Dead Rising 2: Case Zero – Review

Dead Rising 2 is still a month away from us, but Capcom has given gamers a piece of the action by offering up “Case Zero,” an Xbox Live Arcade exclusive paid demo. While the paid part may put people off, you can rest a little easier knowing that Capcom has included quality within this download to make the $5 price tag worth it.

The demo starts with Chuck Greene, the new protagonist, driving into (the ending of Terminator) the town of Still Creek. He exits and takes a quick look around before giving his daughter, Kate, some medicine. Right off the bat this demo establishes a more personal character than Frank West and at least gives the zombocalypse a more threatening feeling.

When Chuck and Kate exit the vehicle and enter a nearby gas station, Chuck’s truck gets stolen. Probably feeling like an idiot, Chuck steps outside for a bit before noticing a swarm of zombies coming in. He takes his daughter and immediately barricades the gas station (I wish all survivors were this smart).

That’s the whole premise behind the story and what comes after is the generic style of Dead Rising gameplay that the first game was made famous for. There are plenty of zombies to kill and a few survivors to save. While nothing in the formula has changed, the additions to combat and the improved path finding for AI partners makes the experience go down a little easier.

For starters, you can aim and move. Holy shit, Capcom finally learned! Even if the reticule is a bit wonky and the movement feels jerky, at least it’s better than standing like a moron and waiting for bullets to hit you. There’s still no cover system, but then again, zombies don’t fire back.

Another neat addition is the whole “Combo Card” system. You now have the ability to take two items (symbolized with wrenches above their names) and combine them on various work benches to make new weapons. Some hilarious concoctions are the Chainsaw Paddle, the Air Horn and the Beer Hat. Not only do the items have increased durability (and general hilarity factor), but they free up extra space in your inventory and even provide bonus experience per kill.

Speaking about experience, you’re only able to level up to 5 in this demo (a feat which can be accomplished in a little over 1 playthrough). The benefit to leveling up in this demo is being able to take these 5 levels with you into Dead Rising 2. You also receive the recipes for some of the combo cards along the way.

These additions make the game definitely feel like it has more to offer than the first, but the actual objectives still remain the same. Your mission in this demo is to rebuild a bike and then escape the town. Along the way, you run into survivors and can save them. One of my nagging issues with the first game was how pathetically stupid the AI on the survivors was.

It seems Capcom realized that. I never once experienced frustration in trying to save anyone in the demo. They joined my party and followed me diligently. They even attacked zombies and would run away if outnumbered. The path finding problems are just gone. You can point and press Y to tell survivors to stay and it doesn’t end up in another dead person (as opposed to the first game).

There isn’t a large selection of weapons in the demo, but they definitely are fun to toy with. You get 3 different guns and about 20 melee weapons, along with the combo cards. My favorite has to be the Lawn Dart, but the classic Shower Head and even a Moose Hat make an appearance. Every weapon still only has 2 functions; you either press X or hold X. It can be rather bland to some, but mowing down zombies doesn’t really need much in the way of a combo system. The guns are more practical now thanks to the improved aiming functions, at least, so everything is a viable option in an emergency.

Control wise, Chuck feels funky at first. Frank was very fast and you always felt like you had great control of him. He never slowed down or had a strange hook to the left. Chuck just moves slowly. It’s very clunky at first, even. Once you put a few minutes into him, though, it’s not too bad.

I can’t say it’s great (random zombie attacks still happen, especially when swinging a weapon and missing), but Chuck isn’t the worst thing around. At least the inventory remains the same from the first game. Attack is still relegated to the X button, A for jumping, Y for survivor management and B or item pick up. Weapons still break and books are still around to increase their capacity. There is one short segment of a motorcycle and it is easily one of the most broken things I’ve ever controlled. Terrible steering and no ability to rotate the camera, but it only lasts for a minute, so it can be tolerated.

As for graphics, I’m a bit mixed towards them. The character models don’t look bad and they animate well, but there are a lot of issues with screen tearing and general slowdown. Nothing really gets in the way, but it lacks a lot of polish. It’s great that Capcom can fit 1,000 zombies on screen at once (or so their claim is, I only saw a few hundred), but the game doesn’t perform well under duress. This could potentially be a problem in the full game, especially with all the background ambience of Vegas.

