This review contains spoilers regarding the plot of Dead Rising 2.
Frank West is a popular guy. Over the lengthy course of the original Dead Rising, he won our hearts with his wonky face, his renegade approach to photojournalism, and his ability to pull people's guts out with his bare hands. The fact that he was more than happy to wear women's clothing probably didn't hurt either.
As a result of this popularity, there were a fair few disappointed faces when Frank failed to show for duty in Dead Rising 2. Chuck Green wasn't a bad frontman, exactly: he seemed like a bit of a loser at times, but he was also able to make a lightsaber out of a torch and some gems - something that has never, ever worked for me in real life. All the same, he was no Frank.
Now, thankfully, our favourite cross-dressing photographer has returned, teaming up with Chuck for a DLC epilogue to last year's sequel. Case West finds the pair attempting to infiltrate a high-tech facility belonging to Phenotrans, the not-at-all-like-Umbrella corporation that was ultimately behind all the bad stuff that happened in the main game. To be honest, you should really know that already - because this three-to-four hour adventure is squarely aimed at people who've finished Dead Rising 2, and ideally the first game too.
Under the circumstances, I'm going to spare myself the task of explaining how Dead Rising works; if your memory has been blunted by some form of debilitating head trauma, you can check out our review here. All you really need to know is that this DLC is a standalone affair that starts you out as a level 40 Chuck, affording you a generous inventory and health allowance as well as a full compliment of special moves. Sadly, there's no immediate option to play as Frank, although you do get to take control of him if you're joining someone else's game in co-op (more on this in a moment or two). I presume this decision was taken to encourage people to play together, but it certainly feels like a big slip-up on the part of Capcom and Blue Castle.
Still, it's undeniably great to have Frank back, and in all other regards his presence in Case West is handled with aplomb. In single-player games he acts as a loyal companion, following wherever Chuck leads. Once upon a time this might have been cause for concern, but Dead Rising 2 proved that Blue Castle can teach its NPCs to defend themselves. In fact, the AI-controlled Frank West is something of a beast, happily laying into massive crowds of zombies with his magically-reappearing baseball bat, or with anything else you deign to give him. Unlike the Fortune City survivors he's also capable of wielding combo weapons, so it’s quite possible to kit him out with explosive footballs, plate launchers and the like. Even on the rare occasions when Frank does run into zombie-related trouble, it's actually impossible for him to die - because, hey, he's Frank West.
This might sound like a controversial design choice, but it's actually a very smart move on the developer's part. Without the need to babysit Frank - or, for that matter, to go running off in search of Zombrex - the player is free to enjoy themselves. There's an endearing chemistry between the two heroes, one that extends beyond the frequently amusing cutscenes. Perform a special move as Chuck, and Frank will acknowledge the feat with a cocky, "Did you learn that from me?" Hit him with a stray bullet or melee swipe, and he'll complain as Chuck gruffly apologises. He's blessed with a decent selection of in-game dialogue, including a few choice words for the final boss, and this ultimately makes him a credible companion. He's a useful one, too, and when the going gets rough (as it invariably does, this being a Dead Rising game) you'll be grateful to have him around.