Dead Rising 2: Case West Review

Before the release of Dead Rising 2, Capcom let out Case Zero, a download-only prequel that was kind of an amped-up demo to give players a bit of a taste of the changes to the Dead Rising franchise for the sequel. Case Zero was a massive success and a great, if short, little DR 2 offering at about $5.


Dead Rising 2: Case West (XBox360 [Reviewed])
Developer: Blue Castle Games
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: December 27, 2010
MSRP: $10

Dead Rising 2: Case West works off the same idea, but it’s more of an epilogue or extension to the main game. It takes place pretty much right after the events of Dead Rising 2, although exactly how the story matches up (at least with the “best” ending to that game) isn’t 100 percent clear. Either way, DR 2′s protagonist Chuck, who was framed during that game as being responsible for the zombie outbreak in fictional Fortune City, joins up with DR 1′s protagonist Frank West, a photojournalist trying to find out what really happened there. The pair heads out to a facility controlled by the pharmaceutical company Phenotrans, which produces the anti-zombification drug Zombrex, in search of information.

There are two main characters because Case West is primarily designed to be a co-op game (although it only works online, not locally), and even if you play it in single-player mode, you’ll have Frank accompanying you all the way through. Playing the single-player game is fine, but not nearly as satisfying (0r as challenging) as attacking it with a friend.

Like Case Zero, Case West all takes place in an enclosed, zombie-filled area that you’ll be running back and forth in for the duration of the experience. They’re both downloadable titles that stand alone from Dead Rising 2 and so don’t need the disc to go with it, but Case West doesn’t carry any stats over from those two games if you’ve already played them.

Where Case Zero was a single town in which you were sprinting back and forth, finding people and gathering items, Case West is a large building with different sections, similarly teeming with zombies and people who need saving. You’ll bounce back and forth between each of the sections, dodging or thrashing the undead with all manner of weapons scattered throughout the facility.

Case West brings back the combo weapon system developed in Case Zero and DR 2, adding in a few new ones that you can make with the items you have on hand. If you played the previous games, you’ll have no trouble picking up right where you left off, and most of the maintenance rooms, in which you’ll do your weapon combining, have the items you need available for your use.

Because this is a smaller game than the full Dead Rising 2, you’ll only have access to a few combo weapons. There’s more here than was available in Case Zero because you’ll get a few weapons we saw in DR 2 to compliment the brand new combinations. Combos are easier to make this time around since some items do double-duty and there are fewer base weapons, so in all it seems like the combo system is more fun in Case West than Case Zero. Lots of the new weapons are as underpowered as they were in that game, though.

For all the similarities to Case Zero and the mothership, DR 2, though, Dead Rising 2: Case West is a different game in many respects, for better or worse. Unlike Fortune City, where Chuck is working as much to survive and save the lives of his fellow lost humans as anything, Case West is Chuck on a mission, behind enemy lines. His daughter is missing from the picture and all the more compassionate, desperate parts of his character and motivation are gone.

The different tone of the game is apparent almost immediately as you run into Phenotrans security guards, who open fire on you despite the zombies wandering toward them from all directions. The open nature of the facility — it’s like a partitioned warehouse, with catwalks creating an entire second level — means enemies on different floors and in different sections can still spot and blast you. You’ll also encounter Zombie Handlers humans, who run around in clean suits with cattle prods.

The human enemies change the whole feel of Case West. Instead of primarily fighting zombies, you’ll find yourself much more concerned about the direction from which gunfire is emanating. Security guards have to be ignored a lot of the time and yet are extremely annoying to bypass, because they usually¬†will not stop shooting at you. Running around the building means hiding from security forces as much as killing zombies in your way, and there will be number of times when you’ll have to capture an objective by taking down human enemies standing guard.

Also different this time around, and changed for the first time in Dead Rising ever, are the survivor-saving missions. Whenever you encounter a survivor, you can save them to earn a PP (read: experience) bonus and a notch toward a better ending and an achievement. In previous iterations of Dead Rising, you were tasked with helping people however they needed to be helped (Case Zero had survivors who demanded booze, weapons, and to be carried), and then with escorting them back to a safe location. In Case West, the escort portion is gone altogether; satisfy the save conditions each survivor gives you, and you’re done with them.