The actual story aspect of this demo is where it comes up short. Case Zero is supposed to represent a side-story in-between Dead Rising 1 and 2. It actually just acts as an extra case for 2 and provides little to no information on who Chuck Greene is or why he’s even heading into Vegas. Worse yet, fans wanting to know what happens to Frank will be left in the cold.

The game culminates in a decent boss battle though (even if it is a bit difficult), but you still have no idea why anything is happening. I guess Capcom is banking on people having played the first. Like I mentioned, Chuck is more relatable as he has a personal reason to hate this outbreak (and one reference is made to his wife), but there is no true drive to this story or any reason for its existence other than for Capcom to make money.

There are multiple endings, but it’s mainly just failing the story. I’ve only found two, but I can think of another potential two that exist. Honestly, though, it’s not worth it to go out of your way just to fail. There is replay factor (I suppose), but it’s not a deal breaker/maker.

Even with that fault, “Case Zero” is a very fun diversion for gamers. It may not be perfect, but it provides exactly what Capcom stated; a demo. You don’t need to pay the $5 to play (you can simply download the trial version), but if you want to keep you stats (and earn a rather easy 200 gamerscore), you’ll need to pony up.

And for $5, a demo that lasts around 2 hours and even provides you achievements is perfect. It certainly isn’t the best Live Arcade game around, but Dead Rising fans have no reason to pass on this. If you’re new to the entire franchise, you’re probably better off getting the first game for cheap now. But give the trial a shot; that is a free download and will show you exactly the same content (there may actually be a limit, I didn’t bother with checking).

Score: 7.5 out of 10

Why Video Games Beat Hollywood Action

Sylvester Stallone will never learn when to give up. At the roaring age of 64, Stallone has created countless sequels to classic movies that have tarnished the original idea. He’s also written and directed his fair share of disasters and starred in a porno.

But Stallone is still kicking. His most recent train wreck, “The Expendables,” proved one thing to me; video games beat recent Hollywood action films. Throughout the entire movie, aside from trying to figure out who was punching whom, I had flashes of the brilliance I’ve played in games over the years.

The fights made me think Street Fighter is awesome. The plane scene made me remember Battlefield 1942. Hell, the explosions made me think of the intensity and visceral joy of Uncharted 2. All of these games last for much longer than the 2 hours of Expendables and they’re a hell of a lot more enjoyable.

I’m not sure if this is just because of Stallone’s inability to direct and write, or whether video games are just more enjoyable because you’re interacting with them. Something just seems more pleasing when virtual fists are trading hits and you’re behind it all.

It could possibly be the rotten characters. Recent action cinema has taken a turn for “old-school.” What I mean by that is everything is trying to be as cheesy as possible. Plots consist of, “You took my woman,” or, “I’m no hero.” The action is completely over the top and, in most cases, poorly edited to look like jump cuts.

While Uncharted doesn’t have a deep plot, at least it has something that isn’t a dead give-away. Hell, even Gears of War has a plot that is more involved (well, 2 does). Whatever happened to chivalry, or fighting for something you believe in? A human element really drives home insane destruction.

To even look at a more ludicrous game, Red Faction: Guerrilla is hilarious fun. Action movies don’t go as far as this game does, but everything is in your hands and for your enjoyment. You see a building that looked at you the wrong way and it’s gone. How about that bridge? DONE!

Stallone’s film might have also benefited if there was any decent acting. Obviously Stallone knows how to act (the last scene of First Blood is just awe inspiring), but where does his talent disappear to? Statham just plays Statham, a rather over rated and irritating guy. Jet Li plays a particularly good sport to the fact that he could rip everyone in half.

It’s all very cold and no connections are made to the actor’s fates. Statham has some love interest, but he’s shown winning her over by beating the piss out of 5 guys. That will certainly work. Hell, Terry Crews and Randy Couture don’t even appear in more than half of the film. I don’t even know who they are.

And yet video games have been increasing their talent over the recent years. Mark Hamill has given some surprisingly good voice work to recent Batman games and Darksiders. Johnny Young Bosche plays a very good Nero in Devil May Cry 4. Nolan North has become the defacto hero man after his great role as Drake in Uncharted.

