You can stumble across these combinations, or learn the recipes from Combo Cards, earned by looking at posters and defeating set bad guys scattered around the game world; if you don't have the relevant card you can still make the custom weapon, but it won't be as powerful. In addition to being powerful and fun to use, these homebrew tools earn you bonus PP - the currency which determines how quickly Chuck develops. At the start of the game he's a bit of a wuss, but as you gain experience he'll level up, gaining health, speed, the ability to carry more items, and even a few special moves. The odd thing about Dead Rising is that you're never as weak or as helpless as when you start playing for the very first time - which is arguably when you need the most assistance. With time you realise that the game almost wants you to fail at the main mission. The idea is that you grind Chuck up a few levels, screw up the main campaign (or wilfully ignore it in favour of messing around), and then eventually choose to restart from the beginning. When you begin the story a second time, with the clock reset to zero, you'll set out as a stronger, more knowledgeable hero.
It sounds like a terrible design choice, and it's certainly one that raises a middle finger to prevailing, user-friendly conventions - and yet this unusual structure is ultimately one of Dead Rising's strongest qualities. Because of the time limit there's a near constant need to get from A to B quickly, but because you're limited to three save slots, and because you can only save at one of the world's many toilets (no, really), every journey you make carries a significant risk. We live in a safe, molly-coddled era where we're used to developers holding our hand at every turn; when a game like this comes along, one that forces us to deal with the threat of genuine failure, it's intimidating and refreshing in equal measure.
Dead Rising 1 only gave you a lone save slot, a controversial bit of design that made it extremely easy to cock-up your progress; Dead Rising 2 now gives you three, and thankfully this feels like a perfect balance - allowing you a bit of room for experimentation and self-correction, without making things too easy. You'll still have to plan each outing carefully, however. Do you head straight to the objective, or do you stop off to restock on weapons and food supplies first? You'd love to grab that chainsaw that spawns in the church, but getting there requires a dangerous journey along the main strip. Is it worth the risk?
When everything goes as planned, Dead Rising 2 is nothing short of a riot. It's unfortunate, therefore, that every so often the game pulls the rug out from under your feet in a deeply unfair way. The boss battles are the worst offenders here. As the case was in the first game, you'll occasionally be confronted by fellow survivors who have inexplicably turned into raving, homicidal maniacs. The majority of these psychos can kill you extremely quickly, but will take an insane level of punishment before they finally lay down and die. The game takes a slightly schizophrenic approach to combat, encouraging you to use certain weapons at one time, and then actively punishing you for doing so at others. There are even a couple of fights that more or less force you to use hand-to-hand combat - despite the fact that this is one of the game's weakest areas. There's no lock-on, no block, and your unarmed prowess is dependant entirely upon the random distribution of special moves as you level up. In short, the boss fights are a bitch - in fact they're significantly worse than in the first game.
Dead Rising's other flaws have been addressed with varying degrees of attention. Load times have been improved since the preview build, but they're still notably longer than most other games on the market, and they pop up with grating regularity. The quest notification system - which previously took the form of an incessantly-ringing walkie-talkie - has been improved, but there's still no way to manually set waypoints on the map, which is a big oversight. The PS3 version (the build tested) is quite prone to the odd visual bug, albeit nothing game-wrecking. Finally, the basic controls retain the slightly clunky handling of the first game. Once you settle into the rhythm of things you'll find them to be fairly functional, but they do tend to make life a bit more awkward when you're under a lot of stress - which will be quite often towards the end of the game, when a sudden change (which I won't spoil) has a fairly significant impact on the game world.