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Hands on with Dead Rising 2

If you’ve played the first Dead Rising game, then you’ll know that it’s a game that rewards patience. It was brilliant – the first game to capture the shambling, satirical terror of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. But the first time you play it, you’re a plodding, underpowered everyman, who can barely bat off the pesky zombies that lunge relentlessly for his arteries.

That’s because Dead Rising did things differently – it was a short game that you weren’t supposed to complete and put back on the shelf. Dead Rising wanted you to perfect it. So, unless you were impossibly lucky, you wouldn’t have got anything like a good ending on your first run through. But every scrap of progress you made was stored, making you stronger. And every time you ran through that food court, you’d be a little bit more efficient, learning what the best food was, where the best weapons were, and exactly what you could get away with when running through a crowd of vicious zombies.

We went to the Vancouver offices of Blue Castle Games to play the sequel: the new elements of the story mode (including the first explicit reassurances that there would actually BE a story mode), the hush-hush co-op mode, and the fast-paced four-player minigame fun that is Terror Is Reality. We also experienced more of the weapons that make the second game unique – combo cards that let you know which weapons can be combined in the workshops, to produce comical and powerful super-weapons. There were a number of questions nagging in our minds...

Would Dead Rising 2 stay true to the intense, stressful terror of the first game? Would all those brilliantly ridiculous weapons ruin the tension? Is the new hero, Chuck Greene, going to be more fun than old grunty-chops, Frank West? And the question that everyone in forums across the world has been asking – have you sorted out the saving system?

First up, let’s talk about Chuck. He’s a family man, who’s brought his family to Fortune City to take part in the Terror Is Reality gameshow. Humanity, you see, hasn’t reacted with much class to the zombie menace – a game show based around the ritual humiliation and slaughter of the zombies has become insanely popular. Chuck’s a gifted motorcyclist, and the game show’s finale, Slicecycles, involves riding a bike with chainsaws strapped to the frame through crowds of thousands of zombies. Yes, it’s disgusting. And yes, you will be able to play it – but more on that later.

The old hero, Frank, was a photographer. However, Chuck’s a handyman. He’s a dab hand with the gaffer tape, and can combine fairly innocent looking items to lethal (and comical) effect. We managed to combine a teddy bear with a light machine gun, to fashion an unlikely turret. Put a fire extinguisher onto a water pistol and you’ve got a fairly harmless snowball gun. Add a fuel can, though, and you’ve got a fairly lethal flamethrower to play with.

You can’t combine everything, of course – weapons with awrench iconindicate that they have some higher purpose. And not every combo-weapon makes sense, either. A box of nails and a wheelchair won’t win you any victims. But a box of nails and a baseball bat – well, that’ll buy you a quick path through a small crown of zombies. And wire up a battery to that wheelchair, and you’ve suddenly got yourself a portable execution machine.

This is Frank’s specialty, so it’s how he gets stronger. Dead Rising’s experience system is Prestige Points. Where photographer Frank earned his bonus PP from taking dramatic, sexy, or funny pictures, Frank earns this from dispatching zombies in cruel and unusual ways. The more PP he earns, the more weapons he can carry, the more HP he gets, the faster he runs, and the more special moves he picks up.