The Games Of Christmas ’10: Day 6

By RPS on December 6th, 2010 at 2:06 pm.

It's something better than chocolate. It's words!

Are you sure you want to open today’s window? You shouldn’t be opening any windows or doors. It’s not safe out there. Listen- do you hear the moans? They hunger. If you insist on going in there, take this knife, but be careful. Because today’s game is…

…Dead Rising 2!

Oh dear.

Quinns: Dead Rising 2 was a Christmas miracle in October. The first Dead Rising’s structure was a fascinating, inventive, wilfully brutal thing that only could only have been conjoined with AAA production values in Japan. Checkpoints hours apart meaning you, the player, must remember to save your game? A shorter 6-8 hour single player story that you’re forced to abandon on your first run-through and later defeat using foreknowledge of plot twists? That’s lovely, strange design. It’s wonderful playing a game that you know will keep on rolling if you fail at anything. It gives your successes weight.

When word arrived that Dead Rising 2 would be developed by American developer Blue Castle Games using a whole new graphics engine (because Capcom wouldn’t allow use of their tech outside of their Japanese HQ, incidentally), I got the fear. It was obvious what was going to happen. They’d redesign the game’s unique structure in an attempt to address the tens of thousands of confused gamers, and hundreds of mediocre reviews. Blue Castle Games would re-imagine Dead Rising for the modern market. Why would they do anything else?

But they did do something else. This year, Dead Rising 2 proved itself to be an astonishingly devoted sequel that kept everything intact, right down to the brutal, inescapable boss battles which I wouldn’t even have minded if they’d changed.

All the new additions Blue Castles were hyping, namely co-op, competitive online modes and the weapon combination system all clicked neatly in place on top of the ideas that were here before. Knowing that Dead Rising 2 is built in a different engine boggles the mind. They even recreated the slightly disturbing faces of all the NPCs, and your character’s tired, waddling run. It’s all here. Dead Rising lives on, and long live Dead Rising.

I think I’m so happy about this because Dead Rising is a game that actually makes you feel like a hero. Not because you spend the game rescuing people, and not simply because the game’s hard, but because it so clearly doesn’t care about you.

It’s like a neglectful parent. Of course the game doesn’t stop when you fail, and of course it lets you waltz unknowingly into hellish boss encounters or spend hours batting baseballs at zombie groins while dressed like Magnum PI. The game just doesn’t care. So when you do man up and complete the story mode, or overcome the odds and rescue another batch of jittery survivors, you do so knowing that you might have failed. You might have been killed. You might have spent the night doing laps of the food court on a skateboard. But instead, you chose to drink down the terrible stress and be a hero. That’s wonderful. That’s Dead Rising 2.

Alec: I’ve found it curious whenever I’ve heard Quinns’ pre-release sentiments about Dead Rising 2, those quasi-puritanical fears about its fundamental Japaneseness, how hard its core was. It’s a gaming world, and a gaming philosophy, I just don’t know. Or, frankly, care about. I’m the modern, dumbed down, Western molly-coddling that Quinns and Quinnslikes so despised. I’m the sickness. I wanted Dead Rising 2 because I wanted a game about slaughtering tens of thousands of zombies in absurd comic fashion, with my interest dictated by my freedom to dick about rather than by the underlying challenges. I am everything that’s wrong with modern gaming.

What a load of frigging bullshit. Everyone’s wrong. Everyone’s right. While I happily accept that many people loved it for its brutality, Dead Rising is/was not a beautiful precious flower of purest gaming honesty, and nor is/was it an idiot’s GTA-lite – and Dead Rising 2 is smart enough to recognise that. Neither worshipping slavishly at its predecessor’s feet or catering mindlessly to the masses, it just gets on with being a game about surviving a zombie invasion in a shopping mall on its own terms. That’s what it’s about, that’s what it wants to be and that’s what it does so very well. Both the brutality and the playfulness of that timelessly absurd concept is captured with confidence, charm and enough choice of challenge that anyone who cares to can derive satisfaction from it.

