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Dead Rising 2: Off the Record Review

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In some important ways, Off the Record is the best Dead Rising yet. It's just a shame you've probably seen most of it before.

Frank West, ladies and gentlemen.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record makes enough meaningful improvements and additions to the formula of Capcom's hectic, quirky zombie action series that it's easy to call this game the best Dead Rising to date. So it might sound odd to say that there's also a good chance you should skip this game entirely. Off the Record is billed as a sort of alternate-history version of Dead Rising 2 that replaces the previous hero, the noble but downtrodden motocross star Chuck Greene, with the series' original protagonist, the sleazy but downtrodden photojournalist Frank West. That idea has merit, but it's hard not to be disappointed by the sheer amount of content in this package that's lifted directly from the last game.

Of course, it will only seem recycled to you if you played through Dead Rising 2. I should state upfront that if you missed that game, and you're down for more of the bizarre humor, time-limited mission structure, and mass zombie slaughter this series offers, Off the Record is a great deal at $40, since it has everything in the original along with some nice extras. But that's also the problem with this game. The core storyline of Dead Rising 2, which involves a 72-hour zombie outbreak in the Vegas-like pleasure-dome of Fortune City, remains basically unchanged. A few of the characters' roles in the story are slightly different, and enough of the dialog has been rerecorded to integrate Frank seamlessly into the starring role, but by and large the story beats and even specific cutscenes usually range from slightly modified to essentially identical. As someone who for some baffling reason put at least 25 hours into Dead Rising 2, it was hard to shake the feeling that I'd seen all of this before, and even when things start to diverge a bit later in the game, it all feels too much like a retread. This game would stand more readily on its own if it offered a more unique story for Frank to make his way through.

Same zombies, same city, different guy.

That's not to say there isn't some new content here, even for returning players. A new theme park area has been grafted onto Fortune City that offers some silly carnival games and other ridiculous ways to kill zombies. Some of the collectible items like magazines have been moved around a bit, and a good number of the survivor side missions are also now in different places (though they're the same otherwise). And there's a handful of amusing new combo weapons to put together, but then, none of them are as consistently useful as old standbys like the nail bat and knife gloves. And of course, Frank still has his trusty camera, so you can earn extra experience points taking pictures of all the brutal, dramatic, and erotic sights a zombie-infested Fortune City has to offer. Even the DLC costumes from the first game are included on the disc. It's nice that this stuff is in here, but it's not nearly enough to offset how familiar the story progression and core missions are.

Some of the most meaningful additions in Off the Record are actually the ones that take place under the hood. Dead Rising 2 already offered three save slots (up from the original game's one), so you could stagger your save games and roll back to an earlier save if you locked yourself into a spot where you didn't have time to finish the next case file. Off the Record adds checkpoints to this system that trigger when you enter a new area or after you complete major objectives. The checkpoints act as a great safety net that prevents you from losing too much progress if haven't made a hard save in a while, and you happen to unexpectedly die or wander into a psychopath battle without being prepared. It's a minor point, but you can now also drop waypoints anywhere on the map, making it easier to find your way around to specific locations.

The sandbox mode is a great way to earn experience and mess around without any time pressure.

Finally (and I do mean finally), Off the Record has a sandbox mode that lets you roam the whole of Fortune City with no time limit. There are dozens of challenge missions scattered around the map that have you killing a quota of zombies in a specific way, or racing to a destination in a set amount of time, and so on. These objectives are amplified if you bring a second player in for co-op, and both versions of each mission have a leaderboard attached. Or you could forget about the missions entirely and just go nuts building weapons, killing zombies, and generally messing around. The best thing about the sandbox mode is that all of the experience points, cash, and even collectible things like combo cards that you earn there will transfer right back into the story mode. If you're the type of person who likes to level up your character for more health and inventory space before you really get going through the story, the sandbox offers you a good way to do that without playing the first couple of hours of the game multiple times ad nauseam. Alas, each mission has to be unlocked with a minimum number of zombie kills, so I found myself having to grind out a bunch of kills after I finished each mission, before I was able to take on the next one. That's an unfortunate limitation that slows down your enjoyment of the sandbox mode, but then it wouldn't be Dead Rising without the mechanics arbitrarily impeding your progress once in a while.

Obligatory shot of new area.

Since the vast majority of the assets here are straight from Dead Rising 2, this game looks almost exactly like that one did, so it's no surprise that the PC version is once again the best one, with a smoother frame rate and faster load times on a modern system (not to mention Xbox Live achievements, if you're into that sort of thing). But at least the console version's awful load times have been noticeably improved from before. That's some consolation when you lead survivors back to the safe room, but it's a shame the developers didn't go further and allow you to just drop them off at the entrance, without making you load into and back out of the safe room at all. Unlike the load times, the performance sadly isn't really improved on console, with the frame rate bogging down pretty badly in open areas with a lot of zombies. It's especially atrocious in that new theme park (cheekily dubbed the Uranus Zone). You'd think there would be more polish applied to the game's one completely new area, but the opposite is true.

