Faaaantastic (well, not the technical side of things)
Ahh, the familiar loop of Dead Rising: leaving the safehouse, fretting about the finite time you have to rescue bizarre civilians, panicking when their braindead AI leads to them being eaten by actual braindead zombies, and picking yourself up and doing it again. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it affair, with some players hugely turned off by the time limits and the constant anxiety they bring with them. I’ve always loved them for that exact reason; most games that deal with the undead quickly become power fantasies, and though you’re practically a demi-god who can do suplexes in this series, time constraints and stupid survivors make for highly memorable high-stress scenarios that I relish.
Despite my love for Dead Rising, I had never played the sorta-sequel sorta-expansion Off the Record, which brings the protagonist from the first game to the Vegas-themed playground of the second. Since I prefer smug assholes (Frank West) to father clichés (Chuck Greene), I figured I was in for a good time.
I would have been right if it weren’t for all of the shitty technical problems.
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record (PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Released: September 13, 2016
I won’t explain the nitty gritty of Dead Rising 2 to you, seeing as how the game has been out for ohmygod six years. All you need to know is that Off the Record is a “What If?” type of riff off of the second game, where Frank is the hero instead of Chuck. Since his successful exposé in the first game, Frank is now a washed-up has-been everyone calls fat and ugly, who wants a second shot. He finds this in the Terror is Reality game show, which pits him against live zombies in Fortune City (Vegas, basically). Things go awry, a new outbreak occurs, and Frank sees his opportunity to become relevant again in the form of unraveling a conspiracy.
Thing is, this conspiracy isn’t hugely different from what Chuck experiences in Dead Rising 2. A couple of story beats deviate — especially the ending — but you’ll still mostly be doing the same exact sidequests and fighting the same psychopaths. This gives the whole game a bit of a cheap feel to it if you’ve played both games. Since it’s been six years, I enjoyed myself the whole way through, but I imagine if I had played it directly after 2 I would have been annoyed.
The new stuff that is there is great, though. With the return of Frank comes the return of his camera, which means you can take horror, drama, erotica, and comedy photos for extra experience points. Some of Frank’s exclusives missions involve the camera, but just running around with it feels so right. I associate some of my best memories of these games with trying to line up the perfect shot (like a psychopaths’s charging tiger leaping towards me, toothy maw open and ready), so I was happy to see the mechanic return. There are also new combo weapons, one of which involves connecting a fake escape pod with a fire extinguisher to make a small UFO that freezes and shatters zombies, so I was a happy little sadistic man. A space-themed amusement park area that wasn’t in Dead Rising 2 debuts here as well, and it ties in so well that I had to double-check that it was new.
A sandbox mode is also included for those who want to play without time limits, and it can be played cooperatively just like the regular game. You can run around with a buddy to complete challenges that net you cash in the game proper, but since you have to defeat a certain number of zombies first, repetition should be expected.
But mostly, I’m just happy to have Frank back. His brand of sarcastic asshole makes for a somewhat unique character. Most protagonists fall in either the heroic goody-two-shoes or grimdark categories, so I’m happy to play as a jerk who knows what the right thing to do is, and will (probably) do it. His quips are great too, like when he bemuses stuff like “Sure, I don’t need my own expensive-ass zombie medicine or anything” after handing it over to a survivor. Capcom Vancouver broke the fourth wall just enough to be amusing here, and I dig it.
This all would have been great if it was running competently on hardware that’s more than capable of acing it at this point. My game crashed six times: twice when I was looking at the included DLC costumes (so save before using this menu!) and four times at random. The “locked at 60 frames per second” should actually read as “swings wildly from 20-60 depending on the size of the area you’re in and how many zombies there are.” On the Silver Strip, the biggest area of the game, I even did the classic trick where I’d stare at the ground or the ceiling to improve the frame rate.
When speaking to Chris and Jordan about the ports for Dead Rising 1 and 2 respectively, they said they had nowhere near this much trouble, barring a few short dips in frame rate. For what it’s worth, I tried another PlayStation 4 just to make sure I wasn’t having caching issues or the like and found the same experience.
These problems are extra frustrating, because when Dead Rising 2: Off the Record functions properly, I have a blast with it. The story is nothing memorable, but the toybox that is Fortune City allows for all sorts of emergent storytelling that I’ll remember for some time. I’m hoping that Frank’s return in Dead Rising 4 fares better.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]