Review supplied by Xbox World 360 magazine issue 97, which goes on sale this Tuesday, September 28 complete with 'Gore Wall' of Dead Rising 2's best weapon combos - WITH PICTURES! Buy it online here.
Bad news first: Dead Rising hasn't changed. It's still the same clunky, pop-up-packed jog through malls of stumbling zombies first introduced in 2006. In four years the series has failed to shake off its patchy controls and its worrying survivor AI. The awkward psychopath fights are as gummy as they were back in the days when Pluto was still a planet, while the imprecise item catchment areas (resulting in grabbing the wrong items at the worst moments) remain as bothersome as ever.
On to the good news, then, and it's this: Dead Rising hasn't changed baby! The first Dead Rising was never about tins of polish or mechanics wrenched tighter than Arsene Wenger's summer transfer budget. It was a toybox. A playground crammed with dozens of tools to gut and dismember the legions of undead shambling around Willamette Mall, plus scores more objects to just bat the zombies about for laughs. Nobody used the CD cases or the boomerangs or the baking powder to slay the shuffling corpses* - they used them to have fun. To bonk others on the head and watch their confused reactions. To dick about simply for the sake of dicking about. Some people liked holding the undead at bay with a chainsaw. We liked doing so with a baguette.
Despite packing scores of zombies onto its screens, Dead Rising wasn't the most technically gifted game on the 360 and it didn't need to be. Between skateboarding in and out of the lurching lugs and raiding the food court for burgers after losing three quarts of blood to a killer clown from outer space, Dead Rising delivered a medium-rare world of entertainment and topped it off with some special sauce in the form of an unexpected overtime mode.
And so does the sequel. Blue Castle Games has followed the original's recipe so religiously that their input in the game is completely transparent. Dead Rising 2 is the same as the first game. Everyman Frank West and the Willamette Mall have been traded up for Everyman Chuck Greene and Fortune City - but the changes prove to be purely cosmetic.
Fortune City is still essentially a donut-shaped arrangement of buildings with an open-air 'park' in the middle and the familiar maintenance tunnels deep underground. Chuck is still essentially the same clumsy fighter punching above his weight until he learns new moves, incapable of firing a gun accurately without reverting to the slow, over-the-shoulder shatto-view which leaves him vulnerable to bites on the bum.
He can mix drinks and collect bonus magazines like the best of 'em, and he can bark orders at survivors and carry weaklings to safety on his back. His health system, his inventory system and his mission systems are identical to the equivalent features in the first game. He's Frank West, re-skinned, minus the camera.
And it's good enough. Because it's been four years coming, Dead Rising 2 sates the Dead Rising craving with a reassuringly familiar retread of all the old favourites. Sinking into the sequel is like slipping on an old glove; one you haven't worn in far too long. The simple pleasures of ploughing through a crowd of zombies in a golf buggy while dressed in a lumberjack outfit or poking a rotting stripper in the face with foam fingers while wearing nought but a banana hammock aren't your everyday 360 experiences. For those kinds of kicks, we can excuse a few frayed edges.