Review: Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

Posted 5 years ago by Zack Furniss

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
Publisher: Capcom
Released: September 13, 2016
MSRP: $19.99

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.]

7

Good

Solid and definitely have an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.

Zack Furniss

Review: Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

Posted 10 years ago by Conrad Zimmerman

When Dead Rising 2 released last year, there were two very loud criticisms from gamers who felt that, yet again, they weren’t getting the zombie slaying title they really wanted Capcom to deliver. The game failed to make Fortune City a totally open and unrestricted world by elminating the time-sensitive quests, a demand left over from the first Dead Rising. Fans were further outraged by new protagonist Chuck Greene, decrying him for not having covered wars like previous hero Frank West.

Capcom has deigned to give in to those demands with Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. While lawyers might quickly surround any comparison of Dead Rising to the film which was clearly its inspiration, Off the Record is to Dead Rising 2 as the European release of Dawn of the Dead is to Romero’s original cut. One contains slightly more content than the other, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a better product. 

Off the Record

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record (PC, Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3)
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Publisher: Capcom
Released: October 11, 2011
MSRP: $39.99

I’ve already reviewed the original Dead Rising 2 to an exhaustive length and Off the Record is pretty much the same game, mechanically speaking, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much here. The plot of the story and mission content is almost identical, save for a few tiny changes. There’s a new sequence where Frank spies on TK early on, while a motorcycle chase has now been removed and one of the primary objectives has been relocated to the new Uranus Zone theme park area. There is also a new ending which reveals itself in the final chapters, so there is a reason beyond just liking Frank West to try and save Fortune City again but not a terribly good one.

Frank fits well into the story of Dead Rising 2. Hell, you could fit Frank West into Siddhartha if you really wanted to because he’s little more than a caricature. Compared to Chuck Greene’s motivation of keeping his daughter alive, he’s just a shallow dude with a camera and Capcom doesn’t attempt to give Off the Record an emotional angle (unless you count lust as an emotion). The cutscenes have just the slightest tinge of sleaze with West in them but are never particularly interesting because all of the dramatic stuff went away with Chuck.

That said, from a gameplay perspective, it’s just as good as it was the last time around. Along with Frank’s return comes his camera and the ability to earn experience by taking photos. This time, the camera is an entirely optional aspect of the game and you can complete the story without ever snapping a shot. That said, it’s still great fun to use and the game provides plenty of opportunities to earn bonus experience using the system. Completionists will have fun poking through every nook and cranny of Fortune City looking for camera icons to snap photos of and add to their collection.

The biggest change to Off the Record is the long-awaited arrival of Sandbox Mode, which replaces the Terror Is Reality multiplayer mode in Dead Rising 2 as an alternate means of earning cash for use in the story. Sandbox allows players free reign over Fortune City to kill zombies for as long as they wish. There are no survivors to be rescued, only slaughtered as (similar to Survival Mode in the first Dead Rising) they now provide a more intelligent opponent to find wandering about and drop piles of cash when they die.

Capcom wisely realized that simply making the world open for exploration and filling it with zombies isn’t really enough, despite what their critics might say. Sandbox Mode also features a series of challenges littered through the city, unlocked at milestones in the number of rotting corpses destroyed. Most challenges will have you trying to kill as many zombies as possible within a time limit, but there is some variety found in the occasional footrace or being asked to collect as many “personal massagers” as you can. Success in challenges is measured by bronze, silver and gold medals with corresponding cash rewards and all the money, experience and unlocks you acquire in Sandbox Mode carry over with you into Story Mode (and vice versa).

The Sandbox Mode is fun but it doesn’t really hold a candle to the Story Mode for me. I’ve always liked the structure of Dead Rising and enjoyed the pressure of its time-sensitive elements because they gave purpose and urgency to my actions. By comparison, the challenges in the Sandbox feel like quaint diversions. Great in small doses, it’s a good way to hop in and let off a little steam after a long day but becomes pretty monotonous over an extended period of time.

Having a friend along to engage in hijinks together helps to spice things up. Both the Story and Sandbox portions of Off the Record allow for a second player to join your game in online cooperative play. Options can be set to allow anybody to join your game, keep it limited to people on your friends list or go private. When someone wishes to join your game in progress, Frank’s transceiver will ring and you can choose whether or not to allow them in.

The co-op functions well. Players in your game can limit you in some ways, preventing you from moving from one area to another unless they are close enough to the door as an example (a griefing opportunity if ever there was one), but there’s no debate over whether it’s more fun to kill zombies with a friend. It just is and Off the Record‘s multiplayer was both painless and enjoyable to play.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is not a better game than its predecessor. It’s the game that the audience demanded, however, and ably delivers on those demands. If you’ve already played Dead Rising 2, the question as to how much you need to play Off the Record should be based almost entirely on your desire to play the unrestricted, open-world of Sandbox Mode. Frank’s contribution is negligible at best and the other additional content (such as Uranus Zone) barely merits mention, let alone justify the purchase. This is still a great game but it might be an unnecessary one.

7.5

Good

Solid and definitely have an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.

Conrad Zimmerman