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.

Case Zero is, effectively, a glorified, paid demo, a monetization of things that have, in the past, been free. However, it does so in a method that is neither patronizing nor insulting. Case Zero is its own thing: an exciting adventure through a small Nevada town, where Chuck Greene, professional motorcross guy, has to find both the medicine Zombrex to save his daughter, and the parts to repair a motorcycle he can use to escape the town. Along the way, he runs into zombies. Lots of zombies, and a couple survivors, and one lone insane boss character. Oh, and more weapons than you can possibly imagine.

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.


  1. Considering that this is 2 hours long (in contrast, I breezed through the Mafia 2 demo in around 15 minutes) – I think the length of time justifies it’s necessity for payment. Much like how the “Prologue” Gran Turismo titles are essentially demos, but they have enough content and replay value that they justify their price tags.

    I myself can’t speak for Dead Rising 2: Case Zero yet as I haven’t got it (will be getting it tomorrow when my bandwidth cap resets) but if it’s only a few quid then I may as well. Being a PS3 owner that hasn’t played Dead Rising 1, I think that a few quid for a few hours of “maybe I’ll grab this” is a lot better spent than eventually dropping €60 and finding out afterwards that I don’t enjoy it.

    • Tom

      It’s mostly that I’m used to being able to find that out for free. And I feel being able to find it out for free is an important thing to be able to do. Like, Vanquish. I have no interest in Vanquish unless the demo blows me away.

      On the other hand, this is easily competent enough to be worth 5$. It’s practically full DLC for a game not out yet.

  2. Paying for demos may suck but think about what giant danger this provides for a developer..they have to rush out enough of the game out the door faster than they normally would to have something prior to launch that people can play which might incentivize people NOT to buy their game because of the demo. And people get to play it for free. In the music industry where you only need garageband to record your album this [the expectation of free try-before-you-buy] might be reasonable, but in the more expensive gaming industry? I think it’s interesting that it’s taken this long for developers to actually get to charging, since it seems like the most logical move to take.

    Of course here’s hoping if this is a sign of things to come, that pricing is reasonable.

    • Tom

      I don’t mind it, but demos have been a major feature of the gaming industry since….well, since time immemorial They’ve gotten shorter and shorter as time passed, and I miss the day of like, 1/3 of the game sized demos.

  3. Fernando Cordeiro

    Tom, I think you somehow hacked into my mind and stole the same impression I had when playing the first Dead Rising. This was one of the few games that allowed for real decision making and based on my favorite Romero movie.

    And yet I sold it 3 days later simply because I could not play the damn thing as I could NEVER read my objectives. The game had also some pretty poor design choices when it came to the bosses, Otis (who surprisingly has been forgotten from all recent Top 10 Most Annoying Characters lists) and an odd saving method that, imo, should have been replaced by a “Save & Quit” option that erased the save when you returned to play it.