Dead Rising: Case Zero is the first Dead Rising game I've ever played. Which is strange because I enjoyed watching the original on YouTube. Don't look at me that way, I didn't have an Xbox 360 back then and I love me some zombies.
My impression of the original game is it was an excellent zombie game but it was a little too derivative. I mean it wholesale cribs its plot from Dawn of the Dead and didn't do much to change it up despite adding a government conspiracy/terrorist angle. Still, the voice-acting and story were tremendous. Also, from what I saw, the game play looked hard but fun.
Unfortunately, I can't say I was inspired to buy the sequel when it came out last year. The idea of it starting with a game show where people murder zombies devalued the horror a little too much for me. I wasn't yet aware it was still a "survival horror" game with the TV show segment only at the start. Thankfully, bored one evening, I decided to try out Dead Rising 2: Case Zero on Xbox Live Arcade.
DR2: CZ is the video game equivalent of a novella. It's too long to be a demo and too short to be a full game, though it's honestly not that short compared to some of the ridiculously short games I've seen like Homeland or Kane and Lynch. Actually, for a Completitionist, the game has to be played at least three times and that will give you at least six hours of gaming time. For those just interested in finishing the story, the game is about two and a half hours long.
Which brings us to the price, the game costs $4.99 in Microsoft Points. Yes, for five dollars, you get the equivalent of half a sixty dollar game or a $20 DLC add-on. That, my friends, is good marketing and I encourage people to pick up this game simply for the value. If this kind of market strategy succeeds, we might actually get some decently priced (albeit short) games with high production values.
The premise of the game is simple. You are Chuck Greene, recently widowed father to four-year-old Katey Greene. Chuck's wife was killed in the Las Vegas zombie outbreak, which he's presently fleeing. Even worse, little Katey was bitten by her mother so she's now infected. However, like in the second Resident Evil movie, there's a treatment (not a cure) for the condition. If Katey receives the unfortunately named "Zombrex" every 12 hours, she'll live.
After being marooned in a road-side town of seven hundred and fifty people, almost all of which have been turned into the undead, Chuck has to assemble a motorcycle and acquire a shot of Zombrex for Katey before the military arrives. Why before the military arrives? It's a zombie movie folks, the military is always either incompetent or evil. I think the only time it's ever been subverted was Shaun of the Dead. It makes me wonder what a Michael Bay directed zombie movie would be like.
The game play is pretty much identical to Dead Rising but for the addition you can create "Combo Weapons" from certain objects. You can't create a Saw-Bat, for example, but you can create a bat with nails in it. This is a bit disappointing but I understand the limitations of game designers. Likewise, there's only one difficulty setting and a time-limit which absolutely prevents you from doing everything in a single playthrough. For some, this will be a selling point, but the idea there should be no time-limit seems self-obvious for a sandbox-style game.
I confess, the game really managed to sell the father/daughter relationship. Children are notoriously bad in fiction as they usually range from annoying to unrealistically competent. Katey is a nice change of pace as she's meant to be a Maguffin and serves that role well. She stays in one place, looks adorable, and occasionally makes a cute comment. I would have less of a problem with children in media if they stuck to this role.
Chuck, himself, is a likable enough character. He's a believable kind of hero. He's happy to put himself at risk for other people but his family and their escape from Zombie Town come first. He's not the self-sacrificing type for complete strangers but he's willing to take a chance for them. I think most of us can relate to someone like Chuck more than, say, the Master Chief.
In conclusion, I think Dead Rising 2: Case Zero is an excellent game and I encourage everyone with an Xbox Live account to pick it up. It's not the best thing I've ever played but I would have gladly paid a full twenty dollars for it.