December 28, 2010

Case West Report – For A Few Zombies More

Dead Rising 2 Case West
Dead Rising 2’s Xbox exclusive duet, featuring the gruff talents of Chuck Greene and Frank West in a standalone epilogue to the events of Fortune City, is very much a fan driven affair. And while that earth shattering revelation sinks in and turns your world upside down, allow me a few more sentences to elaborate.

Whereas Case Zero functioned as a prequel, a release that lured players into the layered world of slapstick zombie slaying and reality TV characters that furnish the series, Case West services the expectation that the ride through Fortune City has made a fan of you, which if you have any interest in downloading this addition is a safe bet. But while Case West subsequently works to add to the experience of the retail release, the simplicity of playing to fan anticipation makes for a game that feels several shades lazy, or at the very least, far less interested in impressing the player.

A narrower path of narrative priority certainly contributes to that feeling, and the inability to play as Mr. West in single-player sessions is most certainly more likely to upset fans rather than please, and as the game unfolds it’s hard to ignore the idea that an assumption of fandom leads Capcom to believe that said fans will tolerate glaring shortcomings for another dose of Zombrex.

Dead Rising 2 Case West
Case West picks up from Chuck’s troubling ending in Dead Rising 2, and immediately brings the original zombie killer into the picture as Chuck is saved by Frank West’s sudden appearance. The two men hesistantly set out on a quest to uncover the truth about Phenotrans at a facility near Fortune City, and the game quite literally drops players into an environment where the series staples await – the workbenches, restrooms, and random instruments of everyday doom separated from the player by a familiar sea of shuffling undead bodies.

Setting a new ticking clock to work via deadlines with an informant, players have time to tool around and rescue survivors while waiting for key points that move cases forward and push the player toward the final revelation. Falling back into creative solutions for zombie slaying throughout the facility however, a few less than positive observations materialized.

Dead Rising 2 Case West
The Phenotrans facility is an incredibly paint-by-numbers environment, the type of copy and paste setting that would even bore the most mediocre graduate of the Umbrella Corporation’s school of design. The facility is a straightforward series of boxes, with lab areas and living spaces peppered around a larger box primarily serving as a warehouse that blurs into a bit of confusion that even an overhead arrow can’t always easily rectify. Understandably I don’t expect evil corporations to get incredibly art noveau about their facilities, but the entire scene is far less distinctive than the city streets and unique buildings of Dead Rising’s last XBLA outing, and subsequently far less memorable both in the long term and in navigating through the short of it.

Add to this that one of the larger sub-objectives is gaining keys to unlock doors that simply create shortcuts through this space, and I’m a few shades more blue. I spent a lot of time exploring Case Zero, hopping fences to find back doors and climbing roofs to find a means into the weapons shop, growing attached to that desolated town along the way. Case West simply hands players the keys as a reward for rescuing survivors.

Survivors are an interesting part of the puzzle here, an example of how Case West falls back on shaking up the pieces that form a Dead Rising game to see where they fall rather than attempting to strike any new ground. On one hand survivors shed the penchant for douche-baggery that the series’ side-characters are well known for, but on the other hand the rescue effort heavily favors bizarre fetch-quests.

One trapped worker wouldn’t leave until I procured some organs she could sell, and upon receiving them was simple deemed “saved” and no longer any concern of mine. In some cases you simply need to swat a few zombies and talk with survivors in order to facilitate their survival, effectively eliminating any chance of forming a connection and giving a damn about their presence.

Dead Rising 2 Case West
Did I mention that the entire time you’re running through this facility, armed security guards are shooting at you? It’s kind of important given that Case West forces quite a dose of gunplay on the player, which is a place Dead Rising should make every effort to veer away from. Enemies like zombie handlers, who attempt to traffic zombies toward you, and at other times resort to clubbing you with their stunrods do a better job of fitting the scene. In most cases armed guards can be outrun, particularly those wielding giant impact hammers.

On the plus side the game does have a very satisfying boss confrontation that captures the humor of the series and the play of grabbing anything on the ground for a weapon in desperate situations with big baddies. And even as the plot veers completely into the dark side of capitalism, it is bearable, though not nearly as interesting as the random character stories the series can cough up.

Since I don’t want to be a complete negative Nancy here, I’ll add that Frank makes for good company even in single-player sessions, a handy asset that can be handed weapons and will often have your back just as you’re being overwhelmed. Co-op potential also allows this release to serve a more efficient means of quickly feeding a hunger for the series’ staples, but at the same time the game’s direction is so incredibly handfed in favor of pushing the plot forward that it still isn’t the ideal playground for repeated visits.

1 Comment »

  1. Wasted potential is the worst.

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — January 1, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

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