Dead Rising 2: Off the Record Review Xbox 360
Supposedly originally Dead Rising 2 Off the Record started out as DLC for Dead Rising 2, then as a Game of the Year Edition, until now being released as its own separate game. The main differences in this version of Dead Rising 2 is that there's a new theme park to the mall and you can now play as Frank West. There isn't really anything wrong with Off the Record, there just isn't much new. If you haven't played Dead Rising 2 then you'll probably enjoy the experience, but for those who have should be skeptical in buying a new version of the same game.
Oddly the premise of Dead Rising 2 Off the Record is only explained in the trailers, but not within the game itself, which I find very strange. Anyway the setup is that of course Frank West was not at the Fortune City outbreak featured in the original version of Dead Rising 2, in which Chuck Green was the star. Frank for some reason regrets this [Glory hound, hero complex, sadist, I don't know why.] And decides to tell an unknown third party what he would've done differently if he was in Chuck's shoes. The setup within the setup is that after the Willamette zombie outbreak Frank became a famous author and pop culture icon. He leveraged this notoriety into getting his own talk show [Geraldo esque?] Then after a scandal that is undisclosed by the game, he loses everything and is black balled by society. Being a D-List celebrity dependant on the expensive anti-zombie turning drug Zombrex Frank is strapped for cash. So he agrees to make an appearance on the game show Terror is Reality, where contestants compete to kill the most zombies in the fastest amount of time in order to win cash prizes. This is where the game actually starts. Shortly after his appearance, surprise surprise the zombies get loose and start killing people and ruining everything.
I was personally shocked at how closely the game follows the storyline of the original version of Dead Rising 2. Although most of the time cut scenes do have at least slightly different dialogue, they almost always play out exactly the same way. So Frank and Slappy might be more cordial to each other, but it still ends with them fighting. Most of the time it seems like they just put Frank in Chuck's place a called it a day. What's worse is that when they do alter the dialogue it's usually far worse than in the original game, feeling less natural, satisfying, and motivations are a lot thinner. For instance in the original game Chuck was framed for the outbreak of the zombies, in Off the Record a stranger Franks just met is accused of the outbreak, and on a lark he decides to investigate and clear their name. Why? So I would say purely from a story perspective, the original game Dead Rising 2 was better, there are a few changes to the story here and there and a couple of new boss fights. But anyone looking to buy the game solely for its story, and not for its gameplay, or just to play as Frank should probably think twice. Supposedly if there's a Dead Rising 3, and there probably will be, it will ignore the existence of Off the Record [As the name implies.] as the game is pretty much Frank's peculiar fantasy, and not canon. The next game will probably pick up where Case West left off.
As I mentioned earlier there isn't a lot different in Off the Record when compared to the regular version of 2. Only about three cut scenes play out differently, and there are only three new psychopath bosses, one being too easy, and another that has the same attack pattern as an old boss that was removed. So there's only one cool new boss. You still travel around the mall saving survivors, killing zombies, while waiting for to get the next call for a story mission and advance the plot. It's still as fun as it was before, but if you're already sick of Dead Rising 2 then this won't help matters any but I guess if you can't get enough of Dead Rising 2, well then here's some more.
That isn't to say that there isn't any new content in the game, there's actually quite a bit, but it's subtle and you have to have to look for it. Probably the best thing added to the game is that Frank has a wireless headset for the transceiver so you can now finally fight zombies while taking a call for a mission. It was so annoying in the other games to run around dodging zombies while you wait for the overly long messages to end, and finally be able to kill things again. Speaking of the transceiver Stacy will now speak aloud transceiver messages so you don't have to take your eyes off the action. This too is a Godsend. Another change is that now all bosses have double health, I guess in the effort to make the game harder. Contradictorily however a lot of the bosses are less cheap and a lot easier to defeat now so I'm not sure what the goal was really. Like before the entire campaign or the free roam mode can be played in co-op. In either mode the second player will play as Chuck Green. Which is in contrast to the original version of 2 where both players played as Chuck, except with different colored jackets. Weirdly The D-pad feature of looking at your watch and selecting cases has been moved to the map screen, and you no longer get that cool watch close up.
