I feel like Ive played this game before. Well, thats kind of because I have. Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is Capcoms reinterpretation of Dead Rising 2. While Dead Rising 2 was fantastic (though not without its faults), the biggest hurdle for most fans to get over was a completely new hero to the story, Chuck Greene, instead of Frank West from the first game. While Dead Rising 2 had many improvements from the first game, it still has the frustrating time limitations and frustratingly difficult boss battles (provided you didnt take time to level up).
While I didnt mind Chuck as a new hero, at least he had a true reason for his actions; he was trying to save his daughter whod become infected and needed a dose of Zombrex (anti-zombifying drug) every 24 hours. With this reinterpretation, this proposes a what if situation. What if the incident at Fortune City was covered by Frank West and Chuck wasnt the protagonist this time around? Frank brings back his trusty camera to find out whats going on, though without a deep meaning behind his intentions, unlike Chuck, the motivation just doesnt feel the same.
Frank seems to have learned the new tricks that Chuck brought to the table in Dead Rising 2, as hes now able to craft items also to help against the never ending zombie horde. Personally I liked chuck, but Frank was still the favorite out of the two. While Frank wont have to worry about a daughter to take care of, the story in Off the Record is essentially the same aside from the few additions and twists here and there.
After Franks exploits at the Wilamette shopping mall five years ago, he instantly become a huge star, culminating in him receiving his own TV show. After the show eventually became cancelled, Frank fell upon hard times and became a shell of his former self. Hes now looking for redemption and finds himself in Fortune City when a zombie outbreak transpires rather suspiciously. Frank being the natural born reporter, now much find out whos behind whats going on so that he can also rise back up to the top of his career. Granted, the motivation is nowhere near the same urgency that Chuck had for his daughter, but Frank still brings his style and charm in a story that youve already heard if you played Dead Rising 2.
As mentioned before, this reimagining is essentially that. Its basically the same game with the same story (though slightly altered to make sense in relation to Frank) but with you controlling Frank instead of Chuck. Fortune City is just like how you remember it aside from a small theme park addition to the area and a few different survivors. And yes, their AI is still just as dumb and will get themselves killed when youre trying to escort them back to the safe zone.
If you played Dead Rising 2, youre going to have a constant feeling of deja-vu as I did throughout the campaign. Similar to Dead Rising 1, you have 72 hours until the military arrives and Frank will need to complete case files at set times if he wants to find the real truth behind whats going on. Hell also need to find himself an injection of Zombrex every 24 hours to keep himself alive (see what Capcom did there? Frank needs it instead of Chucks daughter). While its more of the same, Dead Rising 2 was a great zombie killing time. While there may only be one new area to explore, theres also a few new combo cards to make some very unique weapons, and of course, youll be playing as THE man, Frank West.
The first thing youre going to notice is the atrocious loading time at the main menu (oddly enough the game loads fine when playing). It stalls and takes quite a while, but it actually looks like your Xbox has frozen since you cant even bring up the guide when its doing its thing. This is compounded when youre attempting to find an online game, but more on that later.
Youll gain PP (experience points) for killing zombies, completing quests, and more. As you level up youll gain stat increases, skills, and unlock combo cards. Take note that youre going to want to level up as much as possible before taking on the psychopaths (bosses). Now that Frank is back in the picture (see what I did there?), hes able to use his camera once again to take intriguing shots that will net you bonus PP depending on how good your photography skills are, much like in Dead Rising 1 (though hes seemed to figure out the battery problem). I found myself taking pictures in opportune times when I probably should have been running away instead, but that was always part of the fun of playing as Frank in Dead Rising; sometimes the danger is worth the massive amounts of PP.
Weapon crafting that Chuck taught us in Dead Rising 2 returns and is essentially the same. You combine different items to make a much more powerful version or a completely new insane item (I still love the boxing gloves with knives). If you have the combo card and create the item, youll get massive amounts of bonus PP per kill, if you know or experiment and create an item without having the combo card yet, youll earn half that amount of PP per kill until you get the corresponding combo card.
The biggest addition to Off the Record though, other than playing as Mr. West himself, is the inclusion of a Sandbox Mode. This is all the fun of Dead Rising without the frustrating time limits and people begging for help. Its you versus the zombies for as long as you want, by yourself or cooperatively with a friend online. The great feature of Sandbox Mode is that all the progress you make in PP and cash can be saved and carried over into your campaign. I actually suggest playing sandbox for a while to get some needed levels and upgrades before delving too far into the story, as the psychopathic bosses are still very challenging without he right weapons and stat bonuses.
Multiplayer returns and works well.if you can get it working. I found it very difficult to find a game to join (and only one person ever joined me throughout my play through). Every time you load the main screen you had to deal with the frozen loading for each step to get into a game. If a game isnt found to join or the random player declines your request, youre backed out to the main menu and have to begin this tedious and frustrating process once again. Theres no lobby or game browser, so its random who youll get paired up with (hopefully) if you dont invite or join a friend directly.
You can choose to play Story or Sandbox mode cooperatively online. Keep in mind that only the hosts story progress will save though, but at least the partner helping gets to keep all the PP and cash earned during the session for their own game. As you kill more and more zombies in Sandbox Mode, new challenges will unlock for you and your partner to try out should you desire. These will vary in objectives and net you medals and bonus PP for completion. If your friend loses all their health, you can bring them food to revive to continue on before time runs out.
And yes for those wondering, you can still dress up Frank in ridiculous looking clothing that carries into cutscenes. It still impresses me how many zombies can be on screen at one time and how much fun I can have wasting hours knocking them over with park benches as I wear a dress (Frank, not myself) and flip flops. Like previously, the inventory is still clumsy and picking up a specific item in a pile can be frustrating. Boss battles still have a huge spike of difficulty, but anyone that played Dead Rising 2 will know exactly what they are getting into.
Once I get a few cases in I kept asking myself why wasnt this just DLC? I dont know, youd have to ask Capcom that. Given that the DLC for Case West and Case Zero were so unique, I was hoping that Off the Record was going to have new areas to explore, or at least a new story, rather than a rehash with some simple tweaks.
Its not a bad game by any means, its simply the same one again, and it didnt excite me all that much since Ive ultimately already played this game before (the Chuck cameo was worth it though). Its hard to recommend if youve already played Dead Rising 2 as its fundamentally the same game for the most part. If you havent though, then definitely pick it up as this is the version to get as theres really no other game like it.