DEAD RISING 2

★★★★ out of four stars

Publisher: Capcom.

Systems: Xbox 360, PS3.

Price: $60.

Rating: Mature; blood and gore, intense violence, language, sexual themes, use of alcohol.

Concept: Survive a zombie attack using improvised weapons while uncovering a massive conspiracy.

Graphics: Tons of zombies appear on the screen -- particularly near the end -- and the game handles it without a hitch.

Sound: Intentionally bland mall music juxtaposed against snarling monsters helps sell the creepy ambience.

Playability: Developer Blue Castle's efforts to alleviate frustrations from the first game succeed.

Entertainment: A lot is going on in "Dead Rising 2," and it all works together wonderfully.

Replay value: Moderately high.

"Dead Rising" was an early example of what the then-new Xbox 360 hardware could do.

Running through vast crowds of zombies in a mall was wish fulfillment for a generation of people raised on George Romero movies, and slaughtering them wholesale with improvised weaponry was blood-red icing on the cake. But a finicky save-game system and terrible artificial intelligence created two outspoken camps: those who couldn't stand the game and an equally vocal group of apologists.

For the sequel, Blue Castle Games and Capcom took a long, hard look at the first game and addressed nearly all of its major annoyances. The end result is one of the most enjoyable games of the year.

Even after playing for dozens of hours, you'll still find new things in "Dead Rising 2." There's a lot of variety to be found in the game beyond obvious things such as the number of objects that can be used as bludgeons. The game is designed for multiple play-throughs, and I'm looking forward to each and every one of them.

JEFF CORK, Game Informer