Of course games have bad actors, but the really great roles and the general interactivity balance the ugly out. Who cares if your hero sounds like generic man A (I’m looking at you Prototype and inFamous)? When you can pick up cars or unload on armies of the undead, you don’t really need that much in the way of charisma.

As it stands, action movies just don’t do it anymore. Unless you’re making a well edited and stylistic film like “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World,” don’t even bother. Video games have you beat and I’m sure they’ll continue to get better and more action packed. I think Hollywood should just leave the action to the professionals, or at least the Chinese. They’ve known it better for the past 40 years, anyway.

First Impression – Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (Game)

To start off, I have no real idea what Scott Pilgrim is. I’ve heard of the movie, but I never knew about the comic. It was a safe bet to assume a comic existed (why else would any movie be made?), but I just don’t know anything about comic books.

So even though I think the movie looks decent, I was getting excited this week for that release. I knew the video game was hitting the PS Store and the preview I saw from E3 had me stoked. Old School Beat Em Ups are back, baby!

Right from the onset of the demo, my friend and I were stunned by what we saw. A hilarious and short cutscene that explained what Scott was doing and who he was doing it for. Apparently Ramona is to kill for.

So when we pressed start, we laughed even more at the “Super Mario World” inspired overworld. There were even warp pipes! That aside, clicking X on the first level didn’t prepare us for the awesome we were about to digest.

The music in this game is just…wow! It’s chiptune, but in a style similar to NES games. It definitely gives me nostalgic memories of playing Mario, Zelda and even that craptastic Crash Test Dummies game. It fits perfectly into the retro motif that Ubisoft went for.

The co-op play allows you to choose from one of four different characters, all based on the comic’s “Sex Bomb-Omb” Band. You get Scott, Ramona, Stiles and Kim. Each character has a different feel and even different unlockable combos and special attacks (think Streets of Rage’s C specials).

The controls are leaps and bounds above old-school Beat Em Ups (not to say that this is better). You have two attacks (Jab and Heavy), a jump and a block button (to my knowledge, I can only think of 1 previous game with a guard). You can string together combos and juggle enemies when you get multiple people in corners.

Not going too retro, though, Scott Pilgrim also allows leveling up (something that Castle Crashers showed can be fun). Leveling up allows even more combos to unlock, along with grabs, throws and the essential “Back Attack.”

Progressing through the first level, the enemy types are decently varied. You have the basic grunts, some heavier guys that require brute force and even mini-boss-esque baddies that will take a pounding before dropping (these types get much more varied in later stages).

After killing enemies, you are given coins (in the form of Canadian currency, for fans of the comic) that can be redeemed for health items and extra lives. This gives the game the classic Mario style of collecting coins along with the more modern/RPG style of loot drops. It makes for an interesting game when you have no lives left, but a crap ton of money.

Dying is a rather interesting affair. Taking another cue from Castle Crashers, you are given the ability to resuscitate your fallen comrades by walking over them and pressing O. Even if your buddies do spend all of their lives, they can steal one of yours and continue to help.

One interesting addition is the existence of a “Special Meter.” Instead of wasting your HP to use Special Attacks (like Final Fight’s Jump/Attack combos), you are given another bar that will deplete over time after you spend the attack. If you decide not to waste this meter, then when your HP reaches 0, you are given about half of your life back (sometimes more) without dying.

Different difficulties exist, but we didn’t seem to fins “Supreme Master” too challenging. Even starting from square one, if you’re an old school fan, this will not be out of the question for you to pound through on Hard.

In short, this game is a blast. It works for numerous hours on end, as well. My friend and I put in about 4 hours before we were spent for the evening. The charm and character that this game has is just awesome.

The main downsides about this title are a lack of online co-op play and no ability to drop in/out mid-game. We also ran into a few crashing issues and glitches on Level 4, something that irked us quite a bit.

Still, for a $10 download, this game is a must for old-school fans. I’m not too sure if devotees to the novel will enjoy this, but seeing as how Scott Pilgrim is targeted towards old-school gamers, I’m sure you guys are covered.