The lack of escort missions seriously alters the dynamic of the game, because you spend so much time getting people back to safety in all the other DR games. While escorting in those games can be a little irritating (although it was seriously tweaked for the better in DR 2), without it, Case West actually suffers from a few problems and one big missed opportunity. I’d never thought I’d say this, but Case West really needed more escort missions.

Here’s why: for one, in a co-op game like this one, the escorting portion of Dead Rising takes on a whole new meaning. There was co-op in DR 2, but this is a game designed specifically from the ground up to be about cooperation — and what better way to add depth and challenge than to demand two players rely on each other to save other survivors? This is exactly the game to include tough escort challenges that require things like tandem carrying of injured people, or one player clearing a path for the other, or any number of other possibilities. Why escorting was left out here, after it has been a staple of Dead Rising play since the beginning, is a little bit baffling.

The lack of escorting also has the effect of throwing off the pacing of the game in a pretty painful way. Dead Rising is always about time management — you have a certain amount of time to complete each event, and deciding which objective to complete and when is part of the strategy of the game — but Case West suffers from a lot of downtime, especially for a game that lasts only three hours. You’ll be working through the main missions, known as Cases, but there’s never a point when you don’t have a ton of time to complete any given objective. Even if you waste time getting all the game’s collectibles and achievements, as well as rescue all nine survivors at their appointed times, you’d be hard-pressed not to finish every objective and complete the game.

So what you’re left with are a lot of really simple, easily completed objectives, and then waiting for the next objective to start. A lot of time is wasted just wandering the facility, hoping to run across one of the survivors (there’s not much of a system for being told where to look for them), and then hauling ass back to base to receive a new set of instructions. Without escorting, Case West feels like it doesn’t have enough going on, and that’s especially true if you’ve got another human being helping you get things done.

There are some other minor annoyances, too. For one, the Phenotrans facility isn’t nearly as smartly laid out as Fortune City or Case Zero’s Still Creek, and a lot of it looks the same and can get confusing. The bland map doesn’t help much either, and the Guide Arrow, which leads you toward your next objective, actually gets lost as often as not. The honeycomb-like Holding Pen section of the map seems to confuse the arrow mightily, and in other places it’ll guide you up a set of stairs and across a catwalk, only to come back down on the other side and continue down the hall. What was the point of the digression to the second floor?

Case West does offer a lot of zombie-killing fun and, in some ways, is a step forward in terms of Dead Rising’s evolution; it successfully trades a lot of the zaniness and camp for a darker and more serious tone, although the game does a good job of maintaining the elements that fans love about it (I played my entire run with Chuck dressed as Dr. Wily). ¬†But it goes for 800 Microsoft Points on Xbox 360 or $9.99 on the Playstation Network, and it doesn’t feel like it’s up to the challenge of demanding a whole 10 bucks — especially when Case Zero cost half as much and was, in many ways, a sharper and smarter game.

With a friend on-hand and a need to extend your zombie-squashing mayhem of Dead Rising 2, Case West is a pretty good fix. Alone, however, it’s not especially compelling, feels overly short for the price, and lacks challenge in many places (computer-controlled Frank West can’t die, so he makes an effective human shield). You’ll be disappointed if you expect a repeat of the tight play and value of Case Zero.

Pros:

  • Strong zombie-squashing co-op experience
  • Feels like a step forward in the evolution of Dead Rising
  • Some cool new combo weapons, like the laser gun
  • Extends the Dead Rising 2 experience and the story
  • Achievements add some replay value

Cons:

  • Lack of escort missions throws off pacing, leaving you with a lot of downtime
  • Game’s layout isn’t as good as past iterations of Dead Rising — you’ll get lost a lot
  • Feels overpriced for the 2.5 to 3 hours of content you’ll receive
  • Story’s not too interesting or compelling; not really all that engaging to play alone
  • Not a lot of reason to revisit the game once you’ve finished it

Final Score: 72

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