Publisher: Capcom / Developer: Capcom / ESRB: Mature [Sexual Themes, Partial Nudity, Blood and Gore, Use of Alcohol, Intense Violence, Language] / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $39.99
Capcom is pushing Dead Rising 2: Off the Record as a retelling of Dead Rising 2. When the pseudo-sequel was first announced, many jaded videogame fans called it a “cash grab”. The truth is somewhere in between… but closer to one point of view. Yes, using Frank West, the protagonist of the original game, gives Off the Record a slightly different perspective in terms of story and gameplay. And yes, Off the Record is mostly comprised of levels and art assets found in the original Dead Rising 2. While the game contains all the over-the-top zombie-killing fun you’d expect from a Dead Rising game, the vast majority of it will feel rehashed to longtime fans of the series. For newcomers and those that only played the first game, there are cheaper ways to dive into world of Dead Rising 2.
Like the first Dead Rising 2, Off the Record takes place in Fortune City, a post-zombie-apocalypse version of Las Vegas. Instead of playing as Chuck Greene, you play as Frank West. You’d think that this would mean a whole new story and a whole new adventure, right? Wrong! The vast majority of plot elements and custscenes are the same as the first game. A minimal amount of new dialogue was recorded to make the proceedings seem like everything is happening from West’s perspective, but if you’ve played DR2 then Off the Record’s plot will feel like Frank West was shoehorned in.
The story comes down to fallen hero Frank West taking on a metric crap-ton of zombies and reality host czar Tyrone “TK” King. Like most people in reality television, King is shifty and underhanded. He’s using the zombie outbreak to pilfer all of Fortune City’s money. It’s up West to beat the hell out of thousands of zombies and play his part against King. Too bad Frank West isn’t able to come to our reality and beat the hell out of The Situation from Jersey Shore. That would be awesome.
There are two gameplay modes in Off the Record–“story mode” and “sandbox mode”. Both can be enjoyed as single-player modes or cooperatively through Xbox Live. The story-mode missions are almost exactly the same as the original Dead Rising 2’s. There are timed sequences as well as portions where you have to kill a certain amount of baddies in order to progress.
The one major gameplay difference is the return of the photography feature. Since you’re playing as photojournalist Frank West instead of motocross jockey Chuck Greene, the camera feature has been implemented into Off the Record. Photos of key scenes or awesome carnage can be shot for PP (essentially experience points) and cash. The photo mechanic feels a bit smoother than the original’s, but it didn’t add too much fun in story mode. There were actually long stretches where I forgot it was even there, which speaks to how the Dead Rising 2 experience didn’t miss it.
Sandbox mode lets your roam around Fortune City and explore to your heart’s desire. There are also specific missions in this mode. The freedom was a good excuse to spend several minutes bashing the crap out of things without thought or concern. Due to the haphazard nature and the lack of structure, I was able to snap cooler photos in this mode than in story mode. It’s much easier to get in touch with your inner Ansel Adams when you don’t have to worry about progressing to the next level.
As I mentioned earlier, cooperative gameplay can be had in both modes. I played a couple of hours with two friends (two gameplay sessions) and found sandbox mode much more enjoyable than story mode when it comes to co-op. Although there are co-op missions, the real fun was just teaming up with a buddy and cleaving through zombies without much thought. In a sense it reminded me of old-school arcade games; it was all about smashing and bashing while having a fun conversation. And really, aside from being kin or bringing a child into this world, is there a stronger human bond than between two people that killed zombies together? Not that it’s highly cerebral or anything, but playing story mode with a friend required more thought and collaboration.
The graphics in Dead Rising 2 were average and repetitive in 2010. When you bring the same visuals back in 2011, it all looks dated. It’s not that there’s anything offensive about the game’s graphics. They’re just the same, which is entirely expected when you use the same levels and art assets from a predecessor, but it means they’re rather unimpressive one year later.
You’d think that using the same engine, art, and levels would result in significantly better load times. The developers have had a year to optimize things, right? Unfortunately, this is not the case. The load times are nominally improved, but still long enough to be annoying for a modern game.
As with the graphics, the sound effects and music in Off the Record are largely the same as the ones in Dead Rising 2. Again, there’s nothing special going on here nor is there anything offensive. The game’s sound isn’t going dazzle anyone, but it’s not going to make anyone’s ears bleed either.
The voice acting in the game is strong. I enjoy the voice work in this series more than most people. To me, it’s good acting that fits in with the B-movie vibe associated with zombie movies. In fact, voice acting is one of the few areas that I think is superior to Dead Rising 2. It has nothing to do with the relative performances and everything to do with me enjoying Frank West more than Chuck Greene. He’s a cooler character… and more journalists should be portrayed as heroes, don’t you agree?
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record offers hours of visceral zombie mashing and allows gamers to have fun slaughtering the undead with all manner of weapons. The problem is, I’m not really sure who this game is for. Only the most ardent Dead Rising fans should buy this game. Gamers that liked or really liked Dead Rising 2, but didn’t love it, will find that it’s too much of the same. Even though this game retails for a relative bargain of $39.99, gamers that only played the first game will be better off playing Dead Rising 2, which can be found for half the cost or less. As for people that liked Dead Rising’s potential but didn’t like the actual game, there aren’t any significant improvements here to make them believers. Off the Record is a must-buy only for those with an irrational love for the series.