Clubbing zombies with a child's toy riding horse, smacking zombies round the head with a potted cactus, and sticking buckets rigged with power drills on the heads of zombies are just a few of the pranks I performed in Capcom's next edition of Dead Rising.
Dead Rising 2: Case Zero is the downloadable episode that acts as a prologue to the events of Dead Rising 2. It arrives on Xbox Live Arcade on August 31 and will set you back a mere 400 Microsoft Points.
Recently I sat down with a near-final build of Case Zero. I played it for one hour and here's what happened.
00:00 - It begins with a cut-scene in which hero Chuck Greene pulls his pickup into gas station as the car radio reports on a zombie outbreak in and around Las Vegas. The station is clearly empty, likely abandoned. A couple of fighter jets fly overhead en route to nearby Vegas. Asleep on the back seat of the car is Chuck's daughter, Katey. Chuck wakes her to give her some kind of injection. They go inside the station - it's definitely abandoned. Shortly, there's an explosion outside and Chuck tells Katey to stay inside. While Chuck is distracted, an unseen figure steals his truck and, with it, the supply of Zombrex, the medication he'd just administered to Katey. Moments later, the place is swarming with zombies. Chuck and daughter retreat into the gas station and barricade themselves in.
00:03 - The game starts in the station workshop. A screen pops up detailing how your objectives (ie. cases) work and how time factors in. First up: Chuck needs to find Katey some more Zombrex within twelve hours or she's a goner. The workshop is littered with items. I pick up a nearby baseball and box of nails. There's a handy workbench right next to them where I'm able to combine items. Voila! Within seconds I've armed myself with a spiked baseball bat. This is called a Combo Weapon, the use of which rewards you with bonus Prestige Points which in turn allow Chuck to level up.
00:04 - Pleased with my creation, I set about investigating the rest of the workshop's inventory: a power drill, bucket, propane tank, broom, some old tyres, an acetylene tank, saw blade, motor oil, large wrench, some cardboard boxes and plenty of snacks lining the shop shelves. Combining the power drill and bucket gives me - wait for it - a drill bucket, a curious device where three drill bits puncture the sides of the bucket, each pointing inwards to affect a headpiece that's both gruesome and hilarious in its potential for zombie torture.
00:06 - I wander over the to main garage door where a few panes are missing from its gridded windows. Outside there are literally dozens, if not hundreds of zombies just milling around. I should probably be prepared before heading outside.
00:07 - In a little closet off the main workshop there's a ladder leading up to the roof. A sledgehammer and a couple of pieces of 4x2 litter the rooftop, next to a can of spray paint, while down the far end tucked behind an air-conditioning vent I find a sniper rifle. I take a few pot shots at the zombies below, sending them flying. I'm perfectly safe up here, but it's not going to get Katey any better.
00:09 - I head out the back door and enter a car yard full of wrecked, rusted vehicles. More potential tools of zombie torment lie on the ground, teasing me with possible combinations of rakes and wrenches and gas tanks and buckets and bottles of whiskey. A shed at the end of the yard contains a bathroom, where I can save my progress, and a door that leads out of this safe house and into the undead-infested streets. Armed with a sniper rifle, spiked bat, drill bucket and large wrench - note: Chuck can only carry four items at present - I charge out the door.
00:11 - That earlier view wasn't lying: there are hundreds upon hundreds of zombies lining the street. I try out my spiked bat on the first few, tapping X to swing it quickly, holding X for a more brutal double attack that ends with me plunging nails into zombie skull, blood gushing everywhere. I run down the main drag of town, past boarded-up hotels and liquor stores, weaving between the staggering hordes. Occasionally one grabs me and I'm forced to waggle the left thumbstick to push them off. More often I swing my bat, knocking two, three, four or more of them to the ground with one hit. At the end of the street is a a bridge blocked by a chaotic jam of abandoned cars, some of which still have their engines running.
00:14 - A cutscene kicks in where Chuck climbs over a toppled oil tanker and sees beyond to some kind of emergency quarantine zone. Amidst the rows of makeshift housing he spots an upturned ambulance. I reckon that might have some Zombrex. At this juncture I'm given the option of saving the game. Dead Rising 2 answers criticism of the original game's save system by allowing three save slots instead of the original's miserly one.
00:15 - From the top of the tanker I pick off a dozen or so zombies with my sniper rifle before jumping down and wading into the quarantine zone. On the ground I use my wrench, flailing my way through without much trouble. These zombies are fairly docile, to be honest. It's only a short jog into the camp itself and presently I reach the ambulance. In a cut-scene, Chuck opens the door and the limp body of a dead solider slumps out. Luckily there is some Zombrex in the back. As Chuck's about to leave, the soldier's radio buzzes into life, relaying a message that a full security detail is on its way and will be there later that evening.
