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Editors Note: The following piece regarding Capcom's Dead Rising 2 was hastily thrown together by Mr. Lesesne while under the influence of Irish Coffe and sleep deprivation. It serves as the first cohesive piece of game writing that he's done since before he bagan college, and as such is filled with 4 years worth of repressed nerd-rage. Attempts to approach Mr. Lesesne for an edit have been met with locked doors, screams (we would hope his screams, in spite of their high pitch) and the breaking of indeterminate objects against the door. We apologize for his crass behavior and excessive use of the work "fuck."
Let me tell you a story about Dead Rising 2, and an encounter I had with one of Fortune City’s more colorful denizens. We shall call this story “The Tale of Randy the Gimp and his Huge Fucking Chainsaw.” You see, Randy the Gimp was a 30-year-old virgin, as he was the son of a preacher man and vowed to never have sex out of wedlock. During Fortune City’s unfortunate zombie outbreak, he decided that his carnal needs should be fulfilled immediately, and using the aphrodisiac that was his Huge Fucking Chainsaw (not a euphemism) he persuaded a young lass to stand in a rather colorful church in front of God and his father (who Randy had chained to the wall above the alter) to seal the deal and guarantee immediate consummation. This is where I (as newly minted zombie-genocider Chuck Greene) come in.
Before I go any further, it must be noted that this was my second encounter with Randy. The first involved my being completely unprepared for a boss battle I had no idea I’d be participating in while festooned with incompetent, unarmed survivors I’d been towing behind me like a moveable feast for 45 minutes. Randy was more than prepared, due in no small part to his possession of said Huge Fucking Chainsaw. I died.
During our second encounter, I too was prepared. My initial strategy involved shooting at him from cover with a high-powered sniper rifle. One would assume that a .50 caliber round from a holy-fuck-this-is-huge sniper rifle would have a rather obvious effect on a fat guy in shiny bondage gear. This was not the case. Nothing. Not even a LITTLE damage came off Randy’s life bar as I drained entire clips into his head and chest. Once I’d exhausting the ammunition from the first of two sniper rifles I’d brought with me, I decided it was high time to change my tact. Exasperated and low on food I switched to a sword, leapt over a room divider, and started slicing and dicing the fat bastard with an abandon bordering on reckless. Worked like a charm; he was dead in less than 30 seconds. Damsel saved. There was much rejoicing.
“The Tale of Randy the Gimp and His Huge Fucking Chainsaw” serves to illustrate my principle complaint in regards to Dead Rising 2: The illusion of freedom. You feel as though you’re in an open world akin to Grand Theft Auto, but a combination of time constraints and mobility issues limit your ability to explore and appreciate the game’s wonderfully detailed landscape. You feel as though you’re free to combine items into inventive weapons, but your possibilities are limited to a weirdly specific list. You feel as though you can tackle boss battles in whatever manner you see fit, but as my confrontation with Randy illustrates, you’re to fight each boss in a fairly specific way (or at the very least with fairly specific weaponry.) I hate it when games treat me like they’re an overprotective parent, meeting any attempt I make to assert free will with a firm hand and authoritarian assertions that its way is the best way, and that it’s all for my own good. Dead Rising 2 is guilty of being the worst kind of helicopter mom.
And the clock, my GOD, the clock. It’s maddening; I realize that the 72 hour clock (it absolutely had to be 72 hours again?) is inherent to Dead Rising, meant to leave you biting your finger nails as Chuck Greene lazily jogs toward his destination like a 70-year-old fun-runner while the last few seconds tick off of the mission clock knowing full well that if you don’t make it the game ends and you’re doomed to load a save from an hour ago because you forgot to save because you were too busy beating zombies to death with a stuffed unicorn, but who decided that was fun? It’s not fun, it’s frustrating and serves to limit your ability to skip merrily through the open world, which is the game’s greatest asset. I like Dead Rising because anywhere at anytime I can pick up anything and start beating the nearest moaning cadaver to my hearts content while my character is dressed like a four dollar an hour prostitute that just got off of a particularly vigorous double shift. As I write this, I have 24 hours left of the story mode, and like Dead Rising 1, I’m sure that upon completion of the story more I will unlock an infinity mode that will allow me to run around the mall, err – Fortune City – to my hearts content. But by that point – as in so many games – I’ll be a bit burnt out and exploring the mall won’t be nearly as fun. Which speaks to a bigger problem that must be addressed because it’s prevalent in Dead Rising 2, and it’s been pissing me off for years.
A company can hardly make a game these days without a character upgrade system of some sort. This system of acquiring character upgrades through grinding is supposed to keep you interested as you play what is, in essence, a repetitious pile of shit with no real redeeming qualities just for the sake of getting that “One really sweet chest plate/gun/turbo charger/staff/haircut/sex toy!” And what happens once you’ve acquired said swag at the expense of your time or sanity or girlfriend? You’re done. You’re bored. You can’t enjoy it. You’ve seen the top of the mountain, and all that’s left to do is climb back down and see the hospital about your disfiguring case of frostbite. I could easily bash WoW at this point, but I’m actually going to acquire Fable in my crosshairs, because it’s the worst offender that comes to mind. After spending the entire game gearing up an amazing character, you’re treated with a less than epic boss fight and a complete inability to do anything afterward. Game Over. Insert Coin. Fuck Peter Molyneux.
