Shuffling, musty, human-hungry zombies. They’re a horror staple that, thanks to the seminal movies of George A. Romero, encapsulate everything that fascinates and terrifies us about the fragility of society.
Vampires may represent the dark continent of repressed desire, but zombies are a symbol of equally disturbing preoccupations: lawlessness, cannibalism, death and disease. And as the red-neck zombie killers seen at the conclusion of Romero’s classic Night Of The Living Dead would no doubt tell you, the walking dead also make for fantastic target practice.
Which brings us to Capcom’s anarchic, chaotic Dead Rising, a game which celebrated the messy possibilities that fighting a legion of the undead could present. Released in 2006, Dead Rising provided a veritable playground of makeshift weapons and thousands of zombies to use them out on – everything from frying pans to shop dummy parts could be picked up and used to bash a walking corpse’s head in, and the result was one of the most unexpectedly entertaining (and brutally difficult) action games released that year.
Four years on, and Capcom is set to return with Dead Rising 2, a sequel with its tongue still very much in its (probably rotten) cheek. And while its production has been outsourced to Canadian studio Blue Castle Games, the original game’s co-designer Keiji Inafune is overseeing the project as producer – eliminating, we hope, the potential for disappointment which Capcom’s other western studio collaborations, Dark Void and Bionic Commando, represented.
While the mission-based zombie killing gameplay will be carried across for Dead Rising 2, the game’s backstory is rather different, and introduces a new protagonist, former motocross star Chuck Greene.
As in the first game, Chuck is trapped in the middle of a metropolis teeming with the walking dead, but this time there’s an added twist: a pharmaceutical company has concocted a temporary antidote called Zombex which can stave off the terrible effects of a zombie bite. There’s a catch, however – Zombex is massively expensive, which means Chuck has to constantly come up with the funds to buy the drug for his stricken daughter.
In Dead Rising 2, it’s Chuck’s job, therefore, to not only rush around the city rescuing survivors, but also amassing enough cash to buy medication for his daughter at the same time. Set in Fortune City, a fictionalised version of Las Vegas, means there are opportunities to collect cash everywhere, but Chuck’s biggest opportunity to hit the jackpot comes in the shape of Terror Is Reality, a television show where contestants kill the undead for cash.
The original Dead Rising was party to a quite mind-boggling number of zombies on screen at any one time, and Dead Rising 2 somehow manages to cram a claimed 7,000 of the shuffling horrors somehow crammed into your television, and as has long been the case, coming up with ingenious ways of dispatching the horde is as entertaining as completing the missions themselves.
Aside from the single-player campaign, Dead Rising 2 will also feature a co-op mode where players can drop in and out at any time, and a competitive multiplayer mode where four players can go head to head in the Terror Is Reality gameshow mentioned earlier.
“We have a four player versus mode which plays off the Terror is Reality theme,” explained the game’s producer Mike Schmitt at the E3 expo a few weeks ago. “There are ten different events to play, including one where you’re all riding motorcycles with chainsaws attached to the handlebars and it’s a race to see who can kill the most zombies before the time runs out.”
With Dead Rising 2 offering even more scope for combining weaponry than ever before – one of the new ones is apparently a “jumbo teddy bear” which, when combined with a machine gun, mows down zombies “for what seems like hours” – and a wealth of online multiplayer modes, here’s hoping the game can recapture the blackly comic spirit of its manic predecessor.
Dead Rising 2 is due for release in Europe on 1 October for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.