After watching an anime that takes place in the United States, you remain in awe. Yeah, the States are their usual westerner selves, but the characters have the reactions, personalities and oriental lines which cause cascades of laughter not unlike the ones Dick Dastardly’s Mutley produces.
And if Dead Rising 2 is any example, a mall stands the size of three or four combined stadiums. I don’t really know if this detail is a parable or satire addressed to modern-day consumerism, because frankly I’ve been too busy beheading zombies with gardening tools, toys, garbage bins and improvised rocket launchers to look for a deeper meaning.
What’s certain is that there are a lot of zombies. And a lot of gardening tools. And toys. So many, in fact, that Dead Rising 2 can be safely described as a superficial brawler standing on the shoulders of a “how many zombies does it take to… “joke. It’s all fun and games unless you think you can get bored chasing zombies for six and a half hours in a mall.
In order to pepper things up, you can wear any contemporary rags found in any contemporary rag shop in the mall, there are character development elements and the game’s point is not immersion or epic storytelling, but rather simple, wholesome fun.
In other words, Dead Rising 2 is to Left 4 Dead what Saint’s Row is for Grand Theft Auto. It’s got a lot of customization options, it’s unpretentious, fun in a lightweight, stupid sense, while losing points in the atmosphere, storyline, complexity and production value aspects. But generally speaking, all of these things are much more superficial in parodies anyway. Criticizing a game because it aspires to be stupid and fun would be like frowning because Robin Hood and the Men in Tights isn’t historically accurate.
On top of that, Dead Rising 2 is an Asian parody. Its humour doesn’t have the same formula or convention that you might expect and at times you’ll laugh at the unintentional slips harder than the premeditated puns – a post-apocalyptic sport in the spirit of Battle Royale or survivors waving tendencies that are more bat-shit insane than the very beasts they are confronted with. Some jokes should be taken with a pinch of salt and the search for parallels is useless once you’re fully immersed in the mindless universe in which DR2 occurs.
Besides, the very concept of parody is obviously a western invention, and this Japanese twist injects its own caprices in a world sweating raw American dream – hot dogs and malls.
The zombies themselves are of every shape and gender. We’ve got senior citizens, fatsos, women and workers who dangle menacingly and reach towards an-ever running you, a former bike stunt superstar.
Your name is Chuck Greene. Unfairly accused of releasing the latest living dead epidemic, you’re forced to prove your innocence in a makeshift investigation that doesn’t make any goddamn sense at all. To accomplish this, you get briefed by CURE’s (Zombie rights activists, I kid you not) female leader while at the same time struggling to deliver an antibiotic called ZOMBREX to your kid before she turns into the only zombie kid in the game. Or the army gets there first.
The cute part about this is that depending on how many missions you successfully complete and what decisions you make when choice comes into play, the story has a handful of endings. On the other hand, time can’t be rewinded, there’s no autosave function and some deadlines are gruesome in their precipitation, making the non-linear algorithm which leads you towards one of the endings one of two restrictive pathways: success and failure. Sometimes, you even find yourself free for a few minutes at a time.
And your spare time will mostly be spent saving survivors throughout the mall or completing secondary missions. Aside from secrets, platforming elements, bosses (psychos with nothing better to do than to raise their weapons against their fellow man in the middle of a zombie apocalypse) or combining random items with wacky results.
Because the trusty baseball bat is no longer enough to fire things up, doomsday style, oh no. A baseball bat filled to the brim with sharp nails does a much better job at cracking skulls. And if that’s not enough, there are drills going through buckets, ready to be placed on the unsuspecting noggins of the evil dead. Or chainsaws attached to every end of a paddle, with an effect much like the one we know from movies and cartoons showing the dual lightsaber. We even have MMA gloves spiced up with spikes that bring on the pain in a manner no other MMA gloves could.
The recipes (Combo Cards) are awarded on certain level ups, random experimentation or recipes shown by your co-op mates. Sadly, the latter aspect is negatively affected by the small number of people in Windows Live’s list and, if you’re hoping not to search in vain for a partner at four in the morning, you had better swayed a friend to buy the game as well.
Otherwise, you’ll end up like me, sharing your deepest hopes and dreams with a drunken, non-English speaking Russian guy through Google Translate, a sleepless Dane from the Faeroe Islands and a 12-year old Costa Rican girl whose skipping school guarantees you’ll find that ZOMBREX before the fatal hour comes. All cases above coming with an array of issues regarding latency, stability, collision or conservative legislation in regard to minors.
The aforementioned bosses are a showcase of stupid AI and pathfinding, fuelled by –at times- annoying tactics which force you to use every object in the room in order to have the slimmest of odds at winning. Melee only becomes interesting when you get extra moves and many combos that the psychos demonstrate are either unfairly strong, avoidable by luck alone, glitches or the holy technique of trial and error. You feel just as if you punched a clown in the face – a slight sensation of discomfort when he starts crying, because you don’t know whether you did the right thing or it’s part of the routine. That’s how I feel at least, confused and cold.
Crowd control offers nice variation in the form of throwing every object not nailed to the floor, and the presence of vehicles, carts and combinations between, say, wheelchairs and a car battery produce one of the most devastating transport devices in human history. And CURE won’t protest against a zombie genocide when it’s this fun.
And if a game this shallow wasn’t damn fun, where would we be now?