There is something gleefully rebellious about the way Capcom defies the prevailing trends of the day. At a time when every publisher under the sun is trying to make gaming a family-friendly, gather-round-the-coffee-table experience, Capcom is scowling in the bathroom, shaving its hair into a Mohawk. Watch as Capcom stomps down the stairs in a pair of Doc Martins, kicks over a bowl of pimento-stuffed olives and spits in the face of the assembled casuals. "I AM CAPCOM!" it growls, "AND I WILL ALWAYS BE HARDCORE!"
It probably won't surprise you to learn that Dead Rising 2 is a game that embraces old-school values, and that it's a thumpingly hard one too; this is, as we well know, "the Capcom way". For many of us, this dedication to tradition is something to be praised and greatly admired, but if you're the kind of gamer who's grown used to modern design crutches - things like regenerating health and the omnipresent ability to save your game - then you may be in for a rude awakening. Four years have passed since the release of the original Dead Rising, but while Capcom has handed the development reins over to Vancouver studio Blue Castle Games, this long-awaited sequel is a virtual retread of its predecessor.
Once again the central conceit is that player takes on the role of a lone hero, trapped in an open world packed with zombies. Last time we played photojournalist Frank West, at Willamette Mall; now we're in the boots of Chuck Greene, a former motorcross star who now earns cash by participating in Terror is Reality - a dodgy, Gladiators-like TV show that encourages contestants to butcher zombies in exchange for cash prizes. When the show arrives at the casino resort of Fortune City, someone uses a bomb to free the living dead from their cages. Zombies flood across the surrounding hotels, casinos and shopping malls, chomping on the locals and adding them to their swelling ranks. And just to top it all off, someone frames Chuck for causing the initial attack.
What follows is a 72-hour mission against the clock, with Chuck battling to rescue survivors and to clear his name before the military show up to arrest him. The action unfolds in accelerated real-time, with specific events taking place within set windows. If you're late for one of the appointments that are connected to the main plot, you may lose track of the central narrative thread entirely - preventing you from seeing the "true" ending. Somewhat perversely, the game tries as hard as it can to lead you off the beaten track at every opportunity. In addition to the near-endless array of side-quests and rescue missions, there's also a generous set of mini-games to find and try - from golf swing simulators to a Crystal Maze-style cash-grab booth. Towards the later stages of the story, there's even a rather unexpected (and given the circumstances, rather imprudent) opportunity to enter a game of strip poker.
In addition to all this, there's also the same 'raid any shop, grab anything you like' dynamic that made the first game so memorable. Rather than giving the player a set of stock weapons, your arsenal comprises of anything that you find to hand. You'll find yourself taking down zombies with everything from swords ands fire axes, which lop the limbs off your foes or split them clean in half, to useless-yet-hilarious items like dildos and inflatable hammers. Dead Rising 1's Frank had the ability to take photos of the undead masses, but this has now been replaced by Chuck's uncanny knack for blending items together - a talent that is utilised by bringing specific items to one of the many maintenance rooms scattered around Fortune City. An aerosol can and a traffic cone, for example, can be used to make a klaxon that causes zombies' heads to pop, while strapping a car battery to a wheelchair results in The Electric Chair - a crowd-clearing trolley of death.