As the industry shifts away from physical media, we are seeing an increasing amount of games which straddle the aesthetics of a full-priced retail release with the abridged play-time common for digital downloads. One notable example of this transition was Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, a stand-alone package which functioned as an prologue to the main, disk-based excursion through Fortune City. Hoping to duplicate the success of the broadband-delivered title, Capcom’s Dead Rising 2: Case West offers players yet another opportunity to rummage through the undead-overrun landscape- this time with some remarkable improvements to the familiar formula.
As the DLC’s moniker suggests, the epilogue brings back original protagonist Frank West. The famed photojournalist comes to the aid of Dead Rising 2‘s Chuck Greene, initiating the type of uneasy relationship common to countless cop/buddy films. Despite the duo’s mutual distrust of one another, they do share a common interest: the adjacent Phenotrans facility. At the plant, both Frank’s aspiration of uncovering the origins of the zombie outbreak and Chuck’s effort to clear his name dovetail, making for a satisfying journey. Predictably, the game’s one narrative fault lay in its conclusion. Like past entries, Case West offers a minimal sense of closure, opting to set things up for the inevitable sequel.
As players traverse the trio of cases with an online acquaintance or an AI partner (no local co-op is offered), they’ll notice a few simplifications. Money has been excised from Case West‘s landscape, eliminating the need to ransack cash registers. Survivors within the facility are familiar with the environment, mercifully forgoing the need to escort each person to safety. Players accustomed to the frantic Zombrex collecting or timed missions of earlier Dead Rising franchises, should appreciate Case West‘s relaxed pace. The game even grants players short reprieves to spend exploring or shattering zombie heads wide open. Yet, the game’s wisest change is eliminating the need to vigilantly babysit your teammate- Frank West has inexhaustible heath and manages to be an asset to the single player. Seeing the photographer confidently attack the game’s behemoth last boss is certain to improve the Mr. West tepid reputation with players.
Returning from Dead Rising 2 are the weapon combinations cards and accompanying maintenance rooms which allow players to engineer a selection of fantastical zombie-killing devices. While there’s an assortment of new armaments which allow players to blast the undead into a soggy pulp, there’s also a few holdovers from the last game. As in Dead Rising 2, the improvised artilleries grant players extra experience points, making them a requisite task for games seeking to elevate Chuck to his initial forty level to the fifty level cap. A handful of new enemies provide ideal fodder for the new weapons. From assault rifle-toting security guards to biohazard suit-wearing Zombie wranglers, humans are often more lethal than the reanimated mobs.
Like previous games, Case West‘s gratification emanates from using the game’s myriad of items to subdue the masses- from electric prods, sex toys, and Super Soakers, the environments are teaming with makeshift weaponry. Combat still has its occasional quirks: from not knowing the durability of some offensive hardware to inadvertently swatting West, Dead Rising‘s habitual imprecision is evident. While the game still requires intermittent loads between areas, the pauses are shorter than its predecessor’s interruptions.
Although Dead Rising 2: Case West is twice the price of Case Zero, the addition of online co-op and a number of beneficial tweaks makes the title much more satisfying that the game’s prologue. Players who grew intolerant of the thankless escort missions and turbulent dashes of previous franchise just might find the return of Frank West to their liking.