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"Priced-right Prequel"

It's been four years and counting since Dead Rising first released on the Xbox 360. The zombie slayer scored a stunning 85% press average and presented a mesh of wonderful gameplay ideas. Some questionable design decisions may have hampered the experience for a few, but most were able to look passed it and enjoy the bigger picture. Similar in all too many ways to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Dead Rising took place in Colorado's Willamette Mall and let players experience the zombie apocalypse from the perspective of Frank West, a photo journalist. There were rumors of a downloadable update that would present new content and online co-op, though this never came to fruition. Instead, Dead Rising 2 was announced. Quite some time into development another title was announced, Dead Rising 2 : Case Zero, exclusively to the Xbox 360.
Dead Rising 2 : Case Zero is the prequel to Dead Rising 2, it takes place in-between Dead Rising and it's sequel. Players step into the shoes of Chuck Greene, a motocross pro who also happens to be a father. His daughter, Katey, is infected and Chuck must seek out a cure for her. Case Zero is set in a ran down, zombie-infested town named Still Creek, 40 miles from Las Vegas. Shortly after he arrives Chuck's truck is stolen, so he takes cover in a local gas station with Katey. Introduced shortly thereafter is Zombrex, a twelve hour cure for the zombie infection. Zombrex is no longer in production, thus it's value is sky high. Chuck can either search on his own or pay a hefty price at the local pawn shop. Aside from temporarily curing Katey, Case Zero's other main objective is finding scattered bike parts around town. When together, Chuck can build a motocross bike capable of skipping town and avoiding the eventual military invasion. Seeing as Katey is infected, if the military finds her she would be submitted to quarantine.

When you take control of Chuck for the first time, you'll notice a very similar set up to Dead Rising. The menu and HUD are slightly more stylized this time around and there is a new icon hovering above certain items. Adding to the original health and weapon icons is a wrench, standing for a combinable item. Items such as nails, buckets, bats and many others can be combined to form combo weapons. These weapons dish out more damage and earn a ton more PP, making them one of the best ways to level Chuck up. After some basic exploration around the gas station, it is time to step into the zombie infested streets of Still Creek.
Most definitely the first thing to arise to my own attention was the level of detail compared to the first game. The lighting and such were all just as beautiful. For a game with as much going on as Dead Rising 2 : Case Zero, it all looks fantastic. Sadly, the same can not be said about the frame rate. The game runs from poor to average at best and it's a shame, because there is so much action to be had. It wouldn't be as big of an issue if the first game had not been butter smooth, but it was and the same should be said about it's sequel. The one thing to keep in mind is that Case Zero, while a stand alone prequel, acts as a demo of sorts. The final game may vary as far as production values.
After running around a bit, it was also apparent that the game felt awkwardly stiff in comparison to Dead Rising. There were a few reasons for this however, none literally being a negative mark on the game. Anyone who has played Dead Rising has gotten used to a LV50 Frank West as he retains his attributes in every play through. Eventually what was an upgraded Frank becomes a standard. In comparison, a LV1 Chuck feels slow, unresponsive and about as lethal as a poodle. The game absolutely does not run as smoothly, nor is it as fluid. However it's negligible in comparison to the level gap. At a maxed out LV5, Chuck learns two skills and still has a speed of zero out of three. At a higher level the games will undoubtedly feel much more similar, though I can't call Case Zero an improvement. Shooting mechanics are slightly improved seeing as Chuck can move around effortlessly while aiming. While this is a nice improvement, melee weapons are still center stage.

For a 400MP ($4.99) release, there is plenty of replay value in Case Zero. Still Creek is a decent size with a good amount to do. In order to save all of the survivors, a timely and well paced path must be taken, one which isn't blatantly obvious upon starting the game. A good amount of exploration must be had in order to learn the towns nooks and crannies. It is this type of mechanic that is welcomed in a generation of games where players seemingly follow waypoints and big red arrows far too much. There is an arrow to follow for big objectives, though it doesn't always lead the player to an unblocked path. These will have to be figured out through exploration and nothing else.
One big gripe with the first game was it's NPC's, however Case Zero has much improved A.I. partners. After leading a group to the safe house one's habit would likely be to turn around and see which NPC was hung up on what and who was fighting who. This time around the NPC's stick with Chuck like a line of soldiers. Also noteworthy is the exclusion of the cell phone. It may be too early to tell as far as Dead Rising 2 is concerned, though Case Zero had no signs of Otis-like calls.
Overall Case Zero is everything it is supposed to be. A priced-right prequel with a ton of replayability and a good taste of Dead Rising 2. It does most everything Dead Rising does right and adds to it with some new unique features and improvements in key areas. There is some slight cleaning up to be done, though if it is taken care of by Dead Rising 2's full release, the game will be a perfect sequel.


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