Chuck Greene, in his striking yellow motocross body armour, sits revving the Chainsaw Bike. It's aptly named - two chainsaws protrude sideways from its handlebars. Ahead of him, packed into the narrow, neon lit Fortune City strip, stand 7,000 zombies. 7,000. There is no room for them to do that sluggish zombie stagger thing zombies love to do. Their moans and groans are almost deafening, filling the air, drowning out the beeps and woops of nearby casino slot machines. And yet, there is something of a quiet moment, a calm before the storm, an exciting anticipation. Everyone knows what's supposed to happen next, but just how it will happen, well... it's going to be messy.
Dan Brady, CEO and General Manager of Canadian developer Blue Castle Games, knows he has the assembled throng at Capcom's annual showcase event, Captivate, in the palm of his hand. But there's also room for an Xbox 360 controller. The executive producer on Dead Rising 2, the sequel to Capcom's superb 2006 zombie kill-em-up, is expertly delivering a cleverly crafted live gameplay demo. It began with 1,000 zombies filling the strip – twice that of the original. Then 2,000. Now, with Dead Rising's new hero sitting pretty on the sure to be indulgent Chainsaw Bike, an eye-watering 7,000 zombies, 14 times the number that appeared on screen at any one time in Dead Rising 1, blot out the horizon. He drives forward...
Zombies fly in every direction, left, right, up, down. New procedural cutting technology fuels the gruesomely realistic splitting of undead flesh. The camera is covered in blood – it's hard to see what's going on, but then, when you think about it, so it should be. It's almost hilarious to watch Dan cut the hapless zombies to ribbons, their dying urks comical, the sound of spraying blood farcical. Dan powerslides as he gets to the end of the strip, turns around and drives forward again. The street is so dense with zombie that Chuck and his Chainsaw Bike are almost lost in the mix. It is an astonishing sight. It is hard to convey just how, well... nuts it all is.
“That is what Dead Rising 2 is all about,” says Dan as he brings the demo to a close. “It's about more zombies. It's about anything and everything as a weapon. It's about taking the chaos of Dead Rising 1 to a completely different level while still preserving the sense of humour that made that first game so special and so unique.”
Let's talk about that first game for a second. Developed internally at Capcom Japan and released exclusively for the Xbox 360 in 2006, Dead Rising was one of the first games that actually felt “next-gen”. A lot of that had to do with the whopping 500 zombies that photojournalist Frank West battled against at any one time, but really it was more about the core mechanic of the game – being able to use pretty much anything as a weapon against the zombie horde. This, coupled with a unique 72-hour completion countdown and the mini-sandbox shopping mall setting, led some fans to reckon it was the best Capcom game for years.
Internally, however, Capcom knew it could do better. Speaking alongside Dan at Captivate, legendary Mega Man creator and research and development head honcho Keiji Inafune, who is also producing DR2, is frank in this regard.
“It was always the basic goal to create a global product,” Inafune explains. “Something that would stand on its own on a worldwide scale. But when we showed it off to Japanese publishers and developers a lot of them said, wow, that's a really good Western game that you've created. You must have a lot of really good foreign staff working at Capcom Japan.
“At that time there was no greater compliment than to have my peers in Japan look at the game and think it was a Western game, because that was always the goal. However, when I took it to the other side of the ocean and showed it to some Western developers and publishers, I was shocked to hear most of them say, yeah it looks Western on the outside but on the inside it still seems Japanese, there's still something very Japanese about it.
“What that basically meant was we missed our mark in shooting for something that was truly Western. It was at that point that, even though we had done our best, I realised that the next logical step in the evolution of this series was to use a Western studio to try and realise that goal.”
Hence Dan Brady and Blue Castle Games, a studio Capcom “stumbled upon”. “In discussions with them,” Inafune continues, “there was one thing in particular that Dan said. He said what makes Dead Rising 1 so great is the fact that it does feel a little Japanese. It's not 100 per cent a Western game. That echoed Capcom's sentiments. We want to understand that style, we want to learn from them, but on the other hand Blue Castle Games wanted to learn the Japanese style. So it was the perfect mix. It just felt right.”