In the land before time (or at least the land before Halo 3), 2006's Dead Rising was one of the first true reasons anyone had to own an Xbox 360. Dead Rising boasted hundreds of zombies on screen at any given moment and the inventory of an entire shopping mall meant to be used against them as hero Frank West tried to survive three days until rescue. Dead Rising 2, on the other hand, boasts hundreds of zombies on screen at any given moment - and the inventory of an entire shopping district to be used against them - as hero Chuck Greene tries to survive three days until rescue.
If you've already played the original Dead Rising, you'll find that Dead Rising 2 doesn't do much to shake up the formula that worked so well in the first game. The biggest change, of course, is the setting and story: As former motocross champion Chuck Greene, you are caught in the middle of a zombie outbreak in scenic Fortune City, Nevada (Las Vegas by any other name). To make matters worse, you're blamed for it - and your zombie-infected daughter needs a rare medicine every day, or she'll die. You have three days before the military rolls in to save the day, and if you haven't cleared your name by then you - and your daughter - are done for.
Ultimately, Dead Rising 2 is a game about timers. Your Mission Control will periodically call you with the location of zombie-attack survivors throughout the Fortune City strip. If you go to their aid and escort them back to the safe house, you'll be rewarded - sometimes substantially - but they won't hold out forever, and if you wait too long they'll be killed by the zombies. You'll have to juggle timers between saving survivors, progressing the plot and finding anti-zombie drug Zombrex for your daughter Katey, and the three-day timer is omnipresent and ever-ticking.
If you're intent on saving everybody - whether for the rewards or to be a nice guy - you won't have much time to explore the world that developer Blue Castle has laid out for gamers, which is really kind of a shame. The Fortune City strip is large and vibrant, and exploring the various casinos and shopping districts is almost entertaining enough to be a game in its own right, but completionists never get to see much of it beyond what they pass through on their way to the next mission.
In this, Dead Rising 2 almost feels like a self-contradiction. Katey needs a shot of Zombrex every twenty-four hours, and if you don't feel like shelling out exorbitant prices at the makeshift pawnshops or can't find a survivor with a spare dose, you'll need to find it yourself via extensive exploration - which the game's timer-focused gameplay discourages. It's undoubtedly a design choice on the part of the dev team to make sure players feel like what they choose to do has weight, but it gets more than a little frustrating. If there was any game that needed a pure "sandbox mode," Dead Rising 2 is at the top of the list.