The original Dead Rising 2 didn’t offend me very much in terms of design flaws or perplexing protagonist play. While I didn’t have as much of an investment in Chuck Green like I had with Frank West, the storyline was interesting enough, and the combo cards added a layer of depth and fine tooth comb exploration that the original Dead Rising had lacked. I didn’t care much for the overly lagging and nearly barren multiplayer component, nor the often crippling load times that plagued any kind of access between the game and the system, but what worked with Dead Rising 2, worked commendably well. Barely a year later, Capcom cranked out what I thought would be nothing more than a re-skin of Dead Rising 2, with Chuck Green being replace by the original star, Frank West. But much to my surprise….I was halfway right.
With Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, players are placed into a “what if?” scenario, where Frank West existed in place of Chuck Green, and went through a slightly modified single player game in his stead. With this, the audio, video and mechanics have remained relatively unchanged. The only deviance experienced comes with a somewhat choppier frame rate every so often, which mostly appears in the brand new area called “Uranus Zone” which is basically a theme park with a space setting. Frank West look a bit more detailed than his first appearance and more than Chuck Green did, but not by leaps and bounds.
Some of the biggest detriments to the Dead Rising 2 experience have been tweaked somewhat. The load times have been cut by either 1/3 or 1/2 of what they were before, though it still feels like a bit too much of a wait, mostly in terms of game freeze pauses when accessing a HDD for saving and loading information. The mostly useless and under utilized Terror is Reality multiplayer component has been axed, and to be frank, will not be missed. Money can still be made without the addition of the TIR modes The PP system from the first Dead Rising makes its return, which does grant a faster method of gaining PP, yet almost feels as if leveling as a whole is bogged down now because of it. Co-op is still available (but instead of two Chuck Green characters running around, there’s a Frank West for the host and Chuck Green for the guest) and the core mode will remain familiar to those who played Dead Rising 2.
The three big additions to Off the Record are additional combo cards, the brand new area called “Uranus Zone” and a Sandbox Mode from the get-go. As explained above, Uranus Zone gives a hefty amount of real estate to mow zombies down in, as well as some additional weapons to add to the massacre (the Alien Probe weapon was a humorous, yet effective weapon added in, which doesn’t need any explanation.) The combo cards are back, with some new additions to the mix, including the Shocker (a defibrillator + medical tray.) Having these combo cards in general really does break up any short lived monotony of utilizing basic background items as zombie stomping weaponry, and adding in even more combinations for players to mix together is a bonus that was more than appreciated.
By far the most welcoming addition has to be a Sandbox Mode right out of the gate. Frustrated over the strict time limits imposed by the core storyline mode? Why not just spend some free time in Fortune City while leveling up Frank West? With Sandbox Mode, all limitations are removed, however all storyline components have been nixed as well. Luckily though, there are distractions here and there in the form of challenge spots. Throughout each area of Sandbox Mode will be star icons, many of which are under a prerequisite of X number of zombies slain. It’s a welcome method to exploring the game world around you before you get in the thick of it all. While these tasks are as run in the mill as they come (gain X amount of PP in Y amount of seconds for Z amount of money, lure X amount of zombies to Y location) they do add enough spice to the original flavor to give it a taste worth coming back for seconds. On top of that, PP and levels gained through Sandbox Mode can be applied to a new game created, lightening the difficulty early on from a potentially under-developed main character in the early segments.
The question in the end is this “if I already purchased Dead Rising 2, is there enough meat on the bones to warrant this purchase?” With the price tag at $40, it’s not as big of a blow as it could have been, and it offers a bit more than the original had offered. However I would more or less recommend abstaining for the time being. While the load times are no longer crippling, and there are a modest number of additions thrown in, Dead Rising 2: Off the Record will still seem a bit too familiar. If you are going in raw from the original Dead Rising and have had absolutely no experience with the sequel other than the downloadable installments on Xbox Live Arcade, then I can safely recommend this installment for purchase. The amount of content at the price point it was released at is definitely worth the price of admission, even in a holiday release season that promises nothing but top quality killers.