Five steps to a better Dead Rising 2

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 23 - 2009

deadrising2The original Dead Rising was probably my favorite zombie game ever (admittedly, Left 4 Dead is rapidly gaining on it…) and one of my favorite games, period. I put it back in the ol’ 360 again recently to try and relive the magic and realized that the game had some problems. I’d been able to overlook them on my first playthrough, so smitten was I by the awesome way it recreated the zombie apocalypse, but they stopped me from spending any serious time on the second go-round. If those problems were to be resolved, say in some sort of sequel, like the one I wrote about yesterday (no link, just hit the previous post button there at the top) … well, then we’d have something special.  The developers have gone on record saying that the goal of getting 6,000 zombies onscreen at once is the number one priority. Sorry, but that is horse shit. A lack of zombies onscreen at once was not one of the first game’s flaws. Here’s what you do need to fix/tweak/add/focus on to make Dead Rising 2 the single best zombie game ever. I’m going to waive my regular consultancy fee, developers, just get this right.

  1. Better controls – I convinced myself the controls were fine, considering the game was really an RPG masquerading as an action game, but let’s face it; they are clunky as hell, like almost as bad as old-school Resident Evil clunky. Play a few third-person games like Grand Theft Auto IV and try to give us controls at least as smooth and intuitive. Oh, and allowing us to configure the control scheme would be great too.
  2. A sane save system – I get that the developers were trying to enforce a certain style of play with the jacked-up save system of the first game. I really get that. Hell, I even overlooked it and argued it was justified at one point (my enthusiasm was mighty). Fine, you tried to achieve something, but it failed. Really it just irritated players and made a second playthrough seem more like a chore than fun. At very least, try something new … better yet, just give it a save-anywhere system and throw in an achievement for playing through the “proper” way.
  3. Additional modes – When I got the real game after playing the hell out of the demo I was slightly disappointed. The focus shifted from wholesale zombie slaughter to more concrete, RPG-type goals. I got over it, but there’s something to be said for the simple pleasure of running around and chopping off heads. Why doesn’t a game that makes that so much fun reward you for it? The addition of a simple arcade mode (kill as many zombies as possible in a given time frame) with leaderboards would have meant me popping the game in daily for the past year or more to try for a higher score. And it can’t be hard to add something like that. If you can figure out some sort of strategic mode where I can gather supplies and test my zombie apocalypse plans, that would be great too. The existing survival modes are cool, but the focus on long-term survival and lack of save within them limits their playability. It’s rare I can sit in front of the TV for four or five hours at a stretch… Or hell, surprise me with a mode I haven’t even dreamed of yet.
  4. Jettison the punishingly difficult and conceptually questionable boss fights – The boss fights in the original were just ridiculous, especially the final confrontation with the nigh-indestructible brawler. I know, video games have boss battles, right? But do they have to? And if they do, do they have to be so difficult that completing them brings not a sense of accomplishment but simply sweet relief that the ordeal is over at last? Jettison the boss battles in favor of something innovative, or at the very least give us believable boss fights that don’t make us destroy controllers.
  5. Multiplayer – A co-op mode would have extended the life of this game almost infinitely. This is critical. This should be your top priority, not that 6,000 zombies shit.

Deadlines: News roundup 4/22/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 22 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

The folks at IGN have an update on Dead Rising 2. The condensed version is new lead character, same basic plot (survive 72 hours of zombie hell) with more zombies and more ways to kill zombies.

The week of April 27 to May 4 is apparently the time to experience zombies and the infected on Xbox Live. Download a gamerpic, play one of the featured games (including two of my absolute all-time zombie favorites Dead Rising and Left 4 Dead) or watch one of the featured movies (some great choices such as Shaun of the Dead and Dead Alive, some not-so-great such as Dead and Deader and The Quick and the Undead) and you could win prizes. You can get an early start by playing Left 4 Dead with the Xbox ambassadors on April 24. Like I need any encouragement to play zombie games and watch zombie movies…

The musical Song of the Dead is getting a limited theatrical release May 1. Fangoria has the details about what lucky locations across the American South and Midwest get to see it on the big screen.

