Review: Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

Review: Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

A sequel is typically expected to expand upon the ideas put forth in the original and provide a game that is richer, fuller, and more complete. Occasionally a title comes along that does just that, but still fails to capture the audience that so dearly loved the original. Dead Rising 2 did just that. But rather than throw up their hands in failure, Capcom decided a ‘redo’ was in order.

(I should note that for the first time ever, I am going award a game two separate scores. One score is going to be for those who have yet to play Dead Rising 2 and the other will be for  those who have already seen everything Dead Rising 2 has to offer.)

For some strange reason Frank West – the photo snapping, zombie chopping, sex machine – was axed from the sequel of one of first and most successful massive zombie slayer games ever. Everything positive about the first Dead Rising was largely due to the fact that Frank West was such a great lead character. So when we heard that Dead Rising 2 was set to star some unknown character who rides dirt bikes for a living, we were a bit befuddled.

Chuck Greene’s story was by no means bad as it single handedly helped tide me over through this summer’s gaming dry spell. However, during my entire bloody stay in Fortune City I felt that something big was missing. The game looked and played like Dead Rising, but it just didn’t feel like Dead Rising. Thankfully the developers saw the error of their ways and decided to redeem themselves in the eyes of their fans and released Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. Stuff like this isn’t entirely uncommon for Capcom.

(For those of you who have played Dead Rising 2 already, I will try my best to avoid any major plot change spoilers.)

In what I liked to call the true sequel to Dead Rising, Off the Record marks the return of Frank West and his trusty camera as he attempts to rid himself of his recently obtained ‘washed up journalist’ status. He ends up partaking in TK’s hit TV show ‘Terror is Reality’ when the zombie apocalypse equivalent of a tree-hugger decides to sabotage the area, releasing the undead into the streets of Fortune City. Frank manages to make his way to the Fortune City safe house, where he decides that being cooped up just isn’t his style and heads out into the city to have some fun.

The only major change from the original Dead Rising 2 and Dead 2: Off the Record is that the story has been mildly adjusted to accommodate Frank and his ‘condition.’ If you played the original Dead Rising 2 you may find it quite amusing to see how they modified certain scenes and sequences in the plot to adjust for the change in characters.

Frank’s story is by far more interesting than Chuck’s, which is why I truly consider this to be the proper Dead Rising 2. The general idea remains the same, but the fact that you feel like a journalist covering a major conspiracy creates a deeper sense of connection with the story as opposed to a simple dirt bike super star that happens to avoid getting eaten alive during the initial outbreak.

You’re still going to encounter the same psychos – with a  surprising new one, but I won’t spoil that – along with several new missions, but those are so few and far between that they are hardly even noticeable. Essentially, the only thing you are going to notice is the dramatically changed story line.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

Not only does Frank show up to save the story, he actually revives my favorite aspect of the original title: photography. I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours I poured into taking ridiculous photographs in the first game, so naturally I was heartbroken when I found out it was not going to returning for the second game. Thankfully Frank didn’t forget that taking pictures of zombies wearing knives in their eyes and chewing on hunks of decaying flesh is incredibly hilarious; not to mention worth loads of experience.

The whole PP system was included previously, but Frank’s return revives the photos for experience model and it’s as exciting as ever. You are still graded on your ability to frame the perfect shot of exploding heads and upskirts in order to obtain any number of genre categories including brutality, erotica, horror, special, and my new favorite, outtake.

The re-inclusion of photography was more than enough reason for me to play this game as tossing a battle axe into the chest of a zombie two stories below and snapping a picture precisely as it lodges into his sternum never gets old. Or even better is Frank’s newfound ability to snap a self-portrait with any number of his new zombie friends. Although, I prefer something to be sticking out of their eye socket before snapping the photo; it just makes for an all around better picture.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

Frank also made sure he brought back his wide assortment of gruesome fighting moves. Unfortunately, some have been toned down quite a bit. Chuck really disappointed me in the whole special moves area as none of them really wowed me like Frank’s originally had. Thankfully, Frank hasn’t forgotten how to smash a zombie’s face into the concrete, walk atop hordes of undead in a Christ-like manner, double fist punch anything around, or even how to tear the bowels right out of anything with some semblance of a digestive tract. I do have to say that the ‘disembowel’ maneuver doesn’t feel as satisfying or as powerful as it once did, but that could be attributed to the fact that Frank simply feels like he has gotten fat.

Throughout my time with Off the Record I knew I was playing as my pal Frank West, but then again I just didn’t have the same connection I once did. The new Frank seems to be a lot fatter, lazier, and generally slower than before. Also, I couldn;t help but occasionally feel like I was playing as a digital version of Dan Aykroyd. That doesn’t change the fact that he is still 100% zombie slaying man meant; it just feels a bit awkward at times.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

Frank isn’t the only new addition to the game. Throughout the game you will find a few new weapons lying around just waiting to be combined with each other into a hodgepodge piece of death dealing awesomeness. I can’t say that there are hordes of new weapons or that you may even notice them at all simple because there is so much to play around with in this game that I was still finding new objects on my third play through of the original Dead Rising 2.

One of the most obvious and most talked about additions is a new amusement park called ‘Uranus Zone’. Watching the trailers leading up to the release of this title had me absolutely beside myself with excitement at the prospect of what I would find, but upon closer inspection, I was sorely disappointed.

Not only did Uranus Zone feel empty and devoid of much life, the new weapons and outfits contained within hardly warranted the trip down the strip to get there. Each time I stumbled back into the amusement park I was met with a staggeringly sharp drop in frame rate, sometimes to the point I could hardly function. Needless to say, I rarely ventured back Uranus Zone.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

Perhaps the most exciting addition is that of the desperately needed Sandbox mode. It’s a wonder why this mode wasn’t included from the very beginning. Including a time limit on a game with a virtually endless supply of things to do seems rather counterproductive to the cause. Thankfully, Frank West realizes the need for a vacation filled with nothing but hours upon hours of killing zombies.

You have unlimited time to tool around the streets of Fortune City and chop to your heart’s content. You can choose to partake in various challenges spread out around the city, but those are entirely optional and usually range from ‘kill X amount of zombies in a certain amount of time’ to ‘see how fast you can get from point A to point B.’ As you rack up the kill count, more challenges become available to you and they do progress in difficulty, especially once you start striving for the gold medal.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

In all, Off the Record is yet another way to immerse yourself into the timeless tradition of slaughtering zombies. It does feel more like the sequel that should have been released in the first place, but as always, it’s better late than never. The game is still plagued by the annoying need to save seemingly brain-dead survivors while attempting to lead them through legions of undead. The psycho battles can be exceptionally unbalanced at times and may require countless attempts before luck finally kicks in and lets you move forward. And whether you decide to take on the story or just muck about in sandbox mode, this game is an absolute blast to play with a friend.

Pros:

  • Frank West
  • Better Story
  • Sandbox mode
  • Photography for PP
  • New Weapons and combos
  • More moves!

Cons:

  • Frank West doesn’t feel the same
  • Lackluster new area
  • Nothing new for those who’ve already played Dead Rising 2

If you have already played Dead Rising 2, I can’t say as though this title really falls into the category of must play as you may find yourself a bit bored. That is, unless you’re a massive Frank West fan who wants to see what the real Dead Rising sequel should have been.

Score: 6.5

Those of you who opted to steer clear of a Frank West-free sequel definitely have something worth owning here as you will be treated to the complete Dead Rising 2 package.

Score 7.5

Comments are closed.