So with that we come back to Dead Rising 2, and what would have been an extraordinarily easy solution to the above mentioned problem: Just give us infinity mode to begin with. You could run around, get a feel for the map, the weapon system, kill some zombies and then, when you felt sated, you could fire up and enjoy the story mode. I can see why Blue Castle (and many video games companies) might be scared of something like this: If they give you infinity mode to begin with, you might not ever play the story mode and you’d never fully be able to appreciate all of their hard work. That scenario is only an issue in a world where your story sucks or your gameplay’s broken and the player is left with no motivation to see their way through it. It’s as though the game industry has a collective negative image problem as a result of too many Roger Ebert’s saying their chosen medium isn’t art, and too many Jack Thompson’s accusing them of murdering small children, and so it feels as though it has to force you through the story mode or you won’t play it, and achieves this goal by dangling the carrot of freedom in front of your face under the guise of “bonus content.”
This is why Grand Theft Auto works so well. You’re given near complete freedom (plus or minus a few attack helicopters if you stray to a new area too quickly) the second the opening cut scene ends. You can do as you please and pick up the story when you feel like. And you DO feel like it because the story is – if not good – entertaining. The real shame in Dead Rising 2 is that the story is good, and even with the ridiculous time constraints, I would happily play through it if they’d just let me run around and be ridiculous and enjoy their game before it all becomes stale.
I think my complaints might come down to bad (or at least hype-laden) press. During the three-year run-up to the launch of Dead Rising 2, I gorged myself on every sliver of information I could get my gluttonous mitts on. All the screen shots and E3 trailers and preview articles seemed to promise a world much larger and more robust than the one found within the confines of DR1’s Willamette Parkview Mall. Even during my passionate fling with “Dead Rising 2: Case: 0,” (the game’s DLC prequel) I felt like I was getting a taste of a bigger and better world in which to engage in wholesale slaughter. However, as soon as I purchased and booted up the full game, I felt like I was right back in Willamette: Crawling through air conditioning ducts from a safe area to the main game map, gathering up survivors, accidentally triggering a boss battle that I’m woefully unprepared for, dying, reverting to a ninety minute old save, repeating the process, punching my cat out of sheer nerd-rage…But I’ve digressed. In short, it’s not what I’d hoped for; It’s identical to Dead Rising 1, but…more.
Before I wander any further into a rant about how uninventive the game industry has been in recent years, especially in regard to sequels, I’ll start praising Dead Rising 2. That’s right. Because in spite of all that I’ve said, this game is fun and awesome and hilarious and addictive and every other thing that makes the nerdy bits of my fun parts tingle.
While the widely publicized combo weapon system does draw from a predetermined list of item combinations, many of these combinations are so completely over the top and/or functional that you’ll find yourself wasting every spare moment you’re given hunting for the little blue wrench icons that signify combo items. Hoping all the while that the next area you explore will hold that critical pitch fork/can of spray paint/car battery that will turn the wheelchair you’ve been pushing around for 45 minutes into an instrument of zombie justice. And there are PLENTLY of zombies to kill, ladies and gentlemen.
Reports have the number of on screen zombies running anywhere from a measly three thousand to as many as six or seven thousand. Such semantics aside, all ye need know is that there are a shit-ton of zombies in this game. And they’ve been upgraded. They now seem more intent to stalk you around the map, encircle you, and do their impression of a meat grinder. Dead Rising 2 has actually managed to convey the menace that a horde of slow moving, Romero-esque zombies can pose. If 28 Days Later and Left4Dead have proven anything, it’s that an inhumanly fast pack of maggot-infested zombies hurtling toward you Usain Bolt style are fucking scary. They don’t need a lot of dressing up before they go to the You Just Shit Your Pants Ball. In the day of the fast zombie, slow moving zombies have gone from scary to comical, and while Dead Rising 2 does capitalize on the latter, the sequels beefed zombie A.I. will be quick to punish you for underestimating it. Drop a weapon in a highly populated area? Better leave it, or break out a power weapon and kill everything in the area, because returning to pick it up will be met with swift retribution in the form of an ever-growing (and growing and growing) pack of zombies. Zombies that are now capable of completely rocking (see: biting) your face off for your insolence.
I like Chuck Greene, I like all of the completely ridiculous and meticulously detailed psychopaths, I like the black humor, the white humor, the murky grayish humor that stands as the result of wearing a tutu during one of the games more somber cut scenes. I like drop kicking zombies, burning zombies, freezing zombies, slicing zombies, running over zombies on a motorcycle with chainsaws attached to its handlebars. I like the over-the-top American Gladiator meets Thunderdome online mode. I like that in the midst of all this insanity you can take Chucks daughter a present and I swear to GOD if you do the same and it doesn’t get you all misty, you’re not a human being.
Unrealistically high hopes aside, Dead Rising 2 is a fantastically fun game that I will continue to play until zombie fever grips me in that special way that makes me horde canned food in preparation for the inevitable zombocalypse. Yes, I would have preferred something slightly more ambition than a steroid addled version of the original game, and yes, I would have really really really liked it if the save system had been improved, but it’s really hard to make lofty complaints about the state of the video game industry while I’m driving a wheelchair with machine guns attached to it.
I amateurishly unbox Dead Rising 2: Zombrex Edition