Review: Dead Rising: Case Zero
I had very mixed feelings about the original Dead Rising. On one hand, I loved. I loved it with a visceral, real love reserved for romance novels, described with gratuitous synonyms for thrusting and grinding. In terms of raw content, it had it all: variety, zombies, and a leveling system encouraged by its new game plus mode.
It was a game that rewarded dicking around for twenty hours before starting the game. It also had (horror of horrors in some people’s opinions) a time limit, which made the game tense and exciting. You didn’t have forever to dick around. You had to be smart, and you had to be methodical.
This all came with one, enormous caveat: if your TV wasn’t the size of a continent, the text was completely illegible. Completely impossible to read. It ruined a fantastic game.
Now along comes Dead Rising: Case Zero, a prequel one shot that sets up the events of Dead Rising 2. Released for 5$ on Xbox Live, it is part demo, part teaser, part standalone experience. And it is a near great game that shows promise of things to come.
Make no mistake, Dead Rising 2 is shaping up to be almost the same game Dead Rising was. There are only three new additions: an actual economy (one survivor sets up a shop), the ability to combine items to make weird, MacGuyverish tools, and bigger text. Oh, that’s right. The text is bigger. Sure, it’s not big, but it’s not eye-gougingly small, which is a plus.
The point of the game is fun, and fun it achieves. It doesn’t have the amazing variety the first game did, probably because this is a small game set in a small town (barely a dozen shops exist, as opposed to hundreds in Dead Rising), but there’s still plenty of things to help you spend the two hour adventure. Shotguns and a massive sniper rifle headline the arsenal, but other things like chainsaws, power drills, servbot hats (a staple of anyone’s arsenal in the original), frying pans you can heat up, rakes, newspapers, handbags, et cetera. There’s a lot of variety, and even though there are fewer money items like Katanas and shotguns (which is a one time thing), there’s a lot of choices here for your five bucks.
I mentioned the game is two hours before, so I’ll mention it again: the game takes two hours from beginning to end. Some may say that’s awful. Me? I think it’s great! Case Zero sets out to provide a taste of things to come, and provides a short burst experience you can complete before you get tired of it. The novelty doesn’t wear off, and the game is just short enough that it leaves you wanting to play the full game.
Case Zero sets an interesting precedent. Game developers have been trying to monetize everything, to try to create situations where more money goes into their pockets for game purchases. Online play costs money now, if you don’t buy a new copy. DLC is removed from games and then released for even more money, making more and more games major investments. Case Zero represents a continuation of this trend: monetizing game demos. Sure, Case Zero is more than a demo, but everyone who bought this game bought it because they either wanted Dead Rising 2, or wanted to know what the fuss is about. With reasonable sales, Capcom makes a fair amount of additional money to help fund the development process, and we lose a feature that’s usually free.
I’d say it sucks, and admit every intention of coming in here and destroying this game as a demo that costs money. It was rubbish! But, you know, after playing it, I’m not sure it’s a bad idea. Sure, some companies will abuse this, giving us an actual demo to purchase, cut from the original game. Blue Castle does this differently, though, and gives a wholly new, complementary experience, designed to excite us for the game. It’s definitely like releasing the first level of the game first as a demo, no question, but there’s enough care and difference to render it a good decision at this point in time.
Then again, most games don’t have standalone first levels that work by themselves. Case Zero works because it is an independent thing, separate from its game but still of the same cloth. It’s both introduction and demo. Other games may not use the same methods, so I in no way endorse this phenomenon as the new standard, but here, it works. Case Zero made me care about Dead Rising 2, and it was an enjoyable, complete experience on its own. That is what any demo, and any game, should do. We cannot expect more of it.