It's like deja vu, but with a price tag.
Recycling is great for the environment. It's unfortunate, however, how close to the heart CAPCOM have followed through with this prospect. At this point in their lifespan, CAPCOM are well known--and criticised in some cases--for their liberty to often release at least one ulterior edition for their biggest releases. The results can vary from one extreme end of the spectrum to the other; sometimes these ''Super, Delux, Ultra, Special, Directors Cut, Dualshock'' editions come fitted with a welcome assortment of extras and largely substantial content; sometimes CAPCOM can barely even mask the obvious scheme of quickly wrangling in a quick buck through the game's popularity with minimal effort. Dead Rising 2: Off The Record unfortunately leans more towards the latter.
Roughly around 90% of the game is recycled from the original Dead Rising 2; the story--which was most touted to feature the most alteration via the switch up of series original hero Frank West over Chuck Greene--in particular stands out as an egregious disappointment for how bit by bit it mimics Chuck's rendition. And I'm talking stuff like certain scenes featuring the exact same animations, just with different dialogue and lip syncing. The story does differ in certain areas, but it's largely inconsequential and has little bearing on the overall arc, nor the endings you can attain. Plus the one major twist over Dead Rising 2's canon doesn't even really make sense, leading one to wonder just how fast those butterflies were flapping to completely alter an entire character simply through Frank being there over Chuck.
In the grand scheme of things, you're quite literally playing through the same story. Again there are differences, mostly minor, like the plucky leader of C.U.R.E (a radical group of extremists who stand against the whole ''killing zombies for sport'' thing), Stacey Forsythe, having her face remodeled for whatever reason. The main draw was to actually see Frank West, a decidedly different kind of character from Chuck Greene, handle the situations DR2's story lobs in his own distinctive way, with his own deviating methods, motivations and results. Unfortunately, according to CAPCOM, Frank West would have apparently done close to everything the same way as Chuck would. Honestly the only bonus to pull out of this ''remix'' is the ''Off The Record reality'' Chuck Greene in his mighty awesome cameo role. Unfortunately that, too, goes literally nowhere, left to dissipate in disappointment like the rest of Off The Record's story.
But hey, Frank West is at least still kinda awesome, and even if he'll opt to essentially go through the exact same motions as Chuck did, he'll have plenty of his own dialogue (and potentially even more than Chuck, with Frank's habit of ad-libbing mid gameplay on whatever event is in front of him) twisted in with some of his own snappy one liners and reactions. Frank still didn't entirely fit in Dead Rising 2, though, for whatever reason. I would chalk it up primarily for the sheer laziness of implementing him into the plot as lead character with little alteration to everything else. Even with a brilliantly charismatic presence, Frank appears in the story scenes as if he's just roped off Chuck with a novelty stage cane and then opted to steal the show. A lot of new response dialogue is added, too, but some of the performances don't stand as well and went from hammishly (erm, not a word, but you get the idea) awesome to so boring you'd think CAPCOM actually hired zombie versions of the VA's to fill in their slots.
Minus the mismatched story, gameplay is still virtually the same from Dead Rising 2 as well. Frank West as a playable character isn't just some skin, however, and stands as the one defining difference between these two versions. For starters, because Frank is completely kin-less (whether that's a good or bad thing it's hard to tell), he doesn't have any Megaman obsessed kid to bring zombrex to (okay scratch that, it's definitely a good thing); Frank does still require to find increasingly rare zombrex, but Frank himself is the one who's infected, after the events from Dead Rising 1, and when the time comes can plunge the needle without any extra backtracking. Much like he was in Case West, Frank also has his own list of melee moves (close to all of which are taken from his repertoire during Dead Rising) and even his attack animations for certain weapons are different. The same general tactics work; the roll is still a great way to quickly escape a dicey situation and the jump kick is as reliable as ever. But playing as Frank nearing the later levels of PP can feel surprisingly different, with his disemboweling, double-lariat-ing ways. The only issue I had towards Frank with concerns to his melee attacks was his Throw move. Often times it would glitch out and any zombie I hurled, with reckless abandon, would literally just go right through any opposing zombies as if they were holograms. It's no biggie, but a gripe non the less.
Naturally the most divisive aspect separating the two characters is Frank's camera. Here it returns in full swing, complete with all of the opportunities to create your horror, brutality, humour and erotic portfolios that Case West before so direly missed. It functions exactly the same as it did from the first Dead Rising, with those aforementioned genre shots to snag when taking pictures at opportune (or inopportune) moments. During story segments and psychopath boss battles there'll be many instances where you'll notice flashing yellow icons, advising you to take a picture during that moment to gain some added PP (Exper--Prestige Points, sorry). Frank's camera is a pivotal part of his character, and still makes for a lot of fun to mess around and scour patiently for the perfect chance to snap some hilarious shots.
