No brains required

Postmodern, sure -- but no complex moral exercise: the point of Dead Rising 2 is to kill a lot of zombies

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Dead Rising 2

Blue Castle (Capcom)

Xbox 360/PS3/PC

GAMER If Dead Rising was a videogame homage to Dawn of the Dead (1978), then Dead Rising 2 has taken a big leap forward in the George Romero zombie timeline, landing somewhere near the patchy neighborhood of 2005's Land of the Dead.

Set a few years after the events of the original, the sequel depicts a society well past the shock and dismay of the zombie outbreak: it's begun to make money off it. At the game's outset, motocross driver Chuck Greene is a contestant on a competition TV show called Terror is Reality, where the goal is to slice up zombies on a motorcycle outfitted with chainsaws. This is not a game that takes itself terribly seriously. The original Dead Rising had plenty of goofy material, from Mega Man costumes to psychopathic clowns, but it was also grounded so strongly in its homage to the Romero film that the goofiness felt like icing on a cake. Here, goofiness takes center stage. This isn't quite a criticism, mind you, and the silly fun you have in Dead Rising 2 beats the pants off watching 2007's Diary of the Dead any day.

After his appearance on Terror is Reality, and an apparent terrorist attack that caused zombies to break into the show's studios, Chuck finds himself quarantined on a patch of the Vegas strip with three days to solve mysteries and make sure that his daughter receives her daily shot that prevents her from turning into a member of the undead. As in the original, you're largely free to go where you like for the three days, but dilly-dallying comes at the expense of saving other survivors. That clock is always ticking down, and it quickly becomes clear that it's impossible to do everything the game offers in the time given, forcing you to make choices about whom to save and which mysteries to investigate.

This isn't some complex moral exercise: the real reason to play Dead Rising 2 is to kill lots of zombies. We're talking thousands upon thousands, filling every screen. Luckily, Las Vegas is packed with the tools of zombie disposal, from lawnmowers to novelty foam fingers, and the game introduces a new system of combining items to make them doubly efficient and doubly hilarious. Grab that rake and attach a car battery and you have an electric rake — perfect for zapping zombies at a safe distance.

Other than the new location and the combo items, developer Capcom didn't mess much with the formula; in fact, a number of the game's sections are indistinguishable from the first title. The option to play cooperatively with a friend is welcome, but the multiplayer portion is more afterthought than anything. It's not reinventing the wheel, but there aren't a lot of games in the "zombie sandbox" genre and the overwhelming wealth of stuff to do in Dead Rising 2 suggests you'll be slicing up zombies and making yourself laugh for a long time to come.

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