As we enter the dead zone of game releases -- those two weeks on either side of Christmas where the number of major releases drops to nearly nonexistent -- it's somehow appropriate that Dead Rising 2: Case West sends us back into a dead zone of a different sort. This 10-buck DLC add-on to Dead Rising 2 opens the zombie holding pens again -- and closes the loop on the story that began when the Xbox 360 debuted.
The "West" refers to Frank West, the smooth-talking photojournalist who got stuck in a mall with a million or so brain-munchers in the first Dead Rising. He's on hand as either an AI sidekick (if you're zombie-smacking solo) or playable character (co-op, anyone?). Even though he's gotten a disturbing graphical makeover, his snarky sense of humor is a welcome (re)addition to the proceedings.
He teams with Chuck Greene, who's all about proving he's not the evil mastermind behind the zombie-virus massacre in Fortune City and Vegas. Following mysterious tips from an apparent deep-throater in the ranks of the evil Phenotrans Corporation, the two explore a Phenotrans lab, make a few discoveries and fend off millions of undead using every object in reach.
And I do mean "every." Dead Rising 2's biggest sell was always finding the craziest DIY weapons to jerry-rig and then unleashing hell. In this sense, Case West is like a brand-new aisle in the zombie-killing Home Depot. The game all but hands you the classic Hail Mary weapon (grafting a grenade onto a football and making like an evil Brett Favre), but you'll need to do some searching to find the parts to build things like the Zap-n'Shine, a little number that mixes a cattle prod and a floor buffer to janitorially deadly effect. With Frank back in the fold, you're also able to break out the 35mm camera and capture your best zombie-grinding moments for posterity (or at least for Facebook). Smile! You're on undead camera!
More than a few grumbled at Capcom's drip-drip-drip approach to Dead Rising 2's content. The publisher released a hugely successful prequel in September, the actual game in November and this epilogue at year's end. But as far as I'm concerned, this kind of pacing feels just about right. Every time I think I'm done with the duct tape, they keep dragging me back in.