Hell, even the story actually has some gravitas this time around, albeit alongside puddle-deep supporting cast characterisation. You’re not playing it through purely to beat it, but because it wants you to have some investment in Chuck and his daughter’s destiny. The characters are sketched crudely, but that they remain characters even while the main guy’s running around in a clown suit whilst weidling a luminous green dildo is a hell of an achievement.

I also admire how Dead Rising 2 does zombies – not in terms of how utterly, ludicrously outlandish its famed range of re-murder possibilities are, but in its cool, almost aloof distance from both zombies-in-games mania and zombies-in-games ennui. It doesn’t seem terribly interested in catering to either camp; it just gets on with being a zombie game on its own terms. Regardless of anyone else’s expectations.

John: I really wish Dead Rising 2 had begun with a message on screen saying, “You won’t be able to win everything on your first play through.” I’m not used to that in gaming. I’m far more familiar with games offering you challenges you should be able to complete when faced with them. And while I know this is standard for a whole market of games, I still think it’s incredibly stupid.

But blimey, I had fun.

There’s something about slaughtering 70 zombies with a kayak paddle with two chainsaws on the ends that is hard to describe without poetry. It’s an opera of stupidity, a stupendous display of purest videogame.

I’d love to have been in charge of it, however. To have been the person with enough authority to say to the development team, “Put other routes back to the safehouse, just for the sake of variety.” I could be the man who said, “Have the special weapons last just 20% longer. It’s just a tiny amount more, but they fail a bit too quickly.” I’d have fed back to them, “Include far more toilets in these malls – people need to save if you aren’t including checkpoints, and frankly, malls have an awful lot more toilets than that.” Oh, and the biggest mistake of all:

At the start of the game, when you’re the most vulnerable to the zombies, you’re given barely any health and very few weapon slots. The weapons you can carry are weak, and it’s very simple to die. Progress and your health and weapon/health slots hugely increase in number, and it’s far easier to get around. It’s an odd approach. It makes the first four hours of the game unnecessarily frustrating.

I’d love to have fixed it just a bit. But I still had a very splendid time getting to its ending. (Well, one of its endings. I couldn’t even get close to completing one of the alternatives.) I loved the deadlines, because they were bigger than deadlines, they were about protecting my daughter. That’s an incentive: stopping the hamster-faced child from turning undead. It removes the arbitrary artificiality of the restrictions.

It’s a smart, funny game. There’s so much to do, and so much is optional. You don’t have to rescue survivors, and if they especially annoy you, you can leave them behind. Clearly there’s advantages in bringing them to safety, but the lack of obligation once more releases you to enjoy yourself far more.

But this is videogaming. And delightfully aware of that. It’s high scores and ludicrous hyperbole, vast numbers of enemies and the mad pleasure of picking up anything at all and hitting the undead with it. Sure, there’s a lot of room for improvement for the third game, but that’s no reason not to enjoy the gross fun of this.

Jim: There isn’t much more to say about Dead Rising 2, I think, other than my personal take, which was one of genuine surprise. With zombie fatigue having hit pretty heavily, and a general feeling of cynicism towards the premise of the game, I had expected to slog through some overly long cutscenes and then kill some zombies, before losing interest, having not really got much out of it. Hours later, I was half right – those cutscenes turned up – but the rest of it was a medley of awesome silliness. Sometimes you just need to knock a dude’s head off with a hammer. Sometimes.

, .

69 Comments »

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  1. Navagon says:

    The non-customisable controls are a major turn off for me. It practically forces me to use a controller so I don’t see me buying it until it’s… oh, it already is cheap. Well, cheaper still then. My backlog is too insane as it is.

  2. strange headache says:

    DAT ASS!

  3. Tim says:

    I found both Dead Rising games to be awful. Praising a game for being unique is one thing. Praising a game that is designed so that you need to start the whole thing over to win is quite another. Add to that the horrid combat, the annoying and constant need to find weapons, and the fact that the game is based around escorting NPCs. NPC escort missions have always been hated by players so basing much of a game around them seems suspect.

    I’d hoped Dead Rising 2 would fix many of the flaws from the first game. Rather I found a slightly refined take on it. DR2 was better but still far from a good game.

