Dead Rising isn’t a difficult series to understand. Some games reveal their charms slowly, reeling you back in for one more go even as you struggle to discern the source of your fascination. But the appeal of Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2 was predicated upon far less subtle activities: jamming a pair of scissors into a zombie’s eyes, for example, or electrocuting it with a specially modified rake; rending the undead limb from limb with samurai swords, battle axes and chainsaws; mowing down the shambling horde with automatic weapons, or, if you’re feeling particularly brave, squirting ketchup into their eyes while wearing a dress and a fright wig.
The ability to enjoy Dead Rising is inextricably tied to the appeal of such activities, and as they begin to lose their shine, so too does the game. This is Dead Rising 2: Case West’s greatest strength and most telling weakness: if you have any interest in zombie apocalypses you will have already spent time in Capcom’s macabre playground, and fully understand just how far its grim charms work for you.
As in every game in the series there are cases to solve, survivors to rescue, an idiosyncratic save system to wrap your head around, and a strict schedule telling you where to be and when. But these are mere window-dressing, because it’s really all about the zombies, the myriad different ways they can be maimed, disfigured and dissected, and just how much that revs your engine.
This is a particular problem here because, where Dead Rising was set in a shopping mall, and Dead Rising 2 was set in a facsimile of Las Vegas, and Dead Rising 2: Case Zero , the previous DLC, was set in a dusty town in the Nevada desert, Case West is set in a warehouse. That’s right: a warehouse; one of the most tired environmental concepts in videogames, familiar to all from those levels where the design team simply couldn’t be bothered to find a more original idea.
The structure of the gameplay simply can’t support such a dull location, and as you zip back and forth across the same bland areas it’s difficult not to wonder how this glaring dearth of imagination was even possible. Killing zombies is as satisfying as it ever was, of course, but rather than doing so in bowling alleys, fancy dress shops, lavishly themed casinos and multiplex cinemas, you’ll be icing the undead in cafeterias, loading bays, and, er, shipping offices. Variety is essential to Dead Rising’s strange brew, so why on Earth was it neglected on such a fundamental level?
The oversight is all the more grating when you consider Case West’s secret weapon: Frank West, Dead Rising’s no-nonsense photo-journalist. The opportunity to unite Chuck Greene with his progenitor for a bit of the old ultra-violence is an enticing prospect, and the drab surroundings never fully undermine the resulting sense of fun. Even more gratifying is the re-introduction of Dead Rising’s photography mechanic, so now you can take a picture of the zombie after you’ve jammed scissors in its eyes – just make sure you pull focus away from the background.
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