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Dead Rising 2: Off the Record first-look preview

Fame-crazed photojournalist Frank West dove headfirst into a zombie outbreak for the sake of breaking a story. A risky move for sure, but his photos and acts of heroism helped make him a celebrity in the Dead Rising universe, leading to talk shows, endorsements and no small amount of fans. When another zombie mess overtook Fortune City, however, it was stuntman Chuck Green who saved the day and exposed a pharmaceutical conspiracy. And as any attention-seeking star would act, Frank West wants to butt in and tell you how HE would have handled the situation.

Thus begins Off the Record, a so-called “re-imagining” of last year’s Dead Rising 2, one that replaces Chuck with Frank and tells a brand new story. Developer Blue Castle said this is not just a case of dropping Frank into DR2 and calling it a new game, but rather a thorough “what if?” scenario that retools the entire experience for Frank’s personality. Telling the story through his eyes would no doubt dramatically alter the events in Fortune City, and that’s reflected in the game – expect all new psycho bosses, new combination moves and new areas Chuck never explored, plus a huge focus on Frank’s photography skills. There will also be a new mode introduced, as well as a multiplayer component that joins Frank and Chuck, though further details weren’t given on either subject.

Above: Photography will play a big part in this retelling of DR2

Your first reaction is probably the same as ours – is this DLC or a whole new disc-based game? While on the surface this appears to be a simple tweak and perhaps more worthy of a beefy DLC update than a full disc release, Off the Record will actually ship as its own product and, according to Blue Castle, is larger than the previous game. The impression we got was that Off the Record will contain everything from DR2 (with new locations, plot points and the like) plus new content that Frank sees as a result of his own journey through Fortune City. Off the Record also introduces a handful of gameplay adjustments that stem from critical and consumer reactions to Dead Rising 2; namely a new checkpoint system that saves in each new area and before a boss battle, as well as shortened loading times.

So it’s a mix of old and new, but how much will this remix of an existing game cost? Blue Castle producer Jason Lee said it will be “appropriately priced’, which suggests something lower than the usual $60. Capcom allowed Super Street Fighter IV to launch for $40, so we’re holding out hope Off the Record lands in the same area.

How far does this “re-imagining” go? It appears the key plot points will be similar (if not identical) though the details will unfold in a different manner. For example, this game opens with Frank, whose popularity has waned since his first big story, appearing on the Terror is Realty show as a special guest. Instead of racing in on a motorcycle a la Chuck, he dons a unitard and fights zombies in a wrestling ring. Frank’s a bit tougher this time around, using suplexes, body slams and clotheslines to tear zombies’ heads off and send them flying into grisly wood chippers built into the turnbuckles. After winning the contest, he heads back to the greenroom (as Chuck did), then is trapped in an elevator as the zombie outbreak occurs (again, as Chuck did).

From there, however, the events begin to stray from Dead Rising 2. Frank hears some hushed, mysterious-sounding conversations coming from behind a door and peeks in for a quick snapshot. Inside, he discovers the Terror is Reality host, TK, engaged in questionable dealings; naturally this calls for some incriminating photos, which then kick off a story that snowballs out of control. As with the first game, Frank’s photos earn PP and come with all kinds of categories, like “Erotica” and “Drama.” He does have at least one new photo trick though – pointing his camera at himself as he poses with a zombie, creating a cheesy, MySpace-worthy glamour shot. So yeah, the goofiness is still intact.

Off the Record is slated for a fall 2011 release, just over a year since DR2 arrived. It does appear to be a hefty director’s cut with plenty of new content, but the tipping point for us is price. How about you? As Dead Rising fans, is Frank’s return enough to get you back in, or are you sated enough to wait for a full-fledged Dead Rising 3?

April 12, 2011