One differences when compared Dead Rising 2 is the return of Frank's camera. Twice you'll have to take photos of the shady goings on in Fortune City. Unfortunately neither segment is anywhere near as cool as the intro to Dead Rising 1. Oddly no survivors require you to take pictures like in the first game with Kent, but there are some achievements linked to it. Frank can also do self portraits by turning the camera towards himself and a zombie, resulting in its similar to a "Wish you were here!" vacation photo. The side quest of taking pictures of PP stickers also returns, to waste a lot of time.
Frank has different moves than Chuck, some of which return from Dead Rising 1 such as the popular zombie walk, where Frank imitates zombies to blend in with them and go unnoticed. There is also lots of new food items, weapons, and of course, combo weapons to make in the game. I would say there are at least 100 new items, and probably a minimum of 20 combo weapons. Some are a bit impractical though, like requiring you to combine two or more combo weapons together to make a third. With that kind of work involved that better be a hell of a weapon. There's also a new clown car to drive around similar to the golf cart, but different in that you actually carry around and drive eight survivors in it at once, which is also the achievement, but how often do you have eight survivors with you outside and find a clown car? Regardless it's a cool feature. All the books in Fortune City have been replaced with new ones. I find the most useful one to be a book that gives all bladed weapons three times the durability, since then you just take swards throughout the whole game, making it a lot less necessary to use combo weapons.
The main new attraction, quite literally is a outer space centric theme park located between the Atlantica Casino and hotel in Fortune City called Uranus Zone. The place has a 60's space movie theme with green aliens, and go-go boot space cadets zombies abound. There is a midway where you can play somewhat difficult shooting gallery games, but they're only hard because zombies keep sneaking up on you as you're playing the games. There are also several rides to go on, or use to kill zombies with. But as cool as these rides are, they make the game's frame rate often shudder and dip repeatedly while in the theme park area. There's also for some reason a bank loaded with safety deposit boxes in Uranus Zone. Throughout the game you'll find keys that unlock the 30 or so safety deposit boxes in the bank. Inside the boxes you'll get easy money, valuable items, weapons, or Zombex. Annoyingly they removed all the random Zombex you could find throughout Fortune City in the original game and you are now left with only the supply from the safety deposit boxes. Which makes it much harder to get Zombrex, without resorting to buying it from the looters at outrageous prices. On the plus side it's a lot easier for Frank to give himself Zombex , since he can inject himself anytime he wants, even in the middle of the action, instead of having to hike back to the safe room to give Katie Zombrex as Chuck had to do in the original Dead Rising 2. Even though they moved around a few survivors and parts of the story to Uranus Zone the novelty of the new area wears thin quickly and you eventually realize that there's not much point in going there really, as it's pretty out of the way.
There are about five or so new survivors, curiously however they removed at least 20, which I really don't understand why. New survivors don't seem to be that memorable or engaging but some of them are fairly funny. It also seems like they might have run out of achievement ideas as the new ones seem quite reaching. Such as escorting Dynce the first survivor you encounter in the game all the way through to a late boss, or a vegan themed achievement which has you not eating meat, dairy, or alcohol for the majority of the game. These achievements seem like time wasters, and not something that would actually be fun or all that challenging.
In the new Free Roam mode there is no time limit, but days still progress, and occasionally survivors and psychopaths will show up, all of them hostile. The Free Roam seems to be the successor to Dead Rising 1's Infinity Mode, but without the health constantly decreasing aspect. You cannot play the main story cases in Free Roam but there is still a lot to do. The main goal is to kill 10,000 zombies, but you can also complete some tasks you'd be too busy to do during the normal game, like collecting all the PP stickers, building every weapon, raising money, or killing even more zombies. When you kill enough zombies you can try to complete various timed challenges, which usually involve, you guessed it killings zombies. But sometimes there is some variety in the objectives, such as using a specific item, getting the most PP points possible, or walking a tight rope. There certainly could have been more creativity in the objectives, but the missions are still fun. Doing well in the missions will get you a medals, which of course unlock achievements with gold being the most desirable. Free Roam mode is designed for the kind of person who has a panic attack at the mere mention of a time limit, and is too stressed out by the normal game to have any fun playing it. The kind of person I often saw trolling the message boards of both Dead Rising 1 and 2, claiming it ruined the game for them. Ironically this mode designed for people who hate time limits main feature is challenges which are timed. Seriously who thought of this? Regardless of mode is still a welcome addition and a good feature.
