"To everyone's surprise, Capcom made an announcement a few months into the following year about a new game in the franchise. With that, we got the natural successor to Dead Rising 2: Dead Rising 2. Oh, Capcom..."
With the success of Dead Rising 2, things looked up for the studio formerly called Blue Castle Games. In good graces with Capcom, the company gets swallowed up and renamed as Capcom Vancouver, ensuring they won't have to pimp themselves to publishers, at least for now. Of course, with this acquisition, gamers hoped another Dead Rising title would be in development soon, not wanting to repeat the nightmarish "will they actually make another one?" gap between the first two games. To everyone's surprise, Capcom made an announcement a few months into the following year about a new game in the franchise. With that, we got the natural successor to Dead Rising 2: Dead Rising 2.
Billed as a reworking of the original Dead Rising 2, Off the Record is a non-canon account of the Fortune City zombie outbreak, replacing Chuck Greene with DR1's protagonist, an aged and washed out Frank West. The beginning of this particular story chronicles the exploits of Frank after he broke news about the outbreak of the first game, becoming famous, showing up at book signings, and even hosting his own television show. But his popularity quickly dwindled, and soon he's near broke, struggling to keep up with Zombrex purchases, a drug he needs to keep from turning into a zombie. And that's how he ends up in Fortune City, making an appearance on a sports show for money.
The start definitely shows promise with new things to do, like being placed in a wrestling ring with zombies where you can shove them into grinders or engulf the place in flames. Shortly following that is the return of the camera mechanic from DR1, immediately put to unique use as the player ease drops on a private conversation and must snap pictures at certain moments. Shoot, there's even a new attack where you can have Frank pose with zombies. Finally get a chance to venture the Fortune City map, and you'll also spot little adjustments to the gameplay, one of which includes jump scare tactics; walk over a dead body or past a restroom save stall, and there's a 50/50 chance you'll get grabbed. One specific alteration I think is a great change is the newfound aggressiveness of the mall looters, who not only chase after you outside stores, but actually toss molotovs and even steal your money if you get sloppy!
For all the stuff introduced in Off the Record's story mode, though, there's not enough new content to view the game as a completely raw experience. Okay, sure, you'll run into some fresh survivors, fight a novel boss here and there (like a clown of certain relations...), and there's even a theme park called Uranus Zone that causes tremendous slowdown if you look at the rides at a certain angle. However, I'd say 90% of what you get in Dead Rising 2 is still left intact here. This is alarmingly true when it comes to most of the cutscenes, where Frank repeats a lot of the lines Chuck utters in the original version. Such a wasted chance for the writers to go nuts with the dialogue. Oddly, too, the game now has a checkpoint system that activates whenever you enter a new area or finish a task. I mean, DR2 isn't a super easy game, but I wouldn't consider it gruesomely tough to warrant this questionable add-on.
I guess the one "ace" Off the Record has over DR2 is the inclusion of a new mode, titled Sandbox. It's basically a friendlier version of Dead Rising 1's Infinity Mode where you can goof around to your heart's content without the timer, sans the masochistic life-draining mechanic and limited health items. Also featured are challenges scattered throughout the map, which must be unlocked by killing several zombies. Once opened, these timed challenges range from defeating the undead with the required weapons, to gathering a large sum of experience points or racing towards a designated spot. It's the typical Bronze-Silver-Gold time attack gameplay you've seen in a ton of games before. To an extent, it's still fun, since you'll need the right equipment in your inventory to succeed, plus the hundreds of zombies do a good job getting in your way on some challenges. There's even Leaderboards for each task, and above all else, you're even allowed the luxury of doing online co-op sessions here.
The most difficult thing for me is that I can't outright call Off the Record a bad title, because it's not. The game is still Dead Rising 2, which is good stuff. Ultimately, though, it's just a really weird and bad decision by Capcom to release this, for many reasons. The most glaring one is that every new thing should have been download content for DR2, which could have been a better incentive for players with a lower price tag. There's also a huge missed opportunity here by Capcom, as they could have released this as a Game of the Year style package, allowing gamers access to both the original and this new version on one disc. Hell, I'd pay $60 for that than $40 they were offering for just the Frank West experience.
But, you know, this is Capcom we're talking about. Looking forward to the eventual Dead Rising 3: Superman Seat Grab edition.
Community review by dementedhut (July 16, 2012)
Rules of nature.
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