Off the Record strikes me as a strange product. There are a lot of reasons to fondly remember Frank West, and it's fun to see him back in action here, even if he's put on a few. But the way this game depicts Frank going through nearly the same story you've seen before sort of cheapens the existence of the original Dead Rising 2. Video games are such a blatantly sequel-driven medium that I'm genuinely impressed any time a franchise makes a move as bold as replacing its protagonist, and moreover, Chuck Greene was a likable guy who did a respectable job with the whole reluctant-hero thing. Off the Record almost feels like it's giving up and saying, "OK, fine, here's that original guy you were so attached to." What this game means for a possible third Dead Rising remains to be seen, but at present, your interest in Off the Record should be directly dictated by how much Dead Rising 2 you've already played, and how much more you're still eager to play now.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
79 Comments
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Posted by krabboss

Yeah, agree completely. Ran through it the last couple days and it's mostly more of the same.

Edited by UnrealDP

Cool, can't wait to pick this up! My Dead rising 2 disk is a collage of scratches and i never got to play more than an hour of the game.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

Dunno. I didn't play Dead Rising 2, so I might pick this up. I should probably beat Dead Rising 1 first though. Been trying since 2006. Never even made it to the third day.

Posted by text

So, what if Dead Rising completely passed me by, but I've always wanted to get into the series?

Do I start at 1, skip straight to 2, or just start here? Or do I give up and wait for DR3?

Posted by Brad

@MooseyMcMan said:

Dunno. I didn't play Dead Rising 2, so I might pick this up. I should probably beat Dead Rising 1 first though. Been trying since 2006. Never even made it to the third day.

This is definitely worth getting if you never played 2 at all. I like Chuck, but the mechanical improvements in this one are hard to deny.

Posted by Deusoma

I never played Dead Rising 2, and I was hoping to hear this would incorporate the improved features from the downloadable games, like teleporting survivors back to the safe room, or not saddling the player with multiple stacks of time limits, so in that respect, I'm disappointed. On the other hand, this sandbox mode sounds like what I really wanted from Dead Rising in the first place: a way to sit back, relax, and kill hundreds upon hundreds of zombies in any sick, twisted way my creative mind can conceive, so for that reason alone, I find myself considering a purchase. It won't be now though, Arkham City comes out next week, and the vampire inFamous game the week after that. But Off the Record will definitely be in the back of my mind for the next time the release schedule calms down.

Posted by TheHakku

Got it just because I wanted the true Dead Rising sequel. I know it's pretty much mostly the same game, but that's okay with me.

Posted by chrismafuchris

Woah, did the score go down for just me? It was four stars and then it was three.

Posted by krabboss

@MooseyMcMan: The original Dead Rising 2 can probably be picked up for really cheap now, right? Hard to say if you should get that or this. Off the Record polishes up the gameplay a little bit, but I'd say the story of the original DR2 is better (not that either have very present stories though). That's a moot point if you'd rather skip the timers and just play it as a sandbox game in Off the Record. They're okay games, but maybe not for everybody. I think I might be more forgiving than others of Capcom's weird gameplay ideas (I love Monster Hunter and Lost Planet 2 a lot, man).

Posted by SlightConfuse

Never played 2 enjoyed time wit the first one, might pick this up with all the improvments

Posted by Twisted_Scot

It does the job. If you love Dead Rising you'll love it. If you have been putting off buying DR2 then this is easily a way better version. All the subtle little things they changed are actually really helpful like:

  • Watch & map combined (no need to look at watch as its on the map screen now)
  • If a survivor is too far away to transition between areas it will tell you in large letter across the screen
  • Improved menu screens
  • Ability to add custom way-points

Even the events have subtle differences like taking a slightly different route etc. If you didn't like DR games then you still wont like this one.

Edited by Victor018

Why do I keep buying all of these Dead Rising games?!!!

Posted by PulledaBrad

Why is Dan Aykroyd in Dead Rising 2?

Posted by Afroman269

@Brad said:

@MooseyMcMan said:

Dunno. I didn't play Dead Rising 2, so I might pick this up. I should probably beat Dead Rising 1 first though. Been trying since 2006. Never even made it to the third day.

This is definitely worth getting if you never played 2 at all. I like Chuck, but the mechanical improvements in this one are hard to deny.

And Off The Record would probably feel more like a direct sequel to the first game because the story is continuing to center around Frank.

