There are developers for whom the words ‘instant gratification’ must always be violently spat out, like a mouthful of anchovy and marmalade sandwich. These developers don’t give a toss for your busy lifestyle, your craving for relaxation. They believe the only kind of entertainment worth having is that won through serious labour.
They’ll hand you a rock, or a small rusty knife, or a pea-shooter, and tell you that in a few hours’ time, if you keep your head down and your nose clean, you’ll be granted access to a larger rock, wooden club or throwing dart. And that a few dozen hours after that, if you’re really well-behaved, you might get a glimpse of the fluting crystal javelin with the mutant hamster attachments from the box art. Only a glimpse, mind.
It’s the game design equivalent of ‘no pudding till you’ve eaten your vegetables’. And it’s an approach Dead Rising 2 has no truck with. Dead Rising 2 wants you to eat your pudding before your vegetables. In fact, it wants you to mix pudding and vegetables into a gorgeous sticky soup. Don’t forget the ketchup.
That explains the bountifulness of its setting, a Las Vegas super-casino whose carpet patterns would give Hunter S. Thompson severe acid flashbacks. As soft muzak and sunlight filters down from the glass-paned ceiling, a hairy thug in a knotted Barbie top and denim hotpants plants a nail-studded propane tank between the shoulder blades of a putrefying security guard, wards him off with a makeshift foghorn, then whips out a pistol and snipes the embedded tank into a cloud of fire that shears the limbs off every bellicose corpse within a 10 metre radius.
The thug’s name is Chuck Greene, and until about five minutes ago he was a dedicated father, champion of humanity and seeker of the truth. In theory Chuck’s here to find a fresh supply of ‘Zombrex’, the only known zombification treatment, for his cute-as-a-button daughter Katie, while guiding fellow plague survivors to the safe-room at the complex’s heart and divining the source of the zombie outbreak itself, an outbreak for which he has been framed.
Only he’s not doing all that right now. Right now, he’s figuring out how to turn a leaf-blower into a grenade launcher. Right now, he’s looking for some power-drills to mount on a mop bucket. Right now, in short, he’s messing around. And developer Blue Castle isn’t making the slightest effort to get him back on track.
The original Dead Rising was an early highlight of what historians will surely term the Bloody Stupid Open-Ended Action Game genre, a spectacular lampooning of consumer culture in which every grabbable object, whatever its price or original purpose, was an instrument of death. It gave players an entire mall to run around in, steamed clean of tags and boutique attendants, a wholly optional three-day mission arc and thousands of slavering grotesques to kill using thousands of varieties of tat.
Whole groups of shambling brain-eaters could be knocked off with a single football, pinballing from dome to dome, lawn drills stabbed through torsos to create screaming post-human rotor blades, CD boxes tossed like shuriken. It was the American Dream on horse dope. It was utterly glorious.
Dead Rising 2 eclipses all this within an hour of the title screen. It does so not by adding layers to the first game’s dual-stick move-aiming and simple jump, interact and modifiable attack commands, nor by folding new convolutions into the still-optional storyline, which boils down to reaching mission trigger points on the world map before a clock runs out, nor even by revamping the character levelling system, with ‘Prestige Points’ and abilities awarded depending on the inventiveness of the slaughter. Nope, its claim to ‘proper’ sequeldom rests on, or rather is held together by, duct tape. Duct tape, gentle reader, is your new best friend.
Besides labyrinths of slot machines, ornamental fountains and fairground rides, the stupendous Temple of Mammon that is Fortune City contains maintenance rooms, their doors auspiciously painted a bright shade of crimson. Chuck enters these rooms carrying things like boxing gloves, push karts, two by fours and hunks of meat. Providing he’s happened on the right item recipe or ‘Combo Card’, he’ll leave them carrying things like the ‘Paddlesaw’, the HomeBase version of Skorge’s double-ended chainsaw staff, or the ‘Fountain Lizard’, a felt dinosaur head stuffed with Roman candles.
Combinable items are marked with blue wrench icons, which glow if there’s an object in Chuck’s inventory (slid left or right with the bumpers) that you can pair them with. New Combo Cards are awarded on levelling up, or by brooding briefly over inspirational sights like movie posters, but it’s possible to cheat the system through experimentation, though the results won’t be quite as formidable or as PP-productive as the real McCoy. Each maintenance room generally has a few commonplace items in stock, like baseball bats and packets of nails, so players needn’t venture too far afield to fashion something deadly.