    • Tom says:

      I never played DR1 but DR2 could have been a much better game. I found the time limits really frustrating it would have been ok with a quick save, also it would have let you mess about more. I’m usually not too bothered by quick saves but the saving on this was bad. I never got to the end I got fed up and played something else.

    • Premium User Badge

      TheTourist314 says:

      I disagree.

    • Psychopomp says:

      What’s wrong with the time limits? They add urgency, and force you to make decisions.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      If you’re complaining about the escort missions, then you haven’t played Dead Rising 2. The AI for survivors is much improved to the point where, unless there’s a psychopath running around, you don’t have to worry about them until you need to go through a loading screen.

    • Perjoss says:

      dead rising 1 was a 6 hour game with many endings, they left it short on purpose to make multiple play throughs more appealing. One of the endings involves you sitting in the security office doing nothing for the whole 6 hours (not much fun but lets face it, thats what most people would do it that situation) so now you can see you can take or leave as many of the survivors as you like. There is usually quite a big time gap between the case files leaving plenty of time to mess about.

      Not sure about DR2 but in DR1 you can let the case file slip and just keep playing, leaving you even more time to mess about. Catch is the truth behind the virus is lost and you dont get a good ending.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Dead Rising 1 made me really pissed off. A bunch of completely unrelated events causes a different ending. Just because I didn’t play it the right way I don’t get the ‘correct’ ending.

    • Evil Timmy says:

      Actually, the survivors are helpful, especially earlier on in the game. As long as you know where some food is and keep them relatively healthy, they make the game easier if you keep them around. Their weapons never wear out, so giving half guns and the other half swords/torches/guitars means you’ve got a pretty badass army, and as long as they go in with near-full health, they’ll help you make quick work of (nearly) any psychos. All this without even having the magazine that makes them better.

      I agree that the special weapons wore out a bit too fast, but really, the pressure this game puts on you to make choices is what makes it challenging, and makes replaying it really enjoyable.

  4. Lars BR says:

    Jim: Too good for an “And in the game.” now?

    What a shame.

  5. Tei says:

    Dead Rising 2 is not a good game, in despise of himself:
    – Is a sandbox game that is hardcoded to reset his world and the player every N hours. Feel more like a time demo than a videogame.
    – Is not fun to fight the zombies, and the game is made about a 99% of fighting zombies. Compare this to Left4Dead where a single mele attack feel satisfining and fun.

    Also, totally unrelated:

    Liquid Mountaineering video

  6. Premium User Badge

    Oozo says:

    Ah, “Dead Rising 2″. I remember having been way too excited pre-release and bought it one day one (the only game I bought full-prize on Steam this year). Then, I played it, for about 40 minutes, and liked it alright. (Wasn’t aware of the “You have to die in order to survive the next time around”-order, though – that’s some quality zombie-logic, ain’t it?)

    But then, I had a friend over one night, and some booze, and everything klicked into place. It’s when we understood that the game gives a damn about you screwing up or not, but thankfully, it’s just after you’ve failed that it really opens up its sandbox. And, damn, did we have fun for the next 2 hours or so, out-doing one another with the wickedest possible clothing-combination and the most creatives way of gutting zombies.

    So much fun, though, that I never cared to turn back on my (sober) own after this splendid evening. Somehow, I thought, it already was worth its price for that evening alone.

    Might be tempted to return, though, after this article…

  7. clownst0pper says:

    Dead Rising games are terrible! I’m on my iPhone otherwise I’d have a rant!!

  8. DaBuddaDa says:

    Blue Castle Games isn’t American, they’re HQ in Vancouver, Canada *angry face*

    • Lars BR says:

      Is there a non-american Canada?

    • Navagon says:

      Yes. The one just north of America. A non-North-American Canada? No. There’s not one of those.

    • Delusibeta says:

      I think Lars is referring to Quebec.

    • etho says:

      I realize that a lot of you guys are from the Kingdom, but just to be clear, Canada is north of the USA, not north of America. Canada is just the northernmost country on the North American continent.

      So, yes, they are American.

      If Navagon is actually from the US, as I fear he may be, then I might end up crying into my breakfast beer.

