It’s not surprising Frank West survived the zombie outbreak from the original Dead Rising, he’s an endearing character. Full of a biting attitude and dogged perseverance, Capcom would have been crazy to kill off such a fan favourite. It’d be hard to write that death convincingly too, Frank’s no slouch. He’s covered wars, you know?
Dead Rising 2: Case West is a sequel to Dead Rising 2 that picks up almost immediately after the events of the main game. Much like the previously released Dead Rising 2: Case Zero the game is a shorter, self-contained XBLA title that doesn’t require owning Dead Rising 2 to play.
You’d never be able to tell it though, the game is symmetrical to the core experience but simply condensed in to a 3 or 4 hour experience without a lot of the series’ trademark backtracking and non-sequitur side missions. In fact, it might be worth making a case that because the game doesn’t carry the trappings of a regular Dead Rising experience it’s a far more approachable game.
Designed from the start to be a co-op experience, online players can jump in and out of the game taking over the usually NPC Frank West. Solo players and game hosts unfortunately won’t have an opportunity to play as Frank, but Capcom has seen it fit to make both character’s trademarks available to all players.
Like the core game, a big part of the Dead Rising 2: Case West experience is weapon creation and implementation. Both Chuck and Frank have the ability to craft new weapons from stuff they collect through their mission. Be it an old classic like the (water gun + gasoline) flamethrower or something unique to Case West like zombie-exploding sterilizer (chemicals + syringe gun), there’s still a lot of fun to be had making your own weapons.
The workbench is Chuck’s domain though, and this is Frank’s game. Like the original Dead Rising players will finally have another opportunity to take pictures of the mayhem they cause. By holding the aim trigger and hitting the right bumper, players can access either Frank’s SLR or Chuck’s dinky disposable camera (they play the same, but the distinction is humorous). Unfortunately there’s no scoring or even a real reason to take the photographs, but it’s a fun addition for those moments you want to catch something bizarre on film.
Gameplay-aside, the duo is a natural pair. Right from the start Chuck and Frank play off each other incredibly well, offering that same comedic-badass vibe you get from classic buddy-cop films like Bad Boys or Rush Hour. That’s not to say they’re constantly cracking jokes or kicking in doors, but there’s a certain amiable animosity between the pair that keeps things interesting right through.
Like the basic Dead Rising experience, you’ll still find hapless survivors through the game. However, a large majority of the quests they give either require you to bring them a specific weapon or just help out killing the zombies that have them pinned. For some reason the NPCs seem a lot more capable than the helpless victims on Dead Rising 2’s Fortune City.
It could have something to do with the fact most of these survivors likely have PHDs. Case West takes a departure from the casino-laden tourist-trap and instead takes place in a Phenotrans facility that was formerly used to make Zombrex before the zombies took over. Because of this, everyone you meet is either in full lab gear or SWAT uniform (ala Half-Life).
As a place for busting zombie-heads, the pharmaceutical facility actually works quite well. It carries a bland, almost boring, sterile design but the multiple levels provided by its network of catwalks offer some verticality to a game that usually has none. These catwalks shake up combat against both the undead and the Phenotrans guards looking to shoot you dead.
Gunplay is also much more important thanks to the excess number of security guards. Though they have limited 30-shot clip it’s dangerous to go around without at least one of the security assault rifles, it’s far too easy to get trapped by a swarm of zombies while a renegade security guard shoots you to death from on-high. It can be frustrating, but like all Dead Rising challenges it can be surmounted with a little planning.
The best part of Case West is that unlike the base Dead Rising 2 experience players won’t be bogged down or pressed for time on their missions. It’s relatively easy to finish the handful of assignments the game delivers, leaving a fair amount of idle time before the next mission begins. This provides players with more opportunity to explore the facility, as well as craft weapons and just enjoy killing zombies.
Dead Rising has always been as much of a sandbox game as it was a survival horror title, but it’s never had the two elements balance so well before. Players will still feel the urgency of completing their on-hand assignment, but once it’s done there is plenty of time to play freely. This means that whether you come to Case West looking for the typical pressured experience or just want to have fun hacking zombies, you’ll be able to experience both.
Dead Rising 2: Case West is a fantastic sample of the full Dead Rising 2 experience that, in some ways, improves upon the core game. It’s unfortunate that despite being the titular hero most players won’t get an opportunity to play as Frank West, but just having him around as a companion for Chuck adds a lot. Dead Rising 2: Case West is not a perfect translation of Dead Rising 2, but it’s one hell of a final bite.