Deadlines: News roundup 4/21/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 21 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

The new Left 4 Dead DLC is available for both PC and Xbox 360. You get the “Dead Air” and “Blood Harvest” campaigns playable in Versus mode, plus the all new Survival mode. And it’s free, which is extra awesome.

I lost interest somewhere around the middle of the second Marvel Zombies series, but the tireless folks at Fangoria have kept at it and have a review of Marvel Zombies series four up.

When the real zombie apocalypse happens, good tools will be of utmost importance. This modern steel tomahawk looks to be just the thing for zombie killing (hey, it was a slow news day…).

Deadlines: News roundup 4/17/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 17 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

It’s just days until the first batch of DLC hits for the zombie apocalypse trainer/simulator Left 4 Dead. It’s adding a new Survival mode and enabling Versus play on two new maps. If you weren’t already excited enough, go get hyped with this Left 4 Dead developer blog explaining how the new Survival mode works.

Now we know when the weirdo zombie madness of Pontypool and the Norwegian zombie madness of Dead Snow will hit theaters! It’s May 29 for Pontypool and June 12 for Dead Snow (a snowbound zombie flick in the middle of summer? Whatever…). If your city isn’t cool enough to warrant a theatrical showing, despair not, they both come to on-demand on the same day they release theatrically. You can read all about IFC’s plans for the films, or read my review of Dead Snow. I’ll review Pontypool just as soon as I can lay hands on a review copy.

Can’t get enough zombie Christmas? How about some more info and images from Silent Night, Zombie Night?

If you’re a fan of video games and big numbers, you will be thrilled to read that Resident Evil 5 has sold 1.5 million copies.

Left 4 Dead‘s epic story

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 10 - 2009

l4d05

Four survivors, thrown together by circumstance when the world dissolves into the chaos of the inevitable zombie apocalypse. While their friends, family and neighbors are turned into vicious, crazed zombies these four people, with nothing in common besides the will to survive, must work together to make it to safety. If they can’t, none of them has a chance.

Not only is Left 4 Dead a great video game, it’s a triumph of visual storytelling. Apart from a skippable intro movie and a separate post-campaign escape scene for each of the four campaigns, there are no cutscenes or non-interactive movies anywhere in the game. The entire story is told within the game world. This is done through messages spraypainted on walls, the scenes of carnage, the gameplay itself and, most impressively and importantly, through the characters.

The messages left everywhere are the tiny, impressive details of an epic horror story. These range from official quarantine orders and safety procedure signs to scrawled  messages for loved ones left behind, to flaky advice and philosophy. Whether you take the time to read it all or not (I did), its simple presence adds a lot of depth to the back story of the game, and consequently helps the immersion factor considerably. Along side the written messages, the simple fact of the carnage and improvised defenses obvious in the setup of the abandoned apartments, houses, hotels and businesses that make up the game levels adds another level to the story. Just like in real life (and in the best movies, for that matter) there’s no need to tell the story — it’s easy to see exactly what happened.

The four characters are expressed ably and subtly through their details, from animations to the signature lines they speak  and reactions to events within the game. Excellent voice acting, character modeling and animation all contribute to some of the best realized digital characters ever seen in any medium. The crusty old vet; high-strung office drone; gruff, tough swaggering biker; and horror-movie loving final-girl type are all communicated well without once interrupting the core game to introduce or explain or anything about any of them. Most gamers will pick one of the heroes as a favorite pretty quickly and stick with them whenever playing — for me, that’s the Bill, the chain-smoking, cantankerous old Vietnam vet with a dark sense of humor. Functionally, the characters are identical as far as I can tell — there’s no advantage to playing with one over or another.

The music and sound of the game are perfect too, from the gibberish and howling screams of the infected to the signature sounds of the special infected. The witch’s musical cue is especially spooky and effective. These elements support and deepen the visual and gameplay elements to tell the story.

I have to say that I love the zombies of this game. They are of the infected type, and possibly not technically dead (it isn’t really clear). I also love that they explained why the characters don’t get turned despite constant contact with infected — much like Planet Terror (which seems an inspiration), the main cast and certain others are all immune to the highly contagious disease. This game finally sold me once and for all on the fast zombies, too. Not as a replacement for the shamblers, who will always be first in my heart, but as an distinct and honorable branch of zombiedom. For the game, these work really well — the tension of the game would be absent if they could only shuffle.

