The Psychopath battles complicate things, too. Sometimes you'll head to a mission only to find that the survivor in question is not there to be led to safety but has lost their mind and will attack you instead. These boss battles feel more like chores than anything else, particularly in combination with the cumbersome save system: Since the game only saves when Chuck goes to the bathroom (or at major plot events, which are few and far between), it isn't uncommon for you to go long stretches of time without saving.
While it's usually clear when a mission will be a Psychopath battle, that isn't always the case - and if you lose half an hour of progress because you accidentally wandered into a fight you couldn't handle, it induces controller-tossing levels of frustration. Even if you did remember to save, frequent loading screens make the trek back to the boss a slog, and the game's combat engine simply wasn't made for fighting individual targets.
What it is made for is killing groups of zombies, and it does that as expertly as ever. The meat of Dead Rising 2 is slaughtering the undead en masse with whatever happens to be at hand, and it's terrific amounts of fun. The original Dead Rising let you use anything you could pick up as a weapon, and Dead Rising 2 ups it a notch with the addition of combo weapons. From a nail-studded baseball bat to a water gun squirting flaming gasoline, the combo weapons are creative to behold and a delight to use.
As with the environment, though, the system feels a bit restrictive. The game doesn't tell you you can use a weapon to its full extent until you've found the appropriate combo card, and generally, each item combines with exactly one or two other things. It would have been nice to allow players some more experimentation: What happens when I stick knives on a boxing glove as opposed to, say, a saw blade? (Saw-punchers!)
There's no doubt that Dead Rising 2 is an upgraded Dead Rising. It inherits problems from its predecessor, some of which it fixes (thank goodness for multiple save files), and some of which it doesn't. The frequent load screens are irritating, and it seems to have suffered problems in transition from the Xbox 360 to the PS3 - like choppy framerates and glitching during boss fights, to name the two most glaring ones.
Dead Rising 2 has its share of flaws and shortcomings, but it also preserves the original Dead Rising's sense of silly fun. Riding a pink tricycle through a crowd of zombies in just your heart-patterned boxers is hilarious. Impaling the living dead on the horns of a moose head is a riot. Getting dressed up in a polo shirt and jeans and taking a sword to the shambling undead like a yuppie ninja is as entertaining as it's ever been. It's enough to make you almost forgive every bit of teeth-gnashingly frustrating game design you'll run into.
Almost. Those loading screens can die in a fire.
Bottom Line: It's an upgraded and improved Dead Rising set in a Las Vegas knockoff. Dead Rising 2 is at its best when you're goofing off, finding new combo weapons and exploring the Fortune City Strip - and that works so well that you're almost inclined to forgive it its faults, like irritating boss battles and a cumbersome save system. Those zombies aren't going to kill themselves, you know.
Recommendation: If you ever liked the first Dead Rising, this is a no-brainer - it's that, but better. If you're a zombie fan, it's also a damn good choice. A rental for everyone else.
This review was based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
John Funk dresses in his Sunday best to hunt zombies.