Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record review

    Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is a very difficult game to review. This is due to the fact it's only a mildly tweaked version of Dead Rising 2. 90% of the game is identical to Dead Rising 2 with the chief changes being the addition of a new area to explore, some minor storyline changes, a couple of new bosses, and a switch of protagonist from Chuck Greene to original Dead Rising protagonist Frank West.

    Now, I've already reviewed Dead Rising 2 (here) and even did a essay about its value as a social critique (here). So, there's not much point in talking about the elements of the game which are the same. Short version: Dead Rising 2 was really fun to play and Off The Record is also fun to play. Instead, I'll talk about the elements of the game which are different and what I think of the storyline changes. Don't worry, there won't be any spoilers in this review. I'll save that for future articles.

    The premise of Off the Record is Frank West, photo journalist, shamelessly exploited the events of the first game into becoming an international celebrity. Unfortunately, Frank West's attitude and reckless spending have alienated the people who were initially attracted to him because of his heroism.

The challenges in Sandbox Mode are fun but nothing special.
    We get an excellent introduction into the character's changes when we see Frank hanging around comic conventions with guys dressed like zombies. The sheer lack of taste that requires in a world where zombies are real beggars belief. Frank decides to participate in the Terror is Reality game show to recapture even a small portion of his fame and gets caught up in the Fortune City outbreak.

    The conflict between selfishness, selflessness, and how they interact with his reporter career is more or less the essence of Frank West's character. Whereas Chuck Greene is the only sane man trying to selflessly protect his daughter, Frank West has always been more interested in fame and fortune (represented by the big story) than helping others.

    The fact Frank West still chooses to help others makes him a hero but the edges are considerably rougher and he's capable of being tempted from heroism. For some, this makes him a more interesting character than Chuck. For me, I simply find him different.

    No better, no worse.

    The social satire element is still present in Off the Record but suffers for the fact without Chuck and his daughter to highlight the moral good, it gets somewhat lost. Frank West never really learns a lesson about the pursuit of fame and fortune being less important than journalistic accolades but at least manages to clean himself up a bit.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Just don't break kayfabe, Frank.
    In the world of Dead Rising 2, Chuck Greene is the man we should be while Frank West is probably closer to the man we are. Albeit, I suspect I'd be one of the guys shambling along the halls rather than saving people with improvised weaponry.

    Gameplay improvements include a new save system, incorporating Checkpoints to the game so you don't have to save nearly as often. Frank West was infected during the events of the last game and requires an injection of Zombrex every day but, unlike Chuck Greene who had to constantly return to treat his daughter Katie, Frank can inject himself anywhere. The mission updates from Stacey Forsythe are done via earpiece rather than text message. Also, Frank is able to take pictures in order to gain experience points (called "prestige points"), often doing hilarious outtakes with zombies he puts in compromising positions.

Frank's wrestling moves are quite impressive.
    The new adventure area is the somewhat eye-rollingly named Uranus Zone. An amusement park, the Uranus Zone contains numerous monster rides which can be used to kill zombies in amusing ways. It also contains a single new Psycho who has ties to Frank's adventures from the past. I found the Uranus Zone to be entertaining even if it didn't blow me away either. I will say, however, the science-fiction theme of the place sets it apart from the rest of Fortune City.

    Without a doubt, the biggest addition to the Dead Rising franchise is the existence of Sandbox Mode. Sandbox Mode allows you to explore Fortune City without the game's usual time limits. Several of the games' bosses are present too, though sadly not all of them. I loved the Sandbox Mode and have been waiting for something like this to be included in the franchise since the beginning. The fact you can freely switch between Sandbox Mode and the regular game as well as carry over the benefits from the latter to the former is awesome.

    I'd also like to mention something I'd normally not cover in these sorts of reviews and that's the existence of cheat codes. If you get the Gamebreaker DLC then you'll have access to a wide variety of fun options like the usuals (invulnerability, unlimited ammo, Big Head) but also new ones like changing the entire game to black and white or a grindhouse cinema filter. Sadly, this awesome feature is hampered by your inability to save your game.


    In general, I prefer the original Dead Rising 2 over Off the Record in terms of storytelling but prefer Off The Record in terms of gameplay. The social satire of the original game is hampered by Frank West's self-entitled asshattery but he's still a very fun character to play. Likewise, the gameplay improvements are pretty big. So, I'm going to say it all evens out and die-hard fans of the series should pick up whichever one appeals to them or Off The Record if they're just interested in a good time.


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