    • RadioactiveMan says:

      No- Etho, you are wrong. When referring to America it is generally assumed you are referring to the United States.

      The proper name for the northern continent is North America. Not America. The North is part of the name, just as Western is part of the name for the state of Western Australia.

      Navagon spoke correctly. Canadians are certainly North Americans, but they are not Americans, and do not like to be referred to as such!

    • oatish says:

      I was gunna jump in a say this too…

      Further Clarification – it is Burnaby bitches not Vancouver.

    • Kadayi says:

      @RadioactiveMan

      What they like to be referred to, has little to do with categorisation at the end of the day.

      Germany is a European country

      Germany is a northern European country.

      Both statements are correct.

    • Access says:

      @RadioactiveMan
      From my experiences, generally that sort of terminology is mostly used in America and Canada. Lots ‘o the European folks find no issue with calling the continental area simply as America.

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      lurkalisk says:

      If Canadians are Americans, then so is anyone in the pan-American land-thing.
      And last time I checked, people in say, Peru, never call themselves Americans. Why? Because America is not a continent, just as “North Europe” isn’t. North America is not just the northern portion of a continent, it is it’s own, and has a very specific name.

    • sidhellfire says:

      “Germany is a northern European country.”
      LOLWUT?!
      Northern Europe is Scandinavia.

  9. Alec Meer says:

    CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED.

  10. etho says:

    The way I see it, this game, and it’s predecessor, are some of the only true zombie games around right now. Most games with zombies are just… games, with zombies. Zombies just become human-shaped targets that the developers don’t feel the need to give you any reason for shooting. They are zombies, and that is your reason for shooting them. But the Dead Rising series aren’t games with zombies, they are games about zombies. They are some of the only games that really even try to make zombies the sort of weird, meaningful monsters they are in the very best zombie movies.

    Oh, there’s silliness and humor left and right, and to a degree that Romero probably wouldn’t even consider (though Romero-made zombie movie that is a straight comedy does sound compelling), but, crucially, most of the outright goofiness is optional. You don’t have to dress up as a french maid and kill zombies with lawn darts. You can wear jeans and a jacket and kill zombies with a crowbar. I think that comes from the way that the games take their own stories fairly seriously. The cutscenes are surprisingly somber affairs, and the stories, especially in DR2, are actually kind of interesting. Which just makes it all the sillier when you are dressed as a french maid.

  11. Linfosoma says:

    I loved this game, and for those who it’s not possible, I was able to get the best ending on my first playthrough.

    • Linfosoma says:

      *for those who think it’s not possible. Le sigh

    • blunders says:

      Ditto on both counts. I admittedly started over early on, after reaching level five, but it was purely volitional and I did it solely because I knew I could use that extra little boost. Having finished the game on my second run, though, I wasn’t sure whether I even should have bothered starting over. This game is a lot more forgiving than the first.

      Easily GOTY for me, with Recettear coming in at a close second.

    • Thants says:

      Yeah, me too. It might make it easier, but saying that you have to restart it is just wrong.

  12. Psychopomp says:

    Maybe it’s due to having played the first one to death, but I don’t see where all these complaints about *having* to start over come from. I didn’t find it that hard.

  13. Lucas says:

    I had misgivings about picking up DR2 (no demo, time limits, leveling dependent progression), but I jumped at $25 and was glad I did. In spite of its plentiful mistakes there is a good game hiding here.

    IIRC it was only my second attempt (and fairly early) that took me all the way through the game and also got the bonus ending, with only a couple psycho fights skipped (mainly the motorcycle). The last couple boss fights are the worst part of the game, but very doable, and the story is frequently awful. The combat quality varies quite a bit, and I switched to a dualshock2 pad with USB adaptor and x360ce.

    I’d be more inclined to play around with DR2 if the survivor and psycho encounters were randomized. I have no desire to re-fight the bosses (ugh) or re-run the survivor rescues (easy, boring, but high payouts), but I do still want to unlock the rest of the weapon combos and the sports car.

    I didn’t get any decent co-op play (unfriendly random hosts and tethering), and wished there were an transparently asynchronous “you just happened to run across another player to help” drop-in mode, kind of like Demon’s Souls but more friendly. They should have let you swap character models for the extra player too.

