When Keiji Inafune, the head of Research & Development and Online Business and Global Head of Production for CAPCOM, sits down with a North American based reporter and states that “[Japan is] making awful games; Japan is at least five years behind [the West],” you take notice. Inafune is trying to rectify these issues with the Dead Rising series; a title that in its first iteration was targeted at the Western world, but now in its second time around is being developed by them. Vancouver based Blue Castle is tasked with bringing CAPCOM’s undead vision to life, and their first foray into the series is with the downloadable “prequel”, CASE ZERO, used as a prologue to the full fledged sequel.
CASE ZERO takes place 3 years before the events of Dead Rising 2 and 2 years after the first title. In the small town of Still Creek, our new protagonist, national motocross champion Chuck Greene, finds himself at odds with the zombie horde, trying to find Zombrex for his ailing daughter Katey. Zombrex (Ambuzol Vaspilatin) has the ability to stave off the zombification process, but only for a short 12 hour period. When Chuck loses his supply of the medication, it’s a race against the clock to get Katey what she needs and find a way out of Still Creek, all the while continuing to take on the undead and saving other survivors as they show up in the small town.
Dispatching the zombies spread throughout the rural area is what you will find yourself spending your most time with. Pretty much everything is at your disposal, as baseball bats, 2x4’s, drills and chainsaws litter the streets of Still Creek. As you dispose of the undead, you earn Prestige Points (PP), which work as experience points, levelling up your character to unlock more health, item slots, and combo cards. These combo cards are used in conjunction with the brand new combination feature that the sequel brings to the table. Why hit enemies with a paddle, or chop them up with a chainsaw, when you can duct tape those chainsaws to the end of the paddle to create a paddle-saw? Most items in the game can be combined with a specific other item to make a new more powerful weapon. The only downside of this is that these items can only be combined at workbenches which are present in only a few select locations spread throughout the town. This forces you to run from one area to another, gathering pieces to make a combination that may not be worth the effort. Usually the room with the workbench will contain two items you can combine, which is helpful, but that will make you end up only using that combined weapon most of the time. The first workbench you come across lets you combine nails and a bat to make a spiked bat, and during my first playthrough it was easier to just stock up on spiked bats than to track down the other items required to make combinations. It’s a neat feature, but being able to combine items on the fly may have given it more life then what you’ll end up using.
Yes, the undead are littered throughout, and the series’ feature of being able to dispatch of them in any manner you see fit returns, but the real game is about time management and rescuing survivors. In total, you have a little over 12 hours from start to finish of in-game time (around an hour of real play time) to rescue the survivors, and each survivor will only show up after a certain time, or after a key event takes place. Your main goal however is to get out of Still Creek, and to do that, Chuck must find motorcycle parts in the town and use his duct-tape combining skills to piece together a Frankenstein’s monster style hog. Due to the time constraints on saving survivors, you’ll usually find yourself playing over the same day a few times in a row, learning where the best items are in the city and collecting intel on bike parts. Everything you do in the game earns you Prestige Points, and your levels and cash collected during the game are carried over from playthrough to playthrough. You’ll find yourself finishing the game’s 12 hour cycle, and restarting the story from scratch to try to cram as much new information into helping you complete all the games challenges.
In the end, CASE ZERO is indeed a paid demo for Dead Rising 2; but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. While it does demonstrate the mechanics that will be used in the full retail title, CASE ZERO gives you a brand new area, new story, and tons of unique features that are not present in the retail release. Add to that the fact that your character level is passed along to Dead Rising 2, and you find that $5 (400 MSP) is a great deal for the experience and overall product you are receiving.