He’s covered wars, ya know!
When a zombie outbreak hit Fortune City, the quiet, stoic Chuck Greene saved the day. But he was no Frank West—the photojournalist extraordinaire who saved the Willamette Parkview Mall in the original Dead Rising. Greene didn’t tote around the swagger, charisma, or camera we know and love from the original zombie bloodfest back in ’06. Off the Record puts the spotlight back on Frankie, just as it should be.
Capcom’s rediscovery of West in the Dead Rising 2 DLC “Case West” enabled them to re-create Dead Rising 2 sans Greene, instead reimagining the story with West in his place. