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