Capcom has been very successful extending their popular franchises through forays into the land of digitally distributed games this console generation - the retro remake polish of Bionic Commando Rearmed and Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix immediately spring to mind. The publisher's latest entry, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, is something very different.
Rather than being an HD reboot, Case Zero is a bite sized prequel to Dead Rising 2, giving players a taste of what's in store for them in the retail release at a discount prize. This approach allows diehard fans to get into the action early, and gives casual players the ability to crush hordes of zombies without the need to shell out for Dead Rising 2. With that in the mind, those who didn't enjoy Dead Rising's uniquely oppressive style in the past will want to avoid Case Zero.
Players take control of Chuck Greene, who replaces Frank West as the series' protagonist, in his quest to escape the zombie infestation. While pulling over for gas on the outskirts of Las Vegas, Greene's truck is stolen, leaving him and his young daughter Katie stranded amongst the undead. The situation is further complicated by the loss of Katie's medicine, Zombrex, that temporarily prevents her from becoming a zombie after being bitten by one. It's a race against the clock as Greene is forced to find medicine and a way out of town before the military quarantine begins.
Speaking of the clock, Dead Rising has made its name on the oppressive design choices - such as the ticking clock and infrequent save points - that force players into difficult situations in the name of a tense environment. Case Zero is no exception. The ticking clock can take some time, maybe even a couple playthroughs, to wrap your head around, because Dead Rising presents itself as a typical sandbox game where messing around in the world is the norm. Ultimately, the clock serves its purpose of keeping the player constantly on their toes and moving the story forward.
Dead Rising 2: Case Zero's bread and butter remains mowing down zombies, a lot of zombies. The combat largely remains unchanged from the original, except for the new weapon customization options available. Players can use Chuck's engineering skills to combine certain weapons throughout the environment into extremely deadly tools of dismemberment - such as a spiked bat, pitchfork shotgun and electric rake. Unfortunately, the customization is limited to a small set of predetermined combinations. Aside from that, the core combat can get fairly repetitive, but somehow killing the undead never completely loses its charm.
Once the initial set-up chapters are finished, the missions unfold in a spontaneous way. By walking around the environment, you'll stumble upon survivors who send you on a series of interconnected quests to reach your end objective. The missions are a little too straightforward, largely consisting of fetching an item or escorting a survivor to safety, but the interconnected nature of each survivor ensures you'll always have something to do.
The secret of Dead Rising is that, no matter how hard you try, you won't be able to finish everything in one playthrough. Unless you know exactly where to go and what to do from the start, there's generally more missions and objectives to handle in one sitting. The multiple end scenarios, based on which missions you decide to complete, give Case Zero additional replay value, as players try to see each conclusion. Fortunately, your stats and level progress carry over, so each additional attempt doesn't feel too tedious. These same stats also carry over into Dead Rising 2 for extra motivation.
In terms of presentation, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero it gets the job done, but doesn't stand out in any major way. The visuals are a slight improvement from the original, but the character models and voice syncing, particularly in the cutscenes, lag far behind the industry leaders. The load times are another drawback. A load is required each time you come and go from your make shift shelter, which greatly slows down the otherwise frantic pace throughout the game.
Dead Rising 2: Case Zero is an interesting approach to downloadable content. While some would say it's simply a paid demo, there is a substantial amount of unique content in this package. Case Zero is absolutely tailored for fans of the series, who will enjoy the context delivered for Dead Rising 2, as well as the carry over stats. In addition, the game is well suited for casual fans, those somewhat interested in the concept, as Case Zero provides a few hours of entertainment for a discount price.