This is something I'd like to see more companies do. Instead of releasing a demo, which often winds up being a slightly repackaged version of whatever was running on the E3 demo kiosks, Capcom has released a short prologue to Dead Rising 2. Case Zero is set from sunrise to sunup about a day before Dead Rising 2 starts, and gives a very clear idea of what's changed, what's the same, and what's better about DR2.
Of course, the flip side of this is that they expect you to pay five dollars for what's effectively a demo, but at least it's an all-original, self-contained product. Some actual work went into Case Zero, so the price tag doesn't chafe much if at all.
Chuck Greene, DR2's new protagonist, rolls into a small desert town outside Las Vegas to gas up his truck. An outbreak in Vegas has killed thousands of people, and his daughter Katey is infected with the parasites that eventually turn people into zombies. Chuck has to find another dose of Zombrex, the drug that keeps the infection at bay, and figure out a way to get out of town before the military rolls in that night.
For the most part, if you played Dead Rising, you'll be immediately familiar with Case Zero. Chuck isn't a photographer, so there's no camera-focused minigame. Instead, he's a tinkerer and mechanic. As you pick up random objects from the environment, anything that can be used to create something new is marked in your inventory with a wrench icon. If you find another object that Chuck can duct-tape to it, you can take both to a workbench and come up with a brand-new, usually-powerful weapon. This comes into play the moment you take control of Chuck; you can use a box of nails and a baseball bat to create a nail bat about ten seconds after starting the game. The improvised weaponry isn't necessarily as effective as just picking up a shotgun and going to town, but you get a lot of bonus experience points for using them, and style counts for a lot.
The town's got a lot of random objects scattered throughout it, which you can use to batter, humiliate, slow down, or otherwise fight the zombies, but the real enemy in Case Zero is the time limit. It doesn't take long to become good enough at the game where the zombies are sort of a constantly evolving obstacle, like a barricade with teeth that'll follow you around. Finding the bike parts you need to build your ride out of town is the major concern, and that takes some effort.
All of the trademark idiocy from Dead Rising's also in full effect, with silly outfits to wear, weird hats, odd toys you can use to no real effect, and odd things hidden in strange places. Exploring pays off in a big way, and you actually have to go jumping around on the rooftops in order to rescue one of the survivors. Just as in the demo for the original Dead Rising, there's constantly more stuff to find in the far corners of town, and then you can use it to beat a zombie to death.
One of the biggest problems with the original Dead Rising was the survivors' limited AI. Actually, let me go back; the survivors in DR didn't have AI. They were morons, and letting them die often seemed like the best thing possible for all involved. While Case Zero's crop of survivors occasionally seem to be utterly unaware of the idea that they might be in any danger at all (like the girl who refuses to talk to you because she's got a hangover), they're easy to deal with once you actually manage to talk them into joining up.
Case Zero lasts about two hours, but there's no way you'll be able to accomplish everything on your first playthrough. One trip through it is probably enough for you to find all the bike parts; another trip may be enough to get you all the survivors, and then you can clean up the remaining achievements on a third or fourth run. For five bucks, you get a pretty decent amount of gameplay.
This is an appetizer, basically, and if you're already eager to play Dead Rising 2, Case Zero will only make you more excited. It hints at a much better game than its predecessor, and the first game was already pretty decent. Case Zero throws on a fresh coat of paint, brings survivors you don't want to strangle, and lets you murder zombies with a pitchfork strapped to a shotgun. It's a lot of fun.