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Dead Rising 2: Off The Record Review (X360)

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Dead Rising 2: Off The Record Review (X360)
Capcom
Dead Rising fans liked Chuck Greene, but he was no Frank West. Frank covered wars, you know, while Chuck's only standout feature was his daughter Katey. So after begging and pleading to have Frank return, Capcom has obliged. Not quite in the way series fans might have wanted, though. Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is basically the same old Dead Rising 2, just with Frank instead of Chuck. There are certainly some differences and new stuff in Off The Record, and it is still a solid and fun game, but if you're already tired of the Fortune City setting, there isn't really anything here worth playing through it all again.
Game Details

  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom Vancouver
  • ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
  • Genre: Action
  • Pros: Frank West; new weapons; psychos seem easier; story and sandbox both level up your character; solid Dead Rising zombie killin' gameplay
  • Cons: Same ol' stuff as last year; sandbox mode is sorta boring

Dead Rising 2: Off The Record is a sort of alternate reality version of the events of Dead Rising 2. Just instead of Chuck Greene, you have Frank West. The core story of a zombie breakout in the gambling and sin oasis of Fortune City is still the same here, but it plays out a little differently.

Unfortunately, while the story is a little different, the rest of the game is almost identical. You find all of the survivors in the same places. You fight the psychos in the same places. Even the missions in the story are the same, even though the content of the story is different. This is mostly the same exact game as last year, and at least it is only $40 instead of $60, but if you didn't like the gameplay in Dead Rising 2, or didn't like the Fortune City map, or just played too darn much DR2 and are tired of it, there is no reason to bother with Off The Record.

I'm a pretty huge Dead Rising fan. I loved Dead Rising and even passionately defended it's confusing save system. I loved Dead Rising 2. Heck, I even played the awful Wii version, Dead Rising: Chop Til You Drop. But doing all of the same stuff from Dead Rising 2 again, even a year later, strained my love of the series a bit. I imagine most other fans will feel the same.

Gameplay

Capcom
While it is mostly the same, there are some new things in Off The Record. There are new weapons and combo cards and combinable items to find, and we have to admit some of the new weapons are pretty nifty. There is also a new area of the city - a sci-fi theme park called Uranus Zone. Uranus Zone really isn't anything special or wildly different, but it is at least something truly new in the game.

The core gameplay is mostly unchanged. It is still a melee-focused, use anything you can get your hands on to kill zombies affair. And, darn it, it is still a lot of fun. One change here is that since Frank is a photojournalist, the ability to take pictures makes a welcome return to the series. Finding hidden PP stickers, taking pictures of psychos and survivors, or just documenting a room full of bloody zombie parts after you run through it with a lawnmower are all good uses of the camera.

Another welcome change is that the psycho fights seem a tad easier in Off The Record than they were in Dead Rising 2. In DR2 the psychos moved a bit too fast, and did too much damage, and were an un-fun pain to fight. I haven't had any real problems with psychos in OTR. They're a little slower, it seems, which makes the fights much more manageable.

Sandbox Mode

One major new appealing feature is that for the first time in the series there is a true sandbox mode. There are no missions or time limits or people to save, you just run around and kill zombies and explore. You do run across other survivors, but you have to fight them instead of save them. Also, this mode is not like the survival mode from Dead Rising 1 where Frank's health slowly diminished and you had to eat food constantly to keep it up. This is a much more open, easy, fun mode meant for just goofing off. All of the doors are open and you are free to do what you want.

The nice thing about sandbox mode is that all of the XP you gain in sandbox mode also applies to your story mode character. You could level up your character to super-human levels in sandbox before you even start the story, which would make the story a lot easier.

The not so nice thing, on the other hand, is that without any real direction or missions to do, sandbox mode is pretty darn boring. Killing zombies is fun for a while, of course, but with no time limit or with no one to protect or save or really anything to do besides kill zombies, it gets boring pretty fast. There are challenges spread all over the map in sandbox mode, but even they are little more than "kill zombies as fast as possible", so they don't add much. It is something that gamers have wanted since the first Dead Rising, but now that it is here it just goes to show that the rigid time limit and story structure actually served a purpose instead of just being annoying. It gave you a reason to play.

Capcom
Co-Op

Co-op play is back and works just like it did before. Causing havoc with a friend does make sandbox mode a little better.

Presentation

The presentation is pretty much the same as before. Since it is literally the same setting, and same survivors, and same pretty much everything, the graphics and sound - which were pretty good in Dead Rising 2 - don't show any immediately noticeable improvements in Off The Record. It does seem like the game loads a smidge faster than DR2. Still slow, but where the loading bothered me in DR2, I'm not quite as annoyed here.

Bottom Line

Dead Rising 2: Off The Record is sort of an odd game because while it has features that fans of the series have always wanted, I can't see hardcore fans really having all that much fun with it since they did all of this same exact stuff last year in Dead Rising 2. Ironically, the people that will enjoy Off The Record the most are people who never played Dead Rising 2 and won't appreciate the new features and enhancements anyway. I'm in no way saying it is a bad game or that it isn't fun. I'm just saying most of us have done all this before and there isn't enough new stuff to warrant doing it all again. Buy it if you didn't play Dead Rising 2, or haven't played any Dead Rising at all (Off The Record is easily the best one to start with). Rent it if you already played Dead Rising 2 to death but want to see what is new. I can't fully recommend series fans run out and buy it, but the $40 MSRP does make it a bit more attractive in spite of all the deja vu you'll get.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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