It probably goes without saying that there are a number of very dangerous traps into which a team of video-game designers can stumble. They might, for example, miss a crippling bug in playtesting, or choose an unfortunate title like "8 Hours of Pointless Tedium," or just forget to make a game at all and spend their entire budget on rock candy and baseball cards.
The most dangerous error, though, is simply failing to make a game fun, and unfortunately this is the mistake made by Capcom and Blue Castle Games, developers of Dead Rising 2.
Honestly, it's kind of hard to understand how Dead Rising 2 managed to be so unsatisfying. Its basic premises – a rampaging horde of zombies, a chintzy resort city to house them and a stone-jawed beef-slab of a protagonist to (re-)kill them – represent the potential for a highly enjoyable game. Unfortunately, this potential goes largely unrealized when it comes to actual gameplay.
The main issue with Dead Rising 2 is that it's played on a rigid 12-hour timer which, when combined with a near-constant stream of new story quests and sub-quests, leaves very little room for fun stuff like exploring the city and butchering crowds of zombies. Little time, that is, unless you're willing to just ignore all of the quests and do what you want. But since these missions happen to be the only efficient way to level yourself up, if you go freelance you'll spend the entire game too slow and weak to do anything except have your face chewed off.
Compounding the misery of the timer system is an extremely frustrating control setup. In a rather unnecessary throwback to beat-'em-up classics like Streets of Rage, almost all of the fighting in Dead Rising 2 consists of blindly mashing a single button until everything around you quits moving. While this is merely tedious and repetitive when fighting the slow-witted zombies, it's downright infuriating when battling non-zombie boss characters, who tend to have very cheap attacks that run right over your necessarily one-dimensional fighting style.
The game does have a few bright spots. Fortune City itself is a fantastic setting, perfectly capturing the cheesy glamour of Vegas with its neon-encrusted casinos, hotels and dens of ill repute. The weapon-combining system is also a cool addition, rewarding player creativity with ridiculous and surprisingly useful contraptions like head-mounted lawnmowers and machine gun-toting teddy bears.
But a well-designed setting and a few flashes of goofiness just aren't quite enough to save Dead Rising 2. Beneath the fine veneer, it's little more than a bland, frustrating beat-'em-up that spends most of its time dragging you around by the collar like a disobedient child. Avoid it like the shambling monstrosity it is.