I bought Dead Rising 2 on launch day, which was 2 weeks ago today. In that time, I've completed the game 5 times, gotten 41 of the 50 achievements, and pretty much done everything there is to do in the game (with the exception of multiplayer). I played the game on Xbox 360, but I suspect a lot of what I say below applies to the PC version as well. So here are my thoughts on the game:
When I first started playing this game, I was very, very frustrated. A year or so back I told myself that I would not play games in higher difficulties because most are a test of frustration than of any true skill. Because of this, I nearly stopped playing DR2. However, instead I decided to try one thing before giving up: ignoring the clock.
You see, in DR2 there is a clock ticking away in the background, counting down 72 in-game hours (each minute of which lasts about 10 seconds). During this countdown at specific intervals, missions will pop up that require you to either go through a story-based mission, or to save a survivor somewhere in Fortune City (a fictional, Las Vegas-like city). What I did was to ignore the main story missions, and only save what survivors I can get to.
Instead, I decided to focus on leveling up my character. In DR2, every zombie you kill, every interaction with the environment, every psychopath (optional, boss-type enemies) you kill nets you PP (Prestige Points). When you gain enough PP you will level up. Leveling up increases your characters stats, unlocks a new skill move, or unlocks a combo card (which details how to create specific combo weapons, explained below), very similar to many RPG's. The stats you gain are one of 5: Attack, Speed, Health, Item Slots, and Throw Range. Each of these can greatly increase your enjoyment of the game when leveled up high enough (especially the health and item slots stats).
Due to my focus on leveling up, I "completed" the game and got the C ending while being at level 38 (out of 50). On my second playthrough, things were much more manageable. I wasn't dying as often, I was getting to where I needed quicker, I was saving the survivors, I was killing zombies by the hundreds, and I was really having fun. I beat the game my second time and got the S ending (the best ending), saved every survivor, and unlocked a few achievements along the way.
For those of you who haven't played the original, DR2 takes place in what amounts to being a series of malls. In these malls are hundreds of objects, each of which can be picked up and used either as a weapon against the zombie hordes or as food to replenish your health. What DR2 does differently, however, is that it allows you to combine specific items together to create combo weapons. I think these combo weapons are the greatest thing about the game, as you'll randomly pick up items to try and see if they can be combined. You also get combo cards which detail how to create specific combo weapons (thereby reducing the guessing game a bit) by leveling up, saving survivors, or finding the cards hidden throughout Fortune City. Some of the combo weapons are outrageous, hilarious, and outright deadly. I won't spoil any of them, but trust me when I say that it's worth playing this game for the combo weapons alone.
In comparison to DR1, I'd say the game is easier (the psychopaths in the original were much harder, but the zombies are pretty much unchanged... for the most part), there is no camera component anymore (it was replaced by the combo weapons system, and to be honest I don't really miss it), and the story isn't as complex in DR2.
There are still some very frustrating things about DR2, however, that may turn off some gamers. These include:
- Exceptionally long load times
- You have to stop and aim to shoot or throw anything (similar to Resident Evil 5, another Capcom game)
- Any survivor you find, you have to take back to a safe house, which means many long treks across the entirety of the map for survivors in the opposite corner
- The timer for each mission is inconsistent with when it exactly wants you to be at the specified location (eg: sometimes it wants you there no sooner than an hour before, other times it wants you there asap and the timer continues counting down during the mission, and other times the timer doesn't matter and you have to wait until a phone call before the mission can start)
- Jump kicks and similar attacks can be hit or miss at random
As I was playing through the game, I couldn't help but think just how far behind Japanese developers are in comparison to western developers. Sure, DR2 is fun and addicting, but there is a level of polish that is apparent in many high-profile western games that is simply missing from a game like this. I know that DR2 was developed by Blue Castle Games, which is based in Canada, but the Japanese influence can clearly be felt (especially considering how little the gameplay changed from the original). For example, there is a loading sequence in between every section of Fortune City (of which there are 7), and since you're traveling between them many, many times throughout the game, the loading screen can start to really frustrate you. The shooting mechanics are also ancient in a post-Gears of War world. Also, for anyone who doesn't take the time to try and understand the clock system and plan out what they'll do in advance, the game can be unplayable. I really hope Japanese developers start to work more on making their games less frustrating, otherwise I think I'll skip out on any potential sequels.
Overall, I'd give the game a 4 out of 5, simply because the parts that work, work really well. I'm planning on playing the multiplayer more, playing through the main story once more in co-op, and unlocking all of the remaining achievements (including the "kill 72,000 zombies" achievement).