, the choice to do whatever you want lies firmly with you.
The start of the game reveals that our main man, Chuck, has been framed for a crime he didn’t commit and as a result, he’s now Fortune City’s most wanted man. In a bid to clear his name, Chuck (and your co-op partner, who doesn’t actually appear in the cut scenes) will have to battle through the Platinum Strip and into the Phoenix Hotel to speak to the local reporter, Rebecca Chang, to find out who her source was she decided to incriminate him.
As you’d expect, the path to Miss Chang and beyond is lined with zombies, weapons, tool benches and a whole array of random stuff to do. If you cast your minds back to our X10 hands on, you may recall the huge emphasis we put on the weapon creation system and that continues to play a huge part in this opening segment of the game. Giving us an insight into the depth of the creation system, resident UK PR Manager, Leo Tan, reminisced about his time with the game’s lightsaber - one of many possible contraptions that can be concocted with the in-game weapon creation system. Mixing huge mechanical bears with guns to create a mobile turret and slapping a chainsaw on a paddle for a weapon of mass destruction never seems to get old.
The weapons in our short hands-on ranged from the traditional benches and 2 x 4’s that we saw in the original to the more wacky and pointless huge foam hands and green spray paint. I seemed to find a soft spot in my heart for the huge hulking sledgehammer and the power-drill though; two weapons of differing strengths and weaknesses. However, picking up a wheelchair or a giant plastic bin on wheels and charging through the crowds seemed to be the most effective way to get around.
The benefits of co-op admittedly make the overwhelming hordes that much easier to contend with, but having to share weapons and health is something that you and your partner must take into account. Hoarding all the power weapons and nifty creations is a sure fire way to leave your partner up shit creek without a paddle… literally. The ability to share items - especially health - and help one another up when they get downed though will combine to make the experience that much more bearable and less frustrating than the original - there was nothing more frustrating than being consumed by a thousand zombies when you hadn’t saved in hours.
Speaking of saving, the much loathed save system is as it was in the original for the most part, although we’re told that Blue Castle Games have given you three save spots to make things a little easier. Whether that makes a difference remains to be seen, but I fear that they might not have done enough to make the save system accessible and forgiving for those of you who just want to drop in and out for a short session of anger management - DIE ZOMBIES, DIE!!
If you’d have asked me a few years back how they could improve Dead Rising 1, I’d have almost certainly chimed in and said co-op. Whether you want to combine forces and become an unstoppable zombie slaying team, or whether you quite simply want a mate to chat to in your game world whilst you go around doing your own thing, Dead Rising 2 caters for that perfectly. Although the game does keep you in the same areas on the world map, the areas are that big that it won’t feel like it’s hindering your freedom. Simply put, Dead Rising 2’s co-op is everything you’d want from a co-op experience and puts “co-op experiences” that you’d find in the likes of Fable 2 to shame. Admittedly though, playing as the same Chuck and not having two main characters does make it feel like an afterthought, but for the sake of not having co-op, we can look past that… for now. Nevertheless, whether the tweak to the save system will make the game accessible to the non-die-hard Dead Rising fans is still up for debate.
Dead Rising 2 is out on August 31st in North America and September 3rd in Europe.