Fortune City, Nevada. A place where you can drink, gamble and puke yourself silly, twenty-four hours a day. A dazzling neon cathedral to capitalist excess with boutique shopping, fine dining and strip clubs. The American Dream personified. Or rather it was before the outbreak. Now the Silver Strip has been besieged by zombies. Thousands of shambling reanimated corpses have claimed the city, and you – along with 118 other survivors – are stuck in the middle.
You are Chuck Greene, loving father and slayer of zombies. You’re in Fortune City to appear in Terror Is Reality, a twisted TV show where contestants compete to kill as many zombies as they can on chainsaw-equipped motorcycles. But Chuck’s not doing it because he enjoys it – he’s doing it for Katey, his daughter. She’s been bitten by a zombie and needs a daily dose of an expensive drug called Zombrex; otherwise she’ll turn into one herself.
But things get really complicated when the Terror Is Reality zombies are mysteriously released from their cages and the city is almost instantly overrun. Chuck and Katey narrowly escape to a safe house where they learn that the military is coming to rescue survivors in 72 hours, and with that the game begins proper. Your main objective is securing Zombrex for Katey, but you’ll also be rescuing survivors, defeating psychopaths and, of course, killing lots and lots of the undead.
Dead Rising’s defining feature is how interactive the world is. Almost every object you see can be picked up and used as a weapon. The sheer amount of ways to kill zombies is overwhelming, and you’ll be constantly surprised by how seemingly innocuous objects can be used to end their non-lives. There are 300 types of object in the game, all of which have their own unique animations and reactions from the zombies you use them against.
But the really smart new feature in Dead Rising 2 is combining objects. Using workbenches scattered around the world, you can create obscene jerry-rigged weapons from scavenged odds and ends. Combine a baseball bat and a box of nails and you’ll end up with a painful-looking spiked bat. Stick a gas canister on a water gun and you’ve got yourself a flamethrower. And they just get more and more absurd. So much so that we don’t want to ruin them here – discovery is half the fun.
There are guns too, including pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and the like, but it’s rare you’ll ever favor them over the reliable, weighty heft of a sledgehammer or the instant-kill slice of a sharp blade. With so much ludicrous weaponry at your disposal, why would you ever choose to use a boring old pistol?
How you spend your time in Fortune City is up to you. The game takes place in pseudo-real-time, and meters on the HUD tell you when a particular objective – like, for example, Katey’s next Zombrex injection – has to be completed by. In the meantime you can do what you like: explore, gather weapons, locate survivors, defeat looters, torture zombies. Just keep your eye on the clock, because if you miss a major story mission it’s game over and you have to start all over again.
The game’s currency is PP, or prestige points, which are awarded for, well, pretty much everything. Killing zombies, saving people, reaching kill milestones (1000, 2000 etc.) and other things hidden in the environment, like playing slot machines, scoring a '7' on a giant craps table, bringing Katey back a toy as a gift between missions or playing strip poker with survivors in the safehouse. Everything you do yields PP, which rewards experimentation. It’s a clever design decision that makes you want to search every corner of the huge world map.