If you've happily chopped until you've dropped over the holiday season with Capcom's Dead Rising 2, then Case West is the logical next zombie-stomping step for all your Romero needs.
Like its predecessor Case Zero, it offers a straight four hour long lump of gameplay, stretched further with repeated play-throughs, and keeps it all contained within a small area, Zero's Still Creek replaced with a Phenotran-run, zombie-filled, facility. The main draw for fans will be the fact it throws in a co-op (AI or online friend) partner in the shape of photojournalist Frank West, making a welcome return from the original Dead Rising.
West deviates little from the franchise trademarks. There's the frantic hustle to complete overlapping cases in tight time frames, combo weapon potential, and the comedic tones of story and characters by a developer that knows they're taken far too seriously. The interaction between the two undead-smacking hard-men will raise a chuckle or three.
Capcom's decision to chop two segments off Dead Rising 2 was a gamble that paid off ten-fold in Case Zero, blending a purchasable gameplay slice that worked as both an introduction to the game's mechanics and a demo tease for the main retail release, and giving players a self-contained area and story that asked nothing more of them if they didn't want to invest in the full game.
However, the playing field isn't quite as level for Case West for those who have avoided the main game, and will offer up a few spoilers for those planning on buying DR2 at some point. For the latter, a lot more enjoyment and an easier transition will be had playing the three-part story in order. For the former, be prepared for a initial adjustment period and a few plot details (that'll be spoilers if you try out DR2 post-West.) As such Case West can't be treated completely as a self-contained game in its own right.
This is due to Capcom (rightly) unlocking Chuck's extensive move set from the off, and including a full combo card listing, detailing the weapon formulas to build the best zombie-slaying arsenal. A DR2 player will have uncovered all these slowly as they progressed in the main game, and integrated them into their attack repertoire. they'll be able to handle greater threats with glee - Zero players and newcomers will be swamped initially, as simple melee attacks will just about cut it.
It's interesting to witness the opening thirty seconds of carnage from both a veteran and vanilla player - being stuck in a cargo hold rammed with zombies with produce panic in the latter, battle readiness in the former. Chuck's extensive zombie-killing moves are fun once learnt, but CW gives you little chance to breath initially, meaning that vibe stretches on past the first ten minutes as you encounter gun-toting guards along the metallic walkways that stretch over the facility's loading bays.
Whilst this threat feels nicely different from the undead hordes, trying to counter long-range shots and grenades while avoiding snapping teeth and grabbing limbs can frustrate. You just got to remember you're not playing Castlevania here - Chuck and Frank's attack strategies are different from button-bashing superheroes.
As such, you might be overwhelmed and disheartened on your first few failed tries. Persevere though, because as before, Dead Rising's own unique mixture of elements make it an enjoyable blast, and even as an AI, Frank's a tough cookie, and manages fine on his lonesome in combat. Photo-buffs out there will be happy to know you don't miss out on some snapping action, as Chuck gets access to a camera too.
While it's understandable from a storyline perspective that the player maintains control over Chuck, it'd have been a nice addition to give the single player the option to play as Frank rather than farm out control to a co-op player. Though given the game's size, you won't be waiting long to swop hosting duties with a buddy if you take turns over an evening's worth of play-throughs.
While the facility may feel sterile compared to the colourful gleam of Fortune City, it's a location Capcom has rarely manage to make shine - just see any third-act laboratory/ science facility in its titles from Resident Evil onwards. You'll likely be too busy nailing enemies and clock-watching to care - Dead Rising masquerading a time management simulation as a zombi apocalypse.
Is it worth 800MP though? We'll never know if that price was fixed from the off or it's an increase after the success of the 400MP Zero.
Despite that, and as stated in in the review, if you've still to work your way through Dead Rising 2, best to do that first, as you'll gain more enjoyment from it. If you have already, or have no intention of doing so, this is, despite the initial adjustment period, another fine slice of zombie action. Yes, it's more of the same, but with the ramped up move-set, co-op, and banter between the two protagonists just pushes it ahead of Zero in the enjoyment stakes.