Posted by CptBedlam

You're doing it wrong, Capcom.

Posted by HatKing

For somebody who skipped Dead Rising 2 for several specific reasons, Sandbox mode really makes this one sound appealing. I think if I can get my hands on this one cheap it might be a good pickup once January comes 'round and I'm waiting for Mass Effect 3.

Posted by bybeach

This may be the Dead Rising I buy someday, probably well down the road..

Posted by Brad

@Afroman269 said:

@Brad said:

@MooseyMcMan said:

Dunno. I didn't play Dead Rising 2, so I might pick this up. I should probably beat Dead Rising 1 first though. Been trying since 2006. Never even made it to the third day.

This is definitely worth getting if you never played 2 at all. I like Chuck, but the mechanical improvements in this one are hard to deny.

And Off The Record would probably feel more like a direct sequel to the first game because the story is continuing to center around Frank.

That's a valid perspective, but I'm kind of disappointed that Capcom went straight back to the well with Frank. I love it when sequels shake things up, and Chuck was a great character too.

Posted by RE_Player1

So it is confirmed that you get XP from the sandbox mode. I'm picking this up tomorrow than.

Online
Posted by MikkaQ

I am the perfect audience for this game, I played a lot of Dead Rising, not much of 2 at all. But still I hesitate to get this, first because this is the exact sort of lazy development I don't really want to encourage, but mostly because I feel like 40$ is asking too much. If it were 30$, it would be a very, very enticing package.

Also my real problem is from what I've played of Dead Rising 2, they really didn't change as much as I'd have hoped. It still kinda feels like a game design from 2006. But I guess that's okay because they did make mowing down legions of zombies pretty damn fun. Still... guh mixed feelings.

Posted by kollay

@PulledaBrad said:

Why is Dan Aykroyd in Dead Rising 2?

Glad I'm not alone on thinking this.

Posted by Afroman269

@Brad: I'm not faulting the second game for switching it to Chuck, he's a great character. It just looks like that newcomers to the franchise or people who passed on Dead Rising 2 have an opportunity to continue the Frank story if they really like that guy. Speaking of Chuck, I remember hearing that he shows up in Off The Record, does he play a major or minor role in this game? If it's too spoilery then you don't have to answer.

Posted by Deathpooky

@Brad said:

That's a valid perspective, but I'm kind of disappointed that Capcom went straight back to the well with Frank. I love it when sequels shake things up, and Chuck was a great character too.

I don't know if I'd call him a great character for the setting though. A stoic family man trying his best to clear his name and save his daughter doesn't fit in with Dead Rising's absurdist tendencies. Slapping together combo weapons and going on a zombie killing spree for fun just didn't seem his style, and also makes you feel a lot guiltier if you leave your daughter to rot or show up to give her Zombrex wearing women's clothing.

Edited by Winsord

I played through Dead Rising 2 earlier this year; it was fun, but definitely had a ton of issues. Admittedly, after watching the quick look, I felt like booting it up again, but I don't think I could handle another playthrough of this game, Frank West or Chuck Green.

Also, I like Frank as a character, but I think I actually liked Chuck better, and the divergence of main characters in a sequel was warm welcomed by me when it came out; back-peddling on that now feels strange.

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Posted by Afroman269

@kollay said:

@PulledaBrad said:

Why is Dan Aykroyd in Dead Rising 2?

Glad I'm not alone on thinking this.

I'll get Dead Rising 3 if Frank is voiced by Dan no matter what. I will slog through old, backwards gameplay if I have to!

Posted by Babylonian

Man, Brad's such an excellent writer. I wanna be him when I grow up.

Except for the 'cheekily' pun. That, if intended, is seriously unforgivable.

Posted by Deathpooky

Depending on how long it takes for them to come out with a Dead Rising 3 I might use this an excuse to go through the game again when it drops in price. Frank, the picture taking, and the new stuff would be enough for me if this drops to $20 and is sold on demand. Especially sandbox mode.

I think the loss of the picture taking was the biggest thing missing from the first game to the second.

Posted by mrfluke

great review brad, kinda sums up the whole game fully

Edited by Moloney

Never played Dead Rising 2 so might check this out at some point.

Posted by DiscoDuck8k

Mildly interested, yet so burned out on Dead Rising I just can't be bothered.

Posted by BLKZOMBIE

3 stars seems mighty generous from what I saw.

Posted by ZZoMBiE13

I'm surprised the comments here are mostly positive. I am a Dead Rising nut, so this game was tailor made for me. Frank is my favorite "new" protagonist from this gen so I'll pick up pretty much anything that Caps decide to put him in. If he ends up making it into MvC3 Ultimate, I'll even pick up that despite not normally liking that franchise much.