The special zombies, who seem to control the regular horde, are an interesting touch, too. There’s the boomer that can puke zombie-attractant all over anything, the smoker with his long, whip-like tongue that can snare unsuspecting survivors, the fast, agile hunter that pounces and pins the unwary, the grotesquely strong tank and finally, the haggard, emo (she cries constantly until she attacks) witch, fast and strong and very easily upset. Their influence on the game play is enormous and they fit within the fiction just fine, even though tye aren’t really explained (what, you think in a real zombie apocalypse there’s going to be an explanation for all the weird shit you will see?). Again, there’s some precedent — JUNK had a master zombie who was super-strong and could control the other “regular” zombies and the Resident Evil franchise (both games and movies) have included a number of special “super zombies”.  It’s something of a requirement for games — simply killing the same zombies over and over again gets boring, in theory.

If the game’s story has a weakness it is the lack of a coherent overarching narrative to tie it all together. Why do they keep finding themselves needing to cross town to get to the next escape point? It’s a mystery. Or maybe an existential joke: why did the survivors of the zombie apocalypse cross the town? To get to the next level, of course.

Resident Evil 5 drops today

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 13 - 2009

residentevil5Resident Evil 5, the latest in the premier zombie franchise in the world of video games, hits retail today and I couldn’t be sadder. This is because there’s no way I can afford to play it (nor would I have the time to play it if I could, but that’s another matter). Hell, I haven’t even been able to afford picking up Left 4 Dead yet. Still, I couldn’t let such an important zombie event pass without noting it and still aspire to being the world’s best zombie blog. I’d have to turn in my zombie union card if I did.

In non-zombie related news, next time someone tells you video games are a recession-proof industry, smack them for me, preferably with a copy of either Left 4 Dead or Resident Evil 5. Also, I will have a review of Resident Evil: Degeneration up later today so I can stay in the spirit of RE:5 day. Anyone who’s playing RE:5, feel free to torment me with tales of how awesome it is in the comments section…

Flashback: Dead Rising

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 13 - 2009

dead_risingJust a couple of days ago I wrote about my excitement for the upcoming Dead Rising 2 and my love for the Xbox 360 original. As it turns out, I reviewed Dead Rising for my college paper and I thought I’d share that review with you all, since I am typically lazy on Fridays. Plus, I think I am going to play through some of it again this weekend and next week, which will probably mean some new thoughts I’ll want to share on it. In turn, that means it might be useful for you all to have the original review to provide context. These days you can get the game for $20 or less, so if you have an box 360, love zombies and somehow missed it, click through and read my review, then rush out and buy the thing. You will thank me.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Fetid Waters are waiting

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 11 - 2009

fetidwaters_small

Seems that the this morning’s video game discovery has sparked a trend (well, I guess you need three for a trend). I found a link to House of the Dead‘s movie poster generator this morning. If you aren’t familiar with House of the Dead, it is a crappy light-gun zombie shooter. It was also spun off into a supposedly terrible Uwe Boll movie, which I have never seen. I’ve never been a fan of light-gun games in general or this franchise in particular so there’s not much else I can say about the actual game.

They’re making a Wii version of it, and they made this fun little movie poster generator to promote the thing. I seriously doubt I will ever play the game, but the poster maker is a great way to not work for an hour or so. I came across this on Final Girl’s blog (one of the best horror bloggers out there, if you aren’t already reading her) and she’s running some sort of contest, so if you get really inspired, send her your masterpiece. Above, you see my creation. Although I despise the movie Zombie Lake, I’ve always thought zombies from a lake held promise, so that’s the direction I took.

Dead Rising 2 announced, excitement ensues

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 11 - 2009

It never fails. On any given day where I don’t have time to do my usual surfing, some kind of big news breaks. Yesterday, apparently Dead Rising 2 was announced and the sweet, sweet trailer above was released. I am immensely excited about this. The original Dead Rising is one of my favorite games ever and one of the all-time classic zombie video games. And unlike movies, sequels are frequently better than the original titles in the world of video games. If that’s the case, this will be my game of the year in whatever year it comes out. I will officially start salivating now…

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