A fuzzy video shot with a handheld camera hinted at it Friday, and Capcom made it official on Monday: “Dead Rising 2” is on the way. There’s no release date yet, but the shambling, free-roaming zombie title will trade the first game’s shopping mall setting for a Vegas/Reno-like gambling town called Fortune City.
In a smart move by Capcom and developer Blue Castle Games, the sequel won’t star photojournalist Frank West, and its events occur several years after the original zombie outbreak in the fictional burg of Wilamette, Colo. By this point, the zombie virus that Frank helped expose in the first game has apparently become a fact of life.
The shift in characters and location makes sense, given the events of the first “Dead Rising,” which ended with Frank exposing a massive conspiracy and, depending on which ending you got, succumbing to the zombie virus himself. They also allow sort of a soft-reboot for the series, giving Capcom a chance to review some of the first game’s design decisions.
The first “Dead Rising” has become one of the current console generation’s most underrated games. The very definition of a punishing, love-it-or-hate-it game “Dead Rising’s” timed structure and rigid save system polarized gamers. We’re all used to being able to take as long as we want to fulfill a given objective. And if we decide that we don’t like where our “Fallout 3” game has gone, well, it’s not too much trouble to just load an old save and pretend the past two hours of regrettable decisions never happened.
“Dead Rising,” though, turned these conventions on their head. For starters, the whole game took place in a matter of days, with key plot points unfolding at specific times. If you’re supposed to meet one of Frank’s sources at a specific location and time, well, you’d better be there or it’s “Game Over.” It’s a nice change of pace from being told in a game like “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” that you need to hurry up and save the world, while you know full well the world will wait around for you to save it when you’re good and ready.
With the clock running the whole game, “Dead Rising” forced you to make quick decisions. To give these decisions weight, Capcom limited you to one save slot per data storage device. In other words, you had to think carefully each time you saved whether it was worth locking in all the decisions you’d made since the last time you saved.
To counterbalance that punishing, live-by-your-choices structure, Capcom made it so that you could start the game over at any time but keep all your accumulated stats. In other words, “Dead Rising” was meant to be played mutliple times. There was little point in fully exploring the mall or in mastering everything the first time out.
You can probably tell which side I come down on. Despite only really playing through the game once, I’ve held onto it with the intent of going back. While “Dead Rising” is by no means a perfect game, I love Capcom for making some gutsy design decisions and sticking by them.
But that doesn’t mean we need to play the same exact game again, a trap too many game sequels are guilty of falling into. While I’d like to see the timed structure return for “Dead Rising 2” (as well as be used in more games in general), the sequel needs a game mode that lets you just roam around the game world, beating on zombies with whatever implements are at hand. That basic activity was one of the elements that made the first game click, yet there was never any time to sit back and enjoy it. There was always another survivor to rescue. While you did unlock a more open-ended survival-style mode after finishing the game, your health ticked down to zero, forcing you to eat to stay alive.
Additionally, the controls for aiming your gun and shooting were beyond frustrating, and while the camera elements of the game were a blast, it’s looking like the game won’t star a journalist this time out. That’s just as well. Frank’s had his day in the sun. Now it’s someone else’s turn.