In all honesty, I have a hard time imagining why Off the Record exists. As much fun as I'm having with it, I find it hard to believe this one will end up being a highly profitable title given how saturated the release schedule is at the moment. Now if this game came out in May or July when not much else is hitting the shelves, I'd expect there to be a greater market for a retread like this. But in a bloated holiday release window and only about a year and a week after DR2 proper... just seems like a strange choice to me. Not that I'm complaining mind you. As I said, I'm a nut for the franchise; flaws and all.

Posted by PrivateIronTFU

I am definitely not a fan of this series, but at least Capcom isn't charging a full $60 for this game. Seeing the improvements made to this one, anyone who hasn't played a Dead Rising game, they might as well just skip 1 and 2 and head straight into this.

Posted by coakroach

I might actually pick this up.

Its a shame that Capcom feels like its ok to fuck with day 1 buyers of their games though.

Posted by falling_fast

I never played Dead Rising 2, so I might check this out on pc... eventually. After I'm done with skyrim.

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

Okay, so I have a couple questions:

I never played Dead Rising 2, but I loved Dead Rising and want more. Is there any reason to play Dead Rising 2 before Off The Record? I know Brad said this is a great deal if you haven't play the second, but I am curious to know if there are any advantages at all to playing the original sequel?

Will your level from Case Zero carry over to Off The Record or is that strictly a Dead Rising 2 feature?

Posted by RazielCuts

I think I might pick this up cheap later down the line just for the sandbox mode. Level and make shizzle in that, then I could tackle the campaign.

Posted by PrioritySeven

@damnable_fiend said:

I never played Dead Rising 2, so I might check this out on pc... eventually. After I'm done with skyrim.

My thoughts exactly.

Posted by Ronald

The sandbox mode is the only reason I would consider getting this. The one downer of DR2 is that you can't just have fun killing zombies. You always have a timer counting down to the end of the game.

Posted by Tyrax

They must have spent a lot of money licensing Dan Aykroyd for the game

Posted by benjaebe

That seems like a totally fair score. I bought it and have enjoyed it just because I love Frank West and never ended up finishing much of DR2 for one reason or another.

Edited by Bribo

This is a difficult one to pass up, but I say no.

DR2 with the photography mechanic from DR is sorely tempting but not at this price point.

Should've been DLC.

Posted by MormonWarrior

Why does everybody act like $40 is a deal for this game? I could get Dead Rising 2 for about $13 on Amazon right now.

Posted by Little_Socrates

Wait, so Off The Record uses Games for Windows Live? Just clarifying so I know whether to buy the PC version or the Xbox one.

Posted by KaneRobot

I've actually never played a Dead Rising game, so I may check this out.

Posted by sasnipes

So basically this game is to Dead Rising 2 as Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness was to Castlevania 64? Bought both of those and thought it was worth it :P But I've actually never played a Dead Rising game before, maybe I'll check it out sometime, Dark Souls and Shadows of the Damned are gonna be taking up my weekend :D

Posted by patrick

Just pretend it's an HD remake.

4/5

Posted by Brackynews

If we keep letting Capcom do this, they'll never learn that it's ok to try new things.

Posted by zels

@MormonWarrior: it's actually 13 pounds for the PC version of off-the-record in the uk, 18 pounds for the console ones. @ $40 Americans are really getting ripped off.

Edited by ZZoMBiE13

@Godlyawesomeguy said:

Okay, so I have a couple questions:

I never played Dead Rising 2, but I loved Dead Rising and want more. Is there any reason to play Dead Rising 2 before Off The Record? I know Brad said this is a great deal if you haven't play the second, but I am curious to know if there are any advantages at all to playing the original sequel?

Will your level from Case Zero carry over to Off The Record or is that strictly a Dead Rising 2 feature?

I can't really tell you which one to get. You just have to ask yourself if you actually care about the storyline of Dead Rising or not. And honestly, the story is pretty much just a paper thin narrative to hang the gameplay on. If you liked Dead Rising, but want to try a similar game with a different character, get DR2. If you liked Frank West and want to keep playing as that character, then pick up Off the Record.

As for the Case Zero thing, you do not get to carry over progress from CZ to DR2:OtR. Since Chuck Greene was your character in CZ, carry over wouldn't really fit. But the first 5 levels fly by anyway and you can get them in Sandbox mode pretty quickly if you want a leg up when you start the campaign.

There's also a third option in which game to pick up. For the price of one new game ($60 USD) you could probably get both DR2 and DR2:OtR. And if you're the PC type of player, you can likely get DR2 even cheaper. I think I got it on Steam during a sale for like $10 if I remmeber correctly. Not 100% sure on that, but I think that's what I paid.

Either way, good luck picking which one is right for you. :)

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