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Dead Rising 2: Off the Record review

AT A GLANCE
  • Killing hundreds of zombies is always fun
  • Embraces series’ campy spirit
  • Fixes several longstanding issues
  • Save system still not completely fixed
  • Boring, repetitive boss battles
  • Ultimately a retread of a year-old game

For most gamers, Dead Rising has always been a love it or hate it franchise. The first game gave players a volatile mix of creative zombie slaying with a very strict time table for objectives. Last year’s sequel softened the series up a little and added a ton of fun new ways to kill zombies, but still had its fair share of annoying foibles that made the game more hardcore or frustrating depending on your disposition. Now the devs behind Dead Rising 2 have updated the sequel, with new modes, new weapons, new challenges, and a familiar face in the lead. While it doesn’t leave behind all the problematic points of the original version, Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is the closest the franchise has come to fulfilling the potential of its premise.

Above: You better believe Frank mentions covering wars

Taking place in a different reality where Dead Rising lead Frank West was around for the events of Dead Rising 2 instead of sequel hero Chuck Greene, Off the Record closely follows 2’s plot. After a zombie outbreak decimates Las Vegas, it’s remade as casino/adult fun palace Fortune City which hosts the game show Terror is Reality where West is a contestant. The layout of Fortune City is unchanged from the first version, save for a new kiddie park that reminds us of Toy Story’s Galaxy Pizza. Soon enough a zombie outbreak occurs and evidence says a group of zombie rights protestors is responsible, though Frank, ever the journalist, smells a bigger conspiracy and is going to dig deeper, no matter how many crazy and/or undead people get in his way.

Much of Dead Rising 2 remains unchanged, just slightly reshuffled and playing out differently now that Frank’s there, like how Frank is the one needing once a day Zombrex injections to fight off the undead plague instead of Chuck's daughter. In the years since his first adventure, Frank’s become a more comedic character, with people constantly mocking him as fat, balding and washed up, not that West lets it bring him down. That same lightheartedness permeates the whole game, as most of the events are a little goofier now that the developers are doing them for the second time around. It’s not a full-on parody, but ratcheting up the sillier elements helps Off the Record since the series is at its strongest when not being serious.

Rising’s most off the wall when it comes to the huge collection of items you can kill zombies with, something 2 expanded on with the item crafting system, and Off the Record builds on that by adding new combinations. Simply using spray paint, fireworks, or stuffed animals against hundreds of zombies is fun enough, but adding machine gun wheel chairs, boomerang knifes, and gun that shoots dildos (seriously) makes for a great time. However, just as in the original version it can be a hassle using precious inventory space on the items to make the badass combo weapons, with some combos being more trouble than they’re worth since they break as fast as any other item. No matter how you kill the zombies, when you’re taking down swaths of them with improvised weapons is Off the Record at its finest, but you’ve got to work hard to earn those flashes of enjoyment.

DR2:OTR’s main game preserves Rising’s controversial time management system, as events and side quests happen at set time periods and if you miss them, they’re gone for good. Just like previous games, when you’d rather be killing loads of zombies or searching an area for secret stockpiles of cash or life-saving Zombrex, you’re instead running off to the nearest hostage or repetitive, drawn-out boss battle as time ticks away on the clock. This leads to incredibly frustrating moments like the one we experienced where we started a story event but ran out of time halfway through and had to revert to an hours-old save, planning our time better the second time around.

Fortunately time management is one of several things Off the Record at least improves upon while not outright fixing. Before you only had that one save slot you were forced to revert to whenever you died or missed a story mission, which DR2:OTR adjusts by introducing a checkpoint system that softens the blow of failure. Whenever you enter a new area (and the load times in OTR remain crappy), the game creates a checkpoint you revert to upon losing, normally replacing a few minutes of progress instead of a few hours.  You don’t choose when the checkpoints are created, so they could still be in annoying spots where loading an older save would be preferable, but it’s a big step towards addressing one of Rising’s biggest flaws.