To go alongside Frank and his camera, there is an entirely new area snugly fitted into the admittedly still immensely appealing and exploratory incentive City of Fortune. Titled ''Uranus Zone'' (would you have expected any different from Dead Rising?), it's a sizable Theme Park, with the obvious theme of 50s era Sci-fi Ham & Cheese. It all looks pretty distinctive over Fortune City's otherwise mostly glamorous and bright runways & casinos, and it certainly fits in with Dead Rising's trademark low-brow humour. The problem is is that's there's not... really anything to do in there. There are a small few rides, all completely and utterly unsafe for any passerby (especially the undead kind) and there are a few shooting gallery games that you'll more than likely play a little for the trophy and then never go back to. But embarrassingly enough, close to everything else is just copy & pasted from the main bulk of the City. There'll be shops you'll instantly recognise from elsewhere and a lot of Uranus Zone is mostly just flat open land (under a sea of zombies though, naturally). Unfortunately besides the pleasing aesthetic, even The Uranus Zone adds very little to DR2's established world. I was going to work in some Uranus joke in there but... no.
What does bear fruit, however, are the added combo weapons. There's around 7 or 8 from what I can tell, with plenty more imported from Case West, and close to all provided plenty of enjoyment, PP (sometimes simultaneously) and at the very least a good laugh. A personal favourite of mine is the Electric Crusher; created from a sledgehammer + battery, it combines the sledgehammer's brute force with an electrical current essentially turning it into a makeshift Mjolnir. Another gleeful addition comes under the name of Laser Eyes; made up of an alien mask and those seemingly magical gems you find lying around, it allows you to wear the mask and, much like the name implies, shoot goddamn lasers out of your goddamn eyes! With such examples, it's easy to affirm that all the new combo-weapon additions display the same quality brand of creativity that Dead Rising 2 (and Case West) featured.
The most important addition within Off The Record, is the long sought-after Sandbox mode. Similar in design to the original Dead Rising's Infinite Mode, Sandbox delivers what it promises: a Dead Rising 2 sandbox. The entirety of Fortune City is at your mercy, now without any time limits to sweat over. It makes for a great alternative to mess around without any boundaries, and at the very least it can better prove how well detailed and fun it is to parade around Fortune City and locate its many secrets and easter eggs. Your progress within the sandbox mode is completely tethered to your character progress from the main story, too, so you can willfully head into sandbox mode and spam some PP until Frank's fit enough to take on the story mode and better handle all of the time management. Optional objectives called Challenges are there, too, should the aimless zombie slaughter become a little tiresome. Their goals are all fairly predictable; kill X number of zombies in Y seconds; gain enough PP in X seconds. But there are some more inventive obstacles, such as one that requires to drink as much alcohol as you can within 4 minutes. A lot trickier than it sounds. At the end you're ranked via medals of bronze, silver and gold, each giving you larger sums of cash. They won't exactly replace the randomness and liberty the sandbox offers, but they're there if you want a little something extra with an actual goal in mind.
Cooperative play is still available here, for both story and sandbox modes, where the second player'll take the role of Chuck Greene. The competitive Terror Is Reality mode, however, has been stripped out. I won't expect it'll be missed since it was primarily there to better fund your Chuck in the story mode with all of your winnings, and fortunately Off The Record countered the removal with money being significantly easier to come by. Now all slot machines will drop some cash, unlike the sporadic drops during DR2, and there are a bundle of safe deposit-box keys to locate and use in Fortune City's main vault--weirdly located in Uranus Zone of all places.
Technically speaking, Off The Record is much superior to Dead Rising 2. Better optimised loading times, manual way-points you can place (probably the greatest improvement the series has been given ever) and now checkpoints, too. Now whenever you enter a new area you hit a checkpoint, allowing you to respawn there should you die. A little more controversial some might say, since it does kind of go against a lot of what makes Dead Rising Dead Rising. But it still doesn't get in the way of averting you from seeing close to everything in one playthrough when you're still climbing up the PP ranks. And nobody likes to fight the psychopaths (of which there are three new in total, too) and getting a second (and third, forth, fifth, si-) chance to just get the hell out of there before being decimated by an unexpected encounter is a miracle now made possible. Has to be mentioned that the framerate is still wildly inconsistent, however, whenever the screen fills with just a few too many of the undead--ironically with the Uranus Zone, the one new area CAPCOM have promoted to justify this re-release, suffering a pretty nasty brunt of it.
Since this is essentially Dead Rising 2+, Off The Record stands as the best Dead Rising game to date. With all the incremental improvements and extra content (for how sparse it may be) it stands as the easiest Dead Rising game to finally enter the fold. But at the same time because nothing of major consequence was altered, it makes you wonder just who this was made for. I'd like to think there seriously weren't shallow tools out there who completely scoffed at the idea of a Mr. West-less Dead Rising game. And the long loading times, nor the aggravating lack of any manual way-pointing system, were hardly game-breakers--nor are they game changers now that they're here.
For players who already owned the game, it's certainly a tough sell and no amount of incremental improvements will be able to wash off the everlasting sense of deja vu. I would personally only advise getting if you happen to really enjoy your Dead Rising as much as, say, me.
The Sandbox mode is at least a great offering for those who mostly just wanted Dead Rising for the sole purpose of humiliating and mutilating zombified people in an all manner of ways with no boundaries, and the decreased price-tag is a solid compulsory, too; if they're what was keeping you back from the default Dead Rising 2, or are exactly what you thought Dead Rising was missing, then may I be the first to say ''Welcome (back) to Fortune City. We hope you enjoy your stay.''