It’s been years since the incident in Willamette (and Dead Rising 1, natch), and the zombie outbreak has been contained. The undead are rounded up to take part in a brutal pay-per-view spectacle called Terror is Reality, much to the chagrin of the zombie-rights group CURE. Caught in the middle is Chuck Greene, a former motocross champ who competes in Terror is Reality to support his daughter Katie, who needs a daily dose of the medication Zombrex to keep the virus inside of her dormant. Sounds like a lot has changed since the first Dead Rising, huh?
Well…not really. After a terrorist act breaks open the zombie pens in Fortune City (the replacement for Las Vegas after that city’s fall in its own outbreak) the nightmare begins again, sending thousands and thousands of slavering ghouls onto the streets of the city. Chuck and Katie find their way to a safehouse, whose only connection to the outside world is the ventilation system leading into a mall, where Chuck takes cues from Oti—I mean Stacey—guiding him towards survivors and other mission objectives.
To be perfectly frank, if you’ve played through Dead Rising, you know exactly what to expect from Dead Rising 2. Developer Blue Castle Games has stuck almost slavishly to the first game’s blueprint, with very little to innovate. The main difference stems from Chuck’s ability to combine items together to make powerful weapons, replacing Frank’s shutterbug abilities from the first game. While certainly less challenging than trying to line up the perfect camera shot in the thick of the zombie action, the combo system is no less fun when discovering new and creative ways to pulp your undead enemies, be it with a nail-studded baseball bat or with a flesh-chewing handheld lawnmower.
Where Dead Rising 2 truly sets itself apart from its predecessor, however, is in its multiplayer modes. Instead of merely tacking on the same tired deathmatch trope like many titles nowadays (I’m looking at you, Bioshock 2), Dead Rising 2 opts instead for a one-two punch of originality. First is the ability of the player to take part in a drop-in co-op mode, where players can join in on each other’s games on the fly and provide some much-appreciated assistance. The other mode, Terror is Reality, gives more competitive players something to gnaw on without merely resorting to deathmatch. Set in the pay-per-view event that Chuck takes part in, Terror is Reality pits four players against each other in four rounds of minigame goofiness, ranging from crushing zombies from inside giant hamster balls to dismembering the undead from behind the chainsaw handlebars of a motorcycle. It’s low commitment and a hell of a lot of fun, even when the matchmaking service tends to go belly up on you without warning.
When it all comes down to it, Dead Rising 2 has its audience, and it’s the exact same as those who played—and loved—Dead Rising. Blue Castle didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel (even with the surprising addition of multiplayer) , but just deliver more of the same with a few minor nips and tucks to keep the gameplay just fresh enough. Fans of the first game—and you know who you are—will likely be ecstatic.