Dead Rising 2: Off the Record Review
Written : Tuesday, October 11, 2011
By: Richard Walker
As the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. And so it is with Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. You wished for Frank West's return, and so Capcom has granted that very boon, bringing the photojournalist back into the fray, fresh from his escapades at the Willamette mall in the original Dead Rising, and his ensuing spiral into drink and bankruptcy following a meteoric rise to fame. Seeing an opportunity to get back in the saddle, Frank decides to take part in the Terror is Reality game show, donning spandex wrestling garb to jump in the ring with the shambling undead. Where Chuck started out on a motorcycle with chainsaws mounted to the fairing, Frank begins in the square circle, hailed as a fallen hero making a comeback, relegated to a zombie-slaughtering sideshow. Before things go inevitably awry, of course and Frank finds himself retreading Chuck's steps in a 'what if?' take on Dead Rising 2's original yarn.
"It's just not Dead Rising without Servobot heads."
If you're thinking that this is merely a cynical way of re-packaging an existing game with a different character just for the fans, then you'd be half right. There's a fair bit of new stuff in Off the Record, the most substantial of which is the Sandbox Mode, throwing Frank out of a helicopter onto the rooftop of the Fortune City complex where you're let off the leash to do absolutely anything you like, with no time constraints. There's tasks to complete, as denoted by big stars dotted around the environment that you can walk up to and initiate. At first, you'll have only a paltry few objectives to tackle, with each earning you stars towards unlocking more. Some require a vast amount of stars and you could be playing for hours simply completing various zombie-slaughtering tasks. Sandbox is pretty big then, and a genuinely worthy addition to Dead Rising 2 with enormous scope for replayability if you want to earn all of the medals.
But what of the core narrative portion itself? Is it sufficiently different enough to Dead Rising 2 to warrant a second purchase? Well, yes and no. Having Frank back is great and all, and having the camera for snapping countless photographs is still as endlessly amusing as it was in the first Dead Rising, but the changes to the story are mostly superficial. Essentially, the story has been tweaked to accommodate Frank's imagined version of events, but the fundamental narrative thread remains, meaning you'll meet the same characters, complete many of the same objectives and visit the same places in the same sequence. That said, Off the Record is no lazily rehashed, thrown together spin-off. There's still a conspiracy for Frank to uncover and the game has its own fair share of little surprises tucked away up its sleeve, including an encounter with a familiar face who's been through the wringer in a big way. It all fits together neatly and never feels like a hastily cobbled together retread, even if that does seem to be the prevailing cynical viewpoint.
"This is what happens if you queue jump. Pure chaos."
So, what else has changed? Well, there's the new Uranus Zone location, which is actually a rather sizeable area with plenty to do, providing added exploratory impetus for players who've played Dead Rising 2 to death. It's an alien-infested sci-fi paradise, all drenched in lurid greens and purples, with theme park rides, mini-game sideshows and giant robots looming on high. There's a whole range of bizarre sci-fi costumes to discover too and for much of Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, we played with Frank dressed in a purple space suit with silver platform boots and a woman's dress hat, just to top it off nicely. There are new combo weapons to discover too, presenting an even greater diversity of methods for disposing of the undead hordes in a suitably violent and inventive fashion. You still have to hoard Zombrex though, as Frank needs to administer the drug, where Chuck previously obtained it for his daughter, Katey. Incidentally, the absence of the father/daughter relationship makes OTR somewhat less emotional and more tongue-in-cheek with Frank's signature wisecracks.
Off the Record also brings with it a few technical enhancements too, although these are pretty subtle for the most part. Improved loading times on paper should be an absolute godsend given how long it took to load each section of Chuck's story, but in practice the difference is fairly negligible. It's just about noticeable, but not so much that you'll be wowed by lightning fast loading. It is faster at loading, but not by a huge margin. That's the exciting 'loading times' bit of the review over, so onto the question of: 'should I bother buying it?' Well, if you've yet to play Dead Rising 2, the budget price tag makes Off the Record an absolute must. After all, it's every bit as entertaining and enjoyable as Dead Rising 2, which is a given as they're for all intents and purposes, the same game. If you've already “been there and done that” with Dead Rising 2 however, you might want to think twice before rushing out to buy Off the Record. The new additions to the game are excellent, and you can see why they couldn't really have been implemented as DLC, as there's changes and adjustments all over the place, including rather controversially the introduction of checkpoints prior to certain events. This is great news for the more casual players out there, but sheer heresy for the hardcore purists.
"NOW Frank's ready for action."
It's also nice to have Frank back and the camera is still fun, for snapping brutality, horror, erotica, drama and comedy for additional Prestige Points towards levelling up. Co-op is also better with Frank and Chuck, rather than two Chucks, and there are more psychos to face off against in-between escorting stupid survivors and killing zombies, natch. As a budget title, Off the Record offers pretty sound value for money, and fans of the original first two games will find a lot to like. And with a new game, comes an entirely new set of achievements, the majority of which revolve around using Frank's camera. It's arguably a superior achievement list to Dead Rising 2's, with a lot of fun and fairly smart objectives to complete, some of which riff on DR2's cheevos, while others are entirely fresh. It's good to see that there's almost no repetition or crossover in the list between DR2 and OTR.
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is a bit of a steal for players yet to check out Dead Rising 2, and worth considering if you enjoyed the previous game. If you're after another 72 hours of in-game zombie survival and a second trip to Fortune City then, Off the Record will scratch that itch. It's not exactly a revolution and it's certainly by no means a true sequel, but then Capcom isn't marketing it as such. Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is a spin-off of an entertaining title, resurrecting Frank West for the fans and adding just enough new content to make it worth a look. And that's completely on the record...
It's largely a case of 'same old, same old' here, with the same solid script with good voice-work, occasional music and all of the zombie groaning and ambient mall sounds you'd expect.
Again, Dead Rising 2: OTR looks the same as Dead Rising 2, with very little in the way of visual refinements. But then, there was never anything particularly wrong with DR2 from a visual standpoint, so if ain't broke...
Still as much fun as it was when it first released last year, Dead Rising 2: Off the Record benefits only from the return of the camera and some new content. Otherwise, it's business as usual and plays exactly the same as always.
It's Dead Rising 2, with some new story bits thrown in, a new area and a new Sandbox Mode. Other than that, you'll find pretty much the same old stuff. Sandbox is hugely worthwhile though, offering good, clean fun without having to look at Frank's watch. The introduction of checkpoints may prove divisive for the hardcore though.
A brand new list of achievements that are an improvement over the predecessor's mean that this is more the kind of thing we're looking for. There's less of the boring, grinding completionist stuff and more of the silly camera-based shenanigans, which is definitely a good thing.
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is worth a punt if you've yet to become acquainted with Fortune City, and although the addition of checkpoints might seem beyond the pale to some, it considerably reduces the frustration factor. At a budget price, Off the Record represents surprisingly decent value, and who out there doesn't like cross-dressing and clubbing zombies to death? Exactly.