    The best thing about DR2 is the permissive failure states, where you can just keep playing anyway if you bork an objective, and have the option to reload or keep your xp/unlocks/etc and restart the game when you die. Both the “wacky sandbox” and “time optimizing objectives” methods of play are fun when you get into it. It was great to give assault rifles to a huge group of survivors and go back to waste a psycho that seemed impossibly tough (the chef – he eats and heals repeatedly).

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      Almost all psychopath battles that are required to continue the game are remarkably simple if you remembered to pack a gun. The twins can be stopped with one fully loaded shotgun and the first final boss is simple to kill because he has a sort of built in cancel when he’s being fired on that forces him to roll out of the way.

      Side bosses are also really easy once you have a recipe for Quickstep, but if you don’t bring a quickstep or something similar, it’s significantly harder. Also, again, shotgun or LMG and it’s quick work. But if you don’t know those things, fights like the Chef psychopath are brutal and unfun.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      The chef psychopath was a complete and utter piece of piss with six heavily armed survivors and the knife gloves. Suppressive fire kept him nailed to the spot and blocking in the wrong direction. The whole game reminds me a bit of Disgaea – you can start over as much as you like and keep everything that really matters, and there’s always some unbearably cheap and porky way to get around everything if you know where to look. (You know what some of those mixed drinks do, right?)

  14. Luke says:

    RPS understands Dead Rising. I approve!

    Tim, Tom, and Tei do not. I pity them and their empty lives. :(

  15. Nick says:

    I enjoyed it a great deal, but there were plenty of little niggles – most of what John mentioned actually, and I would have liked.. I dunno, some points where there was breathing room to dick about more but still carry on with the story and not have to restart/lose anyone. I liked the deadlines and the tenseness, but some bigger gaps between them at times would have been nice.

  16. Luke says:

    Lucas, Dead Rising 1 on X-box 360 has an unlockable “Infinity” mode that drops you into the game with randomized bosses and survivors and, I think, no saves. The challenge is to survive as long as possible and score big on the leaderboard. It’s Rogue-esque, and fantastic. I understand that this was dropped in the sequel, which is a shame. It’s the purest realization of the Dead Rising series and all the awesome stuff Capcom is doing in it that you can play.

  17. Anonononomous says:

    Am I a bad person for getting ending S on my first run without ever resetting? I didn’t kill all the psychos, of course, and I’m sure there were some hidden survivors that I didn’t find, but I think I did pretty well. The game was a lot less punishing than the first. I gave up on overtime mode in the first after getting stuck with no health items due to the fact that collecting stuff took up your inventory space.

  18. Tacroy says:

    It sounds like Dead Rising (1 and 2) got right what Just Cause 2 didn’t – they just let you screw around and have fun, and don’t try to enforce game-ness on you.

    Personally, I’m hoping that Dead Rising 2 will be cheap during the inevitable Steam holiday sales :)

    • DrGonzo says:

      I would say its the reverse of that. Dead Rising punishes you for messing around and having fun. Just Cause 2 lets you take everything at your own pace. That’s how Dead Rising should have done it in my opinion. You will be punished for going someone to have fun in your own way, instead you have to go watch an embarrassingly awful cut scene, followed by a gun fight with some humans. The shooting controls are awful, the npcs ridiculously stupid, and for a little while it feels like you have been teleported back to some shitty PS2 game from a decade ago.

  19. geldonyetich says:

    I’ll be picking this game up just as soon as Capcom assigns it a post-recession price.

  20. Dominic White says:

    I’d just like to add that the thing getting repeated – that you can’t beat the game without dying and restarting several times – is complete rubbish. I aced both DR1 & 2 on my first try, without restarts, and got the best possible endings. Now, I did end up skipping a lot of sidequests, and failed to rescue some people, but that’s what happens in zombie movies. Mistakes happen and people die.

