Zombies can represent all sorts of things, from a reminder of the horrors of mortality to an inescapable, shuffling doom. In Dead Rising 2, the hordes of animated corpses flooding Fortune City, Nevada fulfill these purposes, but they’re also the perfect guilt-free cannon fodder. Theoretically, they were human once, but now they’re shish waiting to be kabobbed, walking meat-piles prime for a thousand indignities. Since the invention of the form, videogames have been rife with faceless enemies ripe for the slaughter, but here, the endless waves are both a threat and an opportunity. Players can pound in heads using a wide variety of objects, or build weapons for more mayhem. Theoretically, using a propane tank covered in nails to crush a rotting fat man should get old eventually; in practice, eventually lasts a long time.
Former Motocross champion Chuck Greene isn’t doing so hot. His wife was killed during the Vegas zombie outbreak, and his daughter was bitten, so to provide her with the life-saving anti-zombie drug Zombrex, he has to risk his life on Terror Is Reality, a game show involving motorcycles, chainsaws, and the walking dead. But then something goes wrong, Fortune City is thrown into chaos, and Chuck and a small group of survivors have to hole up and wait for rescue. Problem is, Zombrex doesn’t grow on trees. Players guide Chuck through three days of scrounging, saving lives, and trying to figure out what went wrong. And since Fortune City is mostly one big mall, he has thousands of potential weapons at his fingertips.
Much of the fun of Dead Rising 2 comes from finding new ways to massacre foes. As in the first game, a time limit drives Chuck from mission to mission, and while this provides a definite sense of urgency and encourages replay (it’s impossible to beat every mission in one run-through), the ticking clock can be frustratingly claustrophobic, reducing exploration to a series of snatch-and-grabs as you wait for the next plot twist. The controls also could use some tweaking; fighting zombies is never too difficult, but Chuck’s human opponents make combat an exercise in irritation, and the save system leads to plenty of backtracking. Thankfully, none of this buries the game’s thrills. A multiplayer add-on introduces co-op play, lets gamers get goofy in Terror Is Reality, and the story has its moments of pulpy thrills. The real draw here, though, is a sandbox with an infinite supply of moaning army-men to destroy.