If you want to totally sidestep the clock-watching of the campaign, Off the Record also adds the new Sandbox mode, which almost makes the title what many gamers dreamed the series would be. In it you can run around and kill zombies for as long as you like, take on challenges whenever you want, and unlike the first game’s Infinity Mode, your health isn’t constantly decreasing. It’s a nice, low impact way to enjoy the game, and you can use it to level up Frank outside the campaign, decreasing the need to waste valuable time grinding in the main game.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is a great game for those out to revisit Dead Rising 2 and those who avoided the series until now. It fixes or at least improves on several major issues with the series, making Capcom’s zombie slayer more fun than ever. It may not be perfect and we’re intrigued to see how the developers build on these improvements in the inevitable Dead Rising 3, but for whatever it’s worth, Off the Record is the best Dead Rising game to date.

Oct 11, 2011

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Published by: Capcom
Developed by: Blue Castle Games

Topics

Capcom

22 comments

  • thochaos - October 14, 2011 4:09 a.m.

    I pre-ordered this and should have been playing this all day, but eb games here in New Zealand didn't receive any stock. So annoyed about that.
  • IceBlueKirby - October 13, 2011 9:51 p.m.

    I'll buy this when I see it for a good price, just for sandbox mode. It's essentially what I made of the first two games, since I could never quite manage my time right to keep up with the story progression. Whenever I missed a story mission instead of reloading I'd just keep killing zombies until I got bored, which took a while, so that mode is a big selling point.
  • SerpentineZERO - October 13, 2011 8:02 p.m.

    Sweet, i love me some Dead Rising. This might have to wait a bit, but i hope to get it soon.
  • henx2010 - October 12, 2011 2:21 p.m.

    Most noticeable change in Dead Rising 2: OTR was the AI system which made the zombies a bit more aggressive and looters chase you for longer distance. This AI system made the difficulty scale up a level. The worst and most frustrated change in Dead Rising 2: OTR is guiding the survivors back to the safe house, much similar in the original Dead Rising game, that require you to pay close attention to them if you left them surround by a crowd of zombies they wouldn't last long unlike in original Dead Rising 2.
  • Longnuts - October 12, 2011 10:53 a.m.

    More zombie slaughter is always fun, as long as it's not CoD.
  • patbateman17 - October 12, 2011 6:02 a.m.

    I wonder what this game would score if DR2 never came out. Since I'm new to the series, all the reviews negative points about rehashes don't apply...so the score gets pretty skewed. Most of the metacritic-gathered reviews slight the game for being a cheap cash-grab...but since I never played 1 or 2, I'm curious what score this would get on its own merits...anyone care to offer up a realistic score?
  • Longnuts - October 12, 2011 10:55 a.m.

    P.S. Bad news is that playing this series backwards would not be recommended. Since you're starting with OTR, playing part one would make you cringe.
  • patbateman17 - October 13, 2011 7:23 a.m.

    Haha of course! I just meant, I wonder what score this game would get on its own merits, i.e. if DR2 never came out.
  • TheGreatWeskby - October 12, 2011 1:26 a.m.

    I have no interest in playing this new version but that release trailer was frickin awesome!
  • XanderGC - October 11, 2011 9:56 p.m.

    I loved the first Dead Rising, sure it was a pain to try to get everything done in the bizarre set times but it also added to the suspense factor I think. Saving hostages got annoying fast, but it was almost always an optional thing to do. My personal record for hostages saved was 14 and I tried hard. I do look forward to trying this game as DR2 just didn't grasp me like I thought it would. Maybe this is my second shot at that game.
  • HaVoK308 - October 11, 2011 6:56 p.m.

    DR2 was a big cock tease. You could see the gaming goodness but it was always just out of reach. I absolutely loathed the loading times, save system, and obnoxious time limits. Clever game design that is challenging is one thing. Like, Demon's and Dark Souls. But DR2 was punishing in the cheapest way. And it teased you with all the fun you could never have. It appears Off the Record made an half-assed attempt to fix those issues, but still came up short. Leaving it as just another Capcom cash-in. Do the least amount work possible mentality. I'll just wait for Dead Rising 2 Uber Ultimate Edition Overclocked!
  • DecoyOctorok - October 11, 2011 3:22 p.m.