    But it is by no means impossible to get the best possible victory conditions on your very first run. Don’t forget that. It ain’t easy (you can grind levels if you want it to be, though), but it’s not absurdly hard either.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I couldn’t finish the first one on my first go through. I found this one to be really hard as well. But not in an intentionally hard way. Just really shit controls, especially the motorbikes. In fact I gave up when I got to my second motorbike section, with the guy who chops up some inexplicable civilian who wasn’t there until the cut scene started. At that point I promptly quit and uninstalled the game. And for a game about zombies, they seem to try as hard as they can to not make you fight them.

    • Dominic White says:

      Given that the main threat in most classic zombie movies comes from other humans, you seem to have missed the point somewhat. Zombies are a backdrop. They’re this slow-moving, easily-avoided obstacle. They’re dead, ferchrissakes.

    • IdleHands says:

      “And for a game about zombies, they seem to try as hard as they can to not make you fight them.”

      But the game is full of zombies! They aren’t exactly hidden from the player. You literally can’t swing a zombiefied cat without hitting the undead. They aren’t exactly hidden from the player. You can’t go anywhere without getting a body count high enough to put rambo to shame.

    • Thants says:

      @DrGonzo – There’s barely any motorbike sections in the game at all, and they’re optional. That’s a bad reason to uninstall the game.

      Although there did seem to be something wrong with the mouse controls of the bike. The turning was messed up.

  21. DrGonzo says:

    Can we have a good game now? I haven’t personally enjoyed any of the games listed so far. And the ‘AAA’ titles -as they say – that you have picked have been the biggest disappointments of the year.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      The comment’s thread is your stage!

    • Access says:

      Maybe that says something about your taste.

    • Vinraith says:

      I have to admit, so far the RPS advent calendar is mostly convincing me that it’s been a weak year for PC games. If I hadn’t been playing AI War almost exclusively since July I’d probably be pretty frustrated by now.

    • Investigator says:

      Actually just a weak year for games. PC has fared better than the consoles, with their fancy motion dohickies spoiling everythin.

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    mpk says:

    This post needs a “staring bum cheeks” tag.

  23. liq3 says:

    The zombies respawned. My inability to clear out an area ruined any sort of immersion this game created.

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      Because the game was really aiming for immersive. That’s why you could strap two chainsaws to a rowing paddle.

  24. Qazi says:

    More games need to embrace Dead Rising’s philosophy. Where the world continues regardless of player presence. NPCs and locations have their crisis; AI life goes on. Better yet, have multiple things happening simultaneously across the game world. Best still, have that massacred village at the edge of the map (that you get a mission to investigate half way though one of the quest lines), secretly start being massacred as soon as you start the game, balanced precariously so that an efficient player could get there in time to actually save it if they made tracks in that direction from the very beginning.

    Of course, such a world could easily collapse into one where a player is rarely involved and only ever sees the consequences because we’re so used to Narrativium demanding events only start with player participation/instigation.

    • Ted says:

      Pretty sure that is the worst game design idea I’ve ever heard. If I had a boxed version of that game, I would douse it in lighter fluid and burn it to hell as soon as I realized in disbelieving fury that what you propose was happening.

    • Daed says:

      Reminds me of Star Control 2 almost. Things happen regardless of the player, and if you do nothing, the antagonists will happily begin their mass purge of the galaxy without waiting for you to even meet them first.

      Compare it with most games, where the world revolves around the player, and the invading enemy will just wait around twiddling their thumbs while the main character does random side quests for peasants in some inconsequential village somewhere.

    • Jsnuk says:

      I’m thinking a game where you rule some fantasy medieval kingdom, and isntead of following your standard linear story arc, your kingdom starts being invaded by the antagonists and you are left to deal with it how you want, with certain actions unravelling certain new threads of story or characters.

  25. Thants says:

    The great thing about this game is how it feels like a rogue-like. The sheer amount of stuff you can do, items to combine, secrets to find, gave me flashbacks to Nethack. Hell, you could easily go through the whole game and not know about the potions you can make by combining things in a blender.

    • Dude says:

      Orange Juice + Orange Juice = Nectar.

      Nectar + Queen = best friend ever!

  26. Caleb367 says:

    Get on Cracked.com and read Seanbaby’s take on Dead Rising 2. Which convinced me to buy it ASAP. Also, fetal alcohol syndrome.