00:17 - This isn't good news for Chuck. If the military finds Katey, she will be taken into quarantine. Chuck, apparently, does not want this to happen. As the cut-scene concludes, Chuck notices the remnants of a busted motorbike near the ambulance. "I can fix this!" he says, with determined voice befitting his square jaw. My objectives now are: to get the bike back to the gas station, give Katey her Zombrex, repair the bike and get outta town before the military arrives. OK!
00:18 - Chuck has loaded the damaged bike into a wheely bin. I can push it. I can run when I'm pushing it. You know what this means. I tear out of the camp, bowling zombies over like some demented dodgem car... and promptly stack it against the side of a sedan. The bin gets knocked over and the zombies crowd around me, taking turns to grab me by the throat as I waggle like crazy on the thumbstick. I pull out my spiked bat and beat them back, before picking up the wheely bin and trying to escape. However, the bin is rather heavy - it's stuffed with broken motorbike after all - and I can barely shuffle faster than the circling undead. They knock me over, repeatedly, and I'm forced to swat them away again until I'm free of the maze of cars and back onto the main street. From there it's a reckless streak all the way back to the gas station, zombies scattering like rotting tenpins in my wake. Upon nearing the gas station, I spin around and loop back through the horde once more, aiming straight for the densest massing of infected flesh. All it needs is the Benny Hill theme.
00:21 - I'm still running over zombies with my Wheely Bin of Necrotic Pulping.
00:24 - Once I've amused myself sufficiently I head inside the gas station and dump the bike on the workshop floor. Katey's coughing a bit, but she's OK... for now. A new objective pops up: I have to find five replacement parts for the bike in order to repair it properly, and I have to do it by 9pm tonight. The parts are, predictably, not in the gas station but secreted around the town. I do hope I can use my wheely bin again.
00:25 - Something peculiar happens when I step back outside the safe house and into the street. A cinematic plays where an insect - yellow and brown, maybe the size of a large wasp - buzzes up to Chuck's face. He swipes at it and knocks it to the ground. As a small group of zombies lurch closer, Chuck steps on the writhing insect, squishing it under his left foot. At that very moment, the group of zombies spasm then, one at a time, their heads burst like blood-filled water balloons and they collapse on the pavement. The game resumes out of the cutscene as if nothing unusual had occurred and with nary a comment from Chuck.
00:27 - Back in the street I can see a crowd of zombies gathered around a van. Standing on the roof of the vehicle is Dick, an elderly gentleman who appears to be in a spot of bother. He calls out to me to help take care of the zombies surrounding him. I wade in with my newly acquired rake. (There was, sadly, no sign of my dear wheely bin upon exiting the gas station.) It doesn't take long for my flimsy rake to shatter, however, and Chuck quickly auto-switches back to the spiked bat. One of the zombies grabs me and I waggle free. Then another clutches desperately at my groin. I wish I'd had time to take a screenshot of this rather lewd embrace, but unfortunately within seconds I'm dead.
00:29 - Here I'm given the option, as with the first Dead Rising, of either reloading my last save - or in this case, one of the three saves you can maintain - or restarting the entire story. Why would you want to choose the latter? Because you restart with your current character level and all your unlocked gear. This is what you'll need to do if you want to fully upgrade Chuck over the course of the game.
00:30 - Given I'm pressed for time, I opt to reload. This time I do what I should've done previously and make a detour into the shop to wolf down some snacks, thus restoring my health, before heading back out into the streets. Dick still needs my assistance, of course, so I head over to the van again. My spiked bat makes short work of the majority - and I unlock an Achievement along the way, "Zombie Hunter" I think it was called - but the bat finally breaks with just a handful of undead remaining. I back off a little way, pull out my sniper rifle and take two out with one shot. I circle round the other side, line up the last four stragglers and splatter them all over the front of the van, again with just one shot.
00:32 - Dick's the owner of the local pawn shop and says he'll help me if I can help him get back there. I say, gimme a sec, and dash back into the safehouse where the baseball bat and box of nails have blessedly respawned, and craft myself a brand new spiked bat on the workbench. Then I return and tell Dick I'm ready to go.
00:33 - Getting Dick to his shop is easier than expected. It's not far down the road and we, despite Dick's elderly appearance, comfortably evade the shambling opposition on the way. We duck inside and Dick tells me he's willing to help me out, but for a price. I ask if he's got a wheel, the first of the bike parts on my shopping list, and - hey - Dick does. He wants $1000 for it though, making it perhaps the most expensive motorbike wheel in history. But, you know, zombie outbreaks are desperate times, and luckily Chuck has two grand on him, so I pay up. Dick offers to help me track down another part, but wants $2500 this time. I can't afford his talk so I head back outside.
00:34 - Across the road, conveniently, is a small-time casino. I smack a few zombies out of the way and cross the street. The casino is a dump, consisting of a dozen or so poker machines and one slightly sheepish-looking blackjack table. There's money just lying on the floor, which I collect, and a cash machine, which I smash open. The pokies can be smashed, too, and money will pour out. Alternatively, it's possible to play them. I take my "winnings" and bail, smacking a few zombies on the way.
00:36 - I can hear shouts in the distance; a male and a female voice crying for help. I can't see them though, so I pick a direction at random and begin to explore the town properly. I end up running into two guys dressed in leather biker gear and fending off a huge crowd of zombies. One has a baseball bat, the other is armed with a... handle bar! I lend a hand, smacking a few zombies on the way, and eventually ask the latter dude if he could lend me his handle bar. No way, he says, unless I can bring him a better weapon to swap for it. And by better weapon he means a broadsword from the hunting store. I'll need to make my way over there and bring it back. I smack a few more zombies for good measure.
00:38 - At this point I realise I have a map I could be consulting, showing me exactly where to go. I could also select the case from my file and have the quest arrow point me the way. But I don't. Instead I just kinda want to goof around. So I head into the nearest building: a department store. I pick up a Servbot head from the shelf. This'll come in handy, I think to myself, knowingly. And it does! Upon exiting the store I run into a zombie and shove the ridiculous yellow head onto him. He staggers around in even more precarious fashion than usual, clutching in vain at his Servbot encased head.
00:40 - Beyond the department store is a diner. Here I find the couple who were presuambly the source of those earlier shouts. I talk to the guy, Fausto, who says he'll join me, but only if I get him a drink. There's a beer behind the bar, so I grab it and hand it to him. He sways a little while downing it in one gulp. Fausto again says he'll join me, but only if I get him... another drink. There's another beer behind the bar, so I grab it and hand it to him. He skulls it, his knees buckle, he falls to the floor, spews, and then gets up again. He's good to go, apparently.
00:42 - Turns out Fausto and his female friend Gemini are "survivors" of the outbreak. I can escort any survivors back to the nearest safe house, in this case the gas station, in exchange for a large PP reward. This sounds like a very good idea to my PP-obsessed ears. We head outside and are immediately set upon by the ravenous horde. I spent too long trying to fight off all the zombies; every time I free myself from one group, I turn and have to rescue Fausto from several more. Eventually I realise it's better to make a break for it, so I run, hitting the Y button to call Fausto to keep following me. With luck, as a I reach the gas station, Fausto is still right behind me. It's only when Fausto is safely inside the gas station that I realise I have no idea what happened to Gemini.
00:45 - Oops.
00:46 - Leaving poor Gemini to her fate, I continue to explore the town. Somehow though I find myself back at the department store and this time I spend some more time checking out what's in stock. But first, I grab a Servbot head and walk over to the main door where a bunch of zombies are congregating. I jam the head onto one zombie as she tries to follow me through the door. I run back to the shelf and grab another head and repeat the process. Soon there are five zombies wobbling blindly in circles just inside the store, bumping into each other in their comedy yellow helmets.
00:49 - I pick up a gumball dispensing machine and throw it into the crowd of undead clowns. The machine shatters, sending multi-coloured balls spilling across the floor. Hardly sure-footed to begin with, the zombies now must not only contend with being unable to see but also the inevitable presence of dozens of tiny beads of confectionary waiting slip them up. I watch as they flail around idiotically, arms flapping like flightless birds, legs twitching in opposite directions. I'm giggling like a dental patient on happy gas.
00:51 - For some reason, it occurs to me about now that Chuck doesn't have a camera like Frank West did in the first game. This is a scene I'd quite like to be able to photograph. Admittedly, it took nearly an hour for me to notice its absence, but I do wonder - now that I have - how much I'll miss the photography element. There's something about the camera's ability to make you pay more attention to each scene and care more about doing things in style that heightened the absurdity found in the original. There's still plenty of nonsense happening here - as I grab a bowling ball and skittle the three still-standing zombies - but I do wonder how much I'll go out of my way to surpass each scene of stupidity if there's no facility for me to record it. Hmm.
00:55 - I'm now grabbing everything off the department store shelves. There's a pink riding horse which makes for a surprisingly effective, not too mention humiliating, melee weapon. Better yet is the potted cactus, a beast of a thing that I use to prove my theory of how zombies are terrific pin-cushions. I grab some more Servbot heads and throw footballs at zombies and pour motor oil onto the floor, but my hour is nearly up.
00:59 - I dash out into the street and switch to my sniper rifle. Kiting as many zombies as I can, I turn so I'm walking backwards and line up a shot at the trail of undead following me. BAM! One shot passes through the heads of six zombies, dropping each of them like dominoes.
00:60 - And that is the first hour of Dead Rising 2: Case Zero.