Off the Record is really a spinoff, sure, but even with the $40 budget pricing, the amount and variety of new content you're getting feels like it falls short.
- Dead Rising 2 was a great game, and Off the Record is basically the same
- Sandbox Mode is a fun diversion
- Frank West and his camera return
- Feels like it should be DLC
- Sandbox Mode gets old quickly
- Camera's role is largely unchanged
- Not enough new content to justify the price
Dead Rising 2: Off The Record Review:
I want to start off this review with a little bit of personal background for you all, so you know what sort of prejudices and knowhow I'm bringing to the table: Dead Rising 2 was easily one of my most-played games of last year, becoming a fixture in my Xbox 360 from its late-September, 2010 release until early February of this year.
I warily approved of what Capcom was doing with Dead Rising 2: Off the Record when I first saw it. Since I Loved the first game, loved the sequel and at least open to the idea of the "what if?" alternate world scenario that Off the Record presents us with.
I say all of that to start off with because I think it's important for you to know how I feel about the series before I say the following: Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is only here to distract during this crowded holiday season. It throws out some good ideas but ultimately falls to pieces beneath the weight of rehashed content from the first two games.
Making It Shiny: You're Doing It Wrong
The feeling I walk away with is that Blue Castle applied a new coat of paint to last year's game rather than coming up with something new and unique. For all of the excellence at work in this not-a-sequel, it's largely the same excellence we saw playing out in last year's game and, in a few cases, the 2006 original. Off the Record, quite simply, is doing it wrong.
This is exemplified in pinning the focus of the added elements to a re-telling of last year's story with the first Dead Rising hero Frank West replacing 2010 protagonist Chuck Greene. The other major characters have been tweaked as well, resulting in a storyline that, for all of the rehashed mission content, is largely new.
If this were a purely narrative-driven medium we were talking about, that might make for an interesting sidestep. Sadly, there's not enough originality on the interactive side to make playing what is essentially the same game all over again exciting.
Insert Uranus Joke Here. Oh Wait, I Just Did.
The success of Dead Rising as a series is built around the basic idea of throwing you into a wide-open environment filled with Stuff of all kinds that you can pick up and use to bash the brain goo out of the zombie apocalypse. It's a simple idea, founded on a core fiction that goes back more than 40 years.
It worked in Dead Rising and the results were even stronger in Dead Rising 2, thanks largely to tweaks in the game's weapons/combat and general A to B flow. Such is still the case with Off the Record, but there's been no innovation on the gameplay side. For any new bits of story or changed mission objectives, the inescapable fact here is that you're just not playing a new game.
Sure, there are other new elements. The Uranus Zone amusement park is a cool addition to the world, though an ultimately minor one in the bigger picture. Last year's excellent Terror Is Reality multiplayer mode, essentially American Gladiators with zombie-killing, is gone completely, replaced with the new Sandbox Mode.
Here's where Blue Castle had the potential to deliver something different and special. Sandbox Mode, which combines earned experience and money with your story mode save, completely eliminates the narrative's constantly ticking clock. It's something fans have been asking for and it could have been brilliant if it offered just a little more in the way of mode-specific content.
Let The Zombies Hit The Floor
Sandbox drops Frank into the Las Vegas-like Fortune City with very little to do beyond finding creating ways to dispose of zombies. Medal-based challenges are here to be found, with goals like killing as many zombies as you can in a set amount of time. All but one need to be unlocked by racking up higher and higher zombie body counts, with some challenges requiring a number of kills that spirals into the thousands.
You'll also find random psychotic humans roaming free and trying to kill you, though they're not nearly as interesting as the story's own colorful psychopaths. You can of course participate in various PP-earning activities scattered throughout the world, many of which are waiting to be found in Uranus Zone.
It feels hollow though. Removing the ticking clock exposes an inherent issue with the series: while random objects from the world and combo weapons are cool in theory, you're essentially just mashing the attack button over and over until it's time to trade your broken weapon for a working one. Sandbox singlehandedly reveals the genius of the original game's time-based conceit by robbing you of it.
In other words, it gets old fast.
It's Not All Bad
There are also a few under the hood changes. Load times do not seem to have improved much -- though to be fair, my original DR2 experience was on an Xbox 360 and this review had to be played on a PS3 -- and the number of zombies flooding the screen seems largely unchanged. They're definitely more aggressive now, and some of the survivors you rescue likewise seem more inept.
Checkpoint saving is the biggest new technical addition, and it's a strong one. Checkpoints will be lost if you quit the game, but they're a huge aid when taking on bosses.
Worth The Price of Admission?
This $40 package could have been greatly enhanced with the inclusion of the Chuck Greene-starring Dead Rising 2 on the disc as well. Or perhaps just a lower price, or even a DLC release. I'm sure Blue Castle put a lot of work in on creating the added bits in Off the Record, but the finished product simply doesn't stray far enough from its source to justify the cost.
It all comes back to the basic idea that a sequel should inject something new and fresh into a previously established framework. Off the Record is really a spinoff, sure, but even with the $40 budget pricing, the amount and variety of new content you're getting feels like it falls short. It's fun, but entirely skippable, at least until that price comes down to a more reasonable budget level.