Attempting to classify Dead Rising 2: Case Zero is a lesson in frustration. It is a demo for Dead Rising 2, but it isn't. It is a standalone game, but it isn't. It manages to the middle ground between getting you excited for Dead Rising 2 by giving you a taste of what to expect, but it also provides a separate story not found in the retail game out at the end of September. And for 400 MS Points, it is a tasty introduction. Some may dismiss it as a paid demo, but the original content provided here brings as much fun as you would expect the retail version to whilst providing you with a bit of backstory to the retail game.
Case Zero introduces you to Dead Rising 2's hero, Chuck Greene, a famous motocross racer who is trying to survive the zombie horde with his young daughter Katey. Unfortunately for Chuck, Katey was bitten by a zombie and is infected but not yet turned. To keep her in a human state, he must give Katey a shot of Zombrex every 12 hours. Even more unfortunately for Chuck, as he arrives in a small town, his truck is stolen which contained all of the Zombrex he had left. And so Chuck has to face the horde in hopes of finding some Zombrex for his daughter and a way to get out of Dodge before the military come.
The structure of the game is very similar to Dead Rising. You have a number of objectives you need to complete within a certain time limit. You have free rein to do whatever missions you like and as quick or as slow as you like. The ticking clock is still like an ominous countdown to failure but, thanks to the improved save system, if you manage time correctly, you have a much better chance of succeeding. Bathrooms are more widely available to save in and you now have three slots as opposed to one in which you can save your game, making rectifying mistakes much easier.
There are further game objectives in addition of that of saving your daughter's life and getting out of town; these come in the form of the lovely survivors. If you remember Dead Rising, you will remember how moronic those survivors were. You pretty much spent 90% of rescuing them, keeping zombies away from them as opposed to letting them fend for themselves with the weapon you gave them. Luckily, the AI seems to have been beefed up and this problem is no more. The main survivor for this game is Bob, who acts as a less annoying Otis in that he isn't pestering you to tell you about objectives ALL THE TIME. From his vantage point, he is able to see where survivors are and so you can go visit him when you feel like it to find out more.
The town in which the game takes place (I will not refer to it as a demo because it is so much more) is not too big. You can run from end to end in a few minutes but the fact that most, if not all, buildings can be explored means there is a lot here to search around in. You could find a way into the police station, find a snazzy suit in the department store, get drunk in the bar or grab a bow and arrow in the hunting store and use some shambling corpses for target practise. Because that's what Dead Rising is all about, beating the ever-loving crap out of the undead. And things haven't changed much here. Nearly everything can be used as a weapon; be it a gumball machine or a moose head, a broadsword or a pair of scissors. The addition here is that you can combine weapons. You can't just go wild and set a broadsword on fire, the combinations are already set out for you, but the fun in discovering these combos is all part of what makes this great. You can achieve combo cards, which boost the Prestige Points you gain with each weapon, but if you discover a combo before the card, you gain a scratch card which only provides a little extra PP. Any PP, clothing or combo cards gained in the game will carry over into the full Dead Rising 2.
Levelling up your character is as important as before, with new moves learnt, larger health and inventory spaces etc. but it's not as easy as beating up a load of zombies. These combo weapons are one of the few ways to do it. Heavy attacks can gain some but it's very minimal. This forces you to be creative about how you kill the zombies in order to max out the PP from your kills.
There are some problems with Case Zero which I'm going to guess will be present in the retail game. Loading times are just as ridiculous as in Dead Rising and it doesn't help that there seems to be a cutscene every 5 minutes. It isn't so bad on first playthrough but on the third or fourth (which is possible if you want to really max everything out) it can get a bit grating and can feel like you're wasting time in loading screens as opposed to killing. The second is that the psychopaths are still terribly annoying. They were one of the few things I really disliked about Dead Rising. They seem to have more of a tolerance for pain than a shambling corpse who can't even feel it. Even damaging them can be a menace, especially if they have ranged weapons like the one in Case Zero. This time, however, the psychopath’s motives are much clearer and they aren't just random people. These fleshed out characters do give you a reason to want to take them down.
By the looks of things, Dead Rising 2 is going to be everything Dead Rising was and more. The improvement, polish and few additions made make this a must for any Dead Rising fan. It's only 400 MS Points and it may seem like a glorified demo but there is more than enough content here that it could pass as a standalone game which, with its prologue like story and an entirely separate world, it might as well be.