04 Sep

By Oliver Surpless

Case Zero is set two years after the original Dead Rising and three years before Dead Rising 2. This game serves as a prologue to the events of the coming adventure of Chuck Greene in Las Vegas. About 45 miles outside of Vegas is the little town of Still Creek, where Chuck and his daughter Katey stop to refuel and find more of the Zombrex medication, needed to keep Katey from turning into the undead. This is a drug that is able to keep the zombie virus at bay for 12 hours. Consequently it is in very high demand and expensive.

Shortly after they arrive in the town, Chuck’s jeep is stolen and he must find another way out of the town, all the while keeping aware of the precious few hours needed between Katey’s injections. Add in the fact that the military has set up a 50-mile cordon to prevent the spread of the infection, and Chuck realizes it is only a matter of time before the military arrives to clean up the town.

Case Zero looks a lot like Dead Rising, with tons of zombies on screen at any one time. While this effect isn’t as impressive as it was some four years ago, the developers have additional visual flair up their sleeves. Combining weapons produce some very interesting weapons visually, such as the drill bucket or the nail bat. The only thing neater than looking at these creations is using them, and the devs don’t disappoint with the visuals there either.

In addition to added blood splattering on the camera from using weapons, many of the weapons have two visually distinct types of attacks. One for basic strikes using the X button, and the others serve as finishing moves of sorts, done by holding down the X button for a short period. My favorite so far is the chef knife with its Psycho overtones. I also favor the nail bat’s firm and gory head dismemberment. It’s bloody as hell and I never get tired of seeing it. If you aren’t fond of those, there is always the moose head, which everyone will like.

The music is mostly non-existent (save for a generic rock piece in the game’s psycho encounter and a pretty cool rock ballad for the credits) and none of the sound effects of the zombies seem to have changed, so the weapon sound effects are there to pick up the slack. The puttering of the chainsaw is as classic as ever and you have to love the sickening squelching as zombie flesh is rend apart with the various weapons.

Chuck Greene’s voice acting does a good job at capturing the mood of the concerned and dutiful father who will do anything to protect his daughter. He comes off as more “real” than the detached Frank West of the first game, who often seemed only to care about getting his story. Katey’s voice carries the gravity of the situation well, especially when she discusses her mother.

The rest of the voice acting is nothing extraordinary, but it is certainly better than the awful dialogue survivors had in the first game. Nothing could break up a tense situation like the nonsense people who would randomly spout out as you were trying to lead them to safety. It was a mood killer, and you certainly won’t miss its absence in Case Zero. This isn’t to say it is anything amazing, but it is passable for the short time you’ll interact with most of these survivors.

This game plays pretty much the same as the first game; this is a good thing. Chuck has a certain number of hours to complete his main goal, with side missions popping up throughout the days. These range from rescuing townspeople to finding specific items for rewards. Given the game’s length, there isn’t a lot to do, but players can always find variety in the many MANY ways there are to kill zombies. The fact that levels and abilities will carry over to the full game of DR 2 is a compelling reason to thoroughly check out what this game has to offer. More than anything, I hope that unlocking the achievements will earn in-game rewards, as they did in the first game. I’ve said it often, but more Xbox 360 games need to follow this system.

Some of the improvements include being able to move while aiming in first person mode. The controls can be a little off but this addition is helpful in preventing zombies from sneaking around your periphery. Also, survivors have received a boost in their A.I. Anyone who played the original will recall how moronic the computer was in that game, where trying to escort people to safety was often more difficult than dealing with the zombies. In Case Zero, the A.I can take care of itself, making escorting them much more bearable, especially if you give them weapons to help make a path through the zombie hordes.

As above, there is also the Combo card system, meant to replace Mr. West’s renowned photography skills. Chuck Greene is a skilled handyman, allowing him to combine some objects and weapons into more potent devices of destruction. From the obvious nails and bat to the far more outlandish paddle saw, these weapon upgrades are both fun and meant to increase the variety of zombie killing abilities. It’s fun, especially if you are working on the achievements.

Ultimately, Case Zero is a fun game, but it is fans of the original that will get the most mileage out of it. The style of the game is definitely geared toward those who enjoyed the first, as you won’t see changes to the basic gameplay or mission structure. I’m glad that the fundamental nature of the game wasn’t changed, otherwise it wouldn’t be Dead Rising.

For those new to the game or those interested in Part 2 later this month, Case Zero is the place to test the waters, if only because it is a good primer for the series’ gameplay. It also doesn’t have much in the way of connections to the first game, so new players won’t be scratching their heads on the storyline. The only real similarity is the mass of zombies in your way that you will gleefully smash through while working toward your objective. And we all know most anyone can enjoy that.

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