    I think I'll give this a try now that they've added the sandbox mode. I enjoyed the original but man did that game bend over backwards at times to spoil your fun. I remember spending at least two straight hours mowing down zombies in the parking garage just to level up enough to get all the way through the story.
  • patbateman17 - October 11, 2011 3:19 p.m.

    I think I would like Chuck more than Frank...
  • Potchi79 - October 11, 2011 3:13 p.m.

    Dead Rising 2 was probably the most disappointed I ever was with a game and it's online review scores.
  • HoFT013 - October 11, 2011 2:49 p.m.

    I've never played the games, what is so bad about the save system? Checkpoints?
  • MetaSyke - October 13, 2011 1:10 a.m.

    Ah yes, the DR save system... it had (and still has) a few main issues.. Here's the basic breakdown: DR1: - Only one save file for the entire game. With two game modes one could save in (72 Hour and Overtime) and a third that didn't allow you to save in, but still required the file to load from, you were pretty much required to know what you were doing and when was the best time to save. Save at the wrong time and you can kiss your story (or survivors) goodbye. - There were no autosave checkpoints. If you were to run into a boss fight without knowing and then died against him, it was either start from the beginning, or load your last save and lose all progress.really annoying. - Saving required Frank to actively seek out a save point as opposed to opening up a menu, in this case either any of the mall's bathrooms, or the couch in the safe room. As expected, this isn't a good thing, especially if you make it out of a boss fight alive, but are low on health and out of food items, which is an easy thing to have happen thanks to the awkward shooting mechanics of the first game. DC2, C0, CW - Thankfully, with these three games Capcom was wise enough to allow multiple saves, so you can have backups at different spots. Unfortunately, the limit is three saves period, which for some gamers simply isn't enough saves. - Still no autosave checkpoints, which could result in losing a lot of progress if you die at the wrong time. While the control mechanics were tweaked very well, enemies were still more mobile than Chuck Greene (the new hero) and could easily take down his health very quickly, resulting in a tough slog to a save point afterwards. - Saving still requires Chuck to be in a bathroom, and it's very easy to rush along the game, neglecting your saves, resulting in you losing a lot of work thanks to a lucky zombie or annoying psychopath. OTR - STILL only three saves. It seems as if Capcom doesn't want to realize that gamers like having as many saves as they feel is necessary, and that the time of limited saves went out with the 16-bit games. - Autosave checkpoints, FINALLY! However, they seem to be limited to just when you switch areas, so they're not perfect, but at least it's something. - Frank STIll has to save in bathrooms and bathrooms alone, which is probably what grinds DR fan's gears the most, especially those used to the old-school "Start and Save" of pretty much EVERY other game in existence. And that's the issues with DR saving in a nutshell.
  • patbateman17 - October 11, 2011 2:43 p.m.

    So if I never played DR1 or DR2, should I give this a shot? A lot of the reviews neg the rehash part, but since I'm new to the series and always somewhat curious, is this the one for me? I've looked at checking our DR2...but if OTR is preferable, I'll go there instead. Any advice?? Btw the Sandbox mode appeals for the challenges and grinding, so that's a plus.
  • GR_HenryGilbert - October 11, 2011 3:06 p.m.

    Like I wrote above, this is the best Dead Rising game to date. I think it's a great starting point for those unfamiliar with the series, as the back story is easily explained and ultimately meaningless anyway.
  • patbateman17 - October 11, 2011 3:08 p.m.

    Thanks Henry, you're the bomb! :) Really thanks though - I've followed this site for years and actually never joined, like a dope. So now I can actually comment. It's nice to know that staff are so attentive!!! Thanks! How about next Weekend Giveaway: Dead Rising: Off the Record??? :-D

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