Review | 10/5/2010 at 12:14 AM

Dead Rising 2 Co-op Review

Sometime after the outbreak in Willamette County Colorado, Dead Rising 2 brings the fight to the Desert. Fortune City Nevada to be exact, and the slots are hot. Dead Rising 2 has a few new elements that were not in the first game. First, the antagonist has the ability to combine weapons in amazing ways instead of taking pictures. More importantly, you get to play this title drop-in/drop-out 2 player co-op.

We’re now following antagonist Chuck Greene of motocross fame after someone let loose a stock of zombies that are normally used in a reality show called Terror Is Reality. He’s now hiding out with his daughter in a safe house after being accused of setting the zombies loose. He spends the game searching for survivors, taking down psychopaths, and working to find the truth behind the outbreak to clear his name. Oh, did I mention he only has three days before the military shows up to evacuate them?

Like the first game you start with a few inventory slots, and life that matches a low-level RPG character. If you played the prequel DLC, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero then you started the full game with a slightly higher level Chuck (up to level 5), and a bit more life/inventory slots reflects your level. As you progress through the Fortune City casinos and shops, you’ll gain experience (called Prestige Points or PP) by rescuing survivors, defeating crazies, and using combined weapons to take out those pesky zombies.

The games combo-mechanic is what really separates the gameplay from the first game. Dead Rising featured a photojournalist who is out for the big scoop. This time you’re a motocross champion, participating in a reality game show called Terror Is Reality to earn money for Zombrex to sustain Chucks zombie infected daughter. As such, you’re set with a few mechanic skills used to build incredible weapons.

Certain weapons have a wrench icon on their inventory image, which means you can combine them with each other. Here is a list of combinable weapons - some with humorous outcomes, others with completely legitimate capabilities, and all with the killing power necessary to survive this particular zombie outbreak. With each combination you create you pick up a combo card, or a scratch card. Scratch cards are the “you discovered this” card, and the combo card is the “you’re proficient with this” card, which also gives you a stronger attack worth more PP.

All weapons in Dead Rising 2 break over a period of time, so you’ll want extra weapons on-hand at all times. Also keep in mind that survivors you rescue will not accept combo weapons when defending themselves (you can hand them a weapon, or healing items on the way back to the safe house so you’re not babysitting), so keeping a spare regular baseball bat or meat cleaver is not a bad idea.

The weapon combos add a new dynamic to the co-op experience - when playing with various people I suggested combos, and learned new things about building weapons. I also shared a few weapons that I had never built before, which opened the scratch card for me (as though I had built it). So, share early and often - especially since joining someones game will take away all of your weapons when you start.

Dropping in to someone elses game is a really incredible experience with Dead Rising 2. You bring with you whatever experience level, zombie kill-count, clothing and money you had in your game. Showing up in a kids superhero costume, or as an Elvis impersonator makes the game feel less like there are two Chuck characters, and more like you’re playing as yourself.

Having two players also helps with the Psychopath boss battles (yes, there is a psychopath with a hungry tiger) - as some of them are pretty tough. With co-op, one player can lour the boss away while the other player flanks and attacks from behind. One player can take a break and heal if they get a little too low, or even revive one another with food items (so it’s a good idea for both players to carry food of some sort).

The ability to revive one-another made the game infinitely less frustrating and co-op entirely worth-while. The psychopath bosses were almost a breeze compared to playing alone. I don’t feel like the zombie presence scaled with a second player, the game is just that much more challenging than the first. Zombies are more vicious, and more densely packed in almost every area.

The one kind-of disappointing point to the co-op, though it makes sense, is that the player joining the host game is not able to save story progress. Though, you do get to keep all of your experience and money gained from playing with your friends. Rescuing civilians and other major story points all have shared PP and other (monetary) rewards. Either player (the guest or the host) can initiate any story progress, but you can’t really split up outside of specific areas to pursue different missions.

Co-op in Dead Rising 2 works really well and makes things a lot more interesting in the realm of Fortune City. It may not be perfect co-op, but sharing weapons, defeating psychos, and generally experiencing the campaign of the game with a buddy is absolutely worth it.