Dead Rising’s Shambling Descent From Thriller To FarmVille

Dead Rising’s Shambling Descent From Thriller To FarmVille

Blood spattered across his pants and canary yellow racking jacket, Chuck Greene stands uncomfortably in front of the bathroom stall.

He sighs, he groans, bloody bat clenched in his right hand.

There are zombies to kill. There is a name to clear, a daughter to save.

But not just yet. Right now it’s time for me to have a shower.

Like Facebook’s FarmVille and the iPhone’s Smurf Village, Dead Rising 2’s most important gameplay mechanic is time.

And right now I have five hours of it to burn before I can do anything meaningful in Dead Rising 2’s $US10 add-on title Case West. So I park the zombie-killing hero in a zombie-free bathroom and go take a shower.

It’s the first time in nearly 40 years of playing games that a video game has encouraged me to leave it running while I go to do other things.

This idea of time management isn’t new to the Dead Rising series. But somehow over the course of two games and two expansions it’s been flipped on its head.

In the original Dead Rising, the notion of time was presented as a fatal deadline. You’ve only got so much of it before photojournalist Frank West has to head out of dodge. Delivered as a deadline, time became a way for the makers of the game to crank up the suspense.

The same held true for Case Zero, the short, but poignant prequel to Dead Rising 2. You only have so much time to find the parts for a ride out of town and land some life-saving Zombres for your doe-eyed daughter.

But by Dead Rising 2 the nature and important of time started to change. Suddenly time wasn’t something that sped up the pacing of the game, it was something that slowed it down.

As I mentioned in my review of the game, Dead Rising 2’s pivotal moments, the things that move the story along and march you and your rag-tag band of zombie-outbreak survivors toward the ultimate conclusion, are all pinned immovably to specific times in the game.

For instance, you have to dose your daughter with Zombrex every 24 hours.

Initially, those time pegs force you to take risks, to speed through zombie-infested casinos and cheap buffets on the hunt for the drug. But in Dead Rising 2 those time pegs quickly begin to anchor your freedom in the game. Once you’ve accomplished the task at hand, you’re often left with the choice of whiling away your time killing zombies or hanging out in the shelter looking at your watch, waiting for the next plot-moving mission to start.

There were things you could do to pass the time beyond inventively killing zombies, but the risk often outweighed the reward of those side missions.

With the recently released Case West, there aren’t really any side missions anymore. Sure you can roam around the big lab looking for an unknown number of bland, personality-free scientists, scientists sort of to blame for the whole mess. But why would you want to do that? There’s no reward and in the flow of the story it’s sort of crazy to even think about helping the monsters who in previous games first created the zombie outbreak and then profited off of it.

So instead you wait. First a little, a few minutes here and there between the game’s missions, but finally, as you begin to wrap up the game and head toward the conclusion you’re thrown a four to five hour delay.

You can choose to go play hide and seek with scientists. You can hang with your buddy Frank West and take pictures. You can inventively kill zombies some more. Or you can do what I did. Go have a shower. Fix yourself a sandwich maybe. Read a book. Watch a movie.

And that’s when it hit me: I’m playing FarmVille with zombies. Smurf Village with guns. This is the point in the game, the endless, mindless waiting, when I would have gladly dropped an extra 50 cents to speed up time.

Let’s just hope Capcom doesn’t realise that.

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