Maybe it's Is just me, but the graphics seem oddly a little worse than in the original Dead Rising 2. I do notice that the shine gloss effect seems to be have been removed from most objects and characters, and there is also a lot less blood spewing from the zombies when you kill them. Textures also seem a bit more pixelated and possibly compressed. Explosions are much more impressive and feel powerful but they still occasionally cause a frame rates to stutter. The frame rate in general is little better, and doesn't get as bad as it used to, but personally I'd rather have better graphics then a better frame, unless the game was a first person shooter, or racing game, which isn't obviously. Colors are bright but dark, so you're more likely sea crimson instead of red. Character models are well done and detailed nicely. Lighting is also strong a shoot of the original game maintains its quality. The outdoor areas during the day feature the best lighting, especially in the new Uranus Zone.
Most of the music is the same as in the original Dead Rising 2, but now there are also a few remixes of songs from the original Dead Rising. The music in the game fits the mood fairly well and is usually pretty enjoyable . Voice acting is consistently good, and I really like the way that Stacy now reads the transceiver messages to you with so much emotion. Frank will occasionally make smart- aleck comments during gameplay that are usually in jokes, for example he'll say "Ever notice how most you ladies seem to have the same voice?" or "Is Aime even a real name."
Control remained almost identical to the original version. The left analog stick moves your character, the right analog stick controls the camera and while aiming targets your weapon. LT aims your weapon to where you want to fire it or where to throw the object your holding. The X button is attack whether you're armed or unarmed, and if you're carrying food or book pressing X will use the item. The Y button is used to call out to survivors, and while aiming pressing the Y button will set a waypoint for survivors you are currently escorting to wait at. The A button is jump. The B button is used to pick up items, open doors, activate switches and enter vehicles. LB and RB's is used to scroll through and select items in your inventory. Right on the directional pad accepts co-op invites to your game, down on the D-pad drops the currently selected item in your inventory. Left on the D-pad lets you answer calls from the transceiver. The back button brings up the menu where you can check your stats or the notebook, but most importantly look at the map and select what your active case is, and which one the guide arrow currently points to.
My main problem with Dead Rising 2 Off the Record is that not enough is different from Dead Rising 2. But at the same time I really enjoyed Dead Rising 2 and thought it was a great game, so therefore if Dead Rising 2 was a great game, and Dead Rising 2 Off the Record is almost exactly the same as it, then ipso facto Dead Rising 2 Off the Record is a great game as well. But it isn't quite as cut and dry as that. I have to say that Off the Record just doesn't feel like a full new game. It would be nice if both the original version and Off the Record were included on the same disc, then there will be no question that this is the better version of the game. Unfortunately that is not the case. I guess my expectations were too high. I thought there would be at least 50 new survivors and 10 new psychopaths, so I was severely disappointed. I still don't understand why it them a to add such a small amount of additions. I'm convinced that they already started work on Dead Rising 3 and just used Off the Record as a stop gap until they are ready to unveil 3. But that's just my conspiracy theory, I could be totally wrong.
The bottom line is if you liked Dead Rising 1 but haven't played Dead Rising 2, or for some reason you irrationally hate Chuck Green, then by all means buy Dead Rising Off the Record, but it you already bought and played Dead Rising 2 then there really isn't much of a reason to buy this version of the game. Basically this game is for newbies, Frank fanboys and hardcore fans of the series, and I recommend that everyone else wait for it to go down in price to $20 or less. At $40 if you already bought the original, especially if you bought it at $60 it's kind of a rip off. I really want to give the game a 8/10, but the harder bosses and slightly cooler story in the original version of 2 don't make it that much better, so I am forced to give it a 9/10.
Note that a 9/10 would also be my score for Dead Rising 2, had I not been so lazy as to review Off the Record first.