A glorified demo? Pre-LC? Episodic? How you define Case Zero has a large influence on your preconceptions and hence your feelings about this hard-to-categorise game. I’ll give you my opinion here at the beginning of this review: Case Zero is not a glorified demo. Its environment is not present in the full game and it serves as a prelude and an introduction for the main story. It’s a full retail game engine, but with far less content. Personally, I like this approach and think other developers could take up Capcom’s idea for future titles. It certainly seems like a better way to market a big release than awarding bonus items and levels to customers who pre-order from specific retailers.
The two most important things to say about the Dead Rising game engine are that it hasn’t aged that well, and it doesn’t really matter. The game has none of the wow factor that the original did, but the lack of anything similar on the market means that the site of hundreds of zombies on-screen is just as compelling. The textures are poor, the detail is low but the singular feature of the game, the zombie hordes that essentially create a carpet of human corpses and shape the level, is still great. If anything, the increasing cultural popularity of zombie movies means that this installment of Dead Rising feels like it’s tickling a zombie-stomping itch that other games don’t scratch. Thats not to say the game engine hasn’t been improved; it’s better than the original, but its only been improved enough to make it feel relevant rather than impressive.
The original Dead Rising was an essential game for the 360. It was a game that pushed next generation hardware, one of the few games that you could show to your PS2 owning friends and proclaim, “Your console can’t do this!”. Although it sold itself on being a zombie playground with a twisted sense of humour, it featured a structure that was frustrating to many. Players loved the variety of weapons and costumes and the madcat gore, but some felt constrained by the time-limited nature, the escort missions and the twisted save system that necessitated multiple play throughs for full completion. I enjoyed the brutal and necessary actions of choosing who to save and the games later twists and turns, but found some of the ally AI very frustrating.
Case Zero takes place in a small town. The structure involves a great deal of backtracking as you travel back and forward from a safe house and collect a number of story related items. It acts as a good introduction to the rules and system of the world of Dead Rising and has enough weapons, toys and outfits to entertain. The story is relatively light, but it contains a number of stores to explore and a bunch of stereotypical NPC’s to interact with. Despite starting with a relatively poor introduction scene and a disappointing build up to the first zombie encounter, the game wastes little time in getting to the meat, quite literally. From swords to rakes with shotguns, the armoury is great fun to use when butchering the enemies in the game.
It’s not long, it’s not groundbreaking and it’s not an essential purchase. It is however, great fun and easily, EASILY worth the price point of 400 Microsoft points, especially if you liked the original. As a bonus, leveling your charcater will even carry forward into the main game when its released. What are you waiting for? The zombies aren’t going to rake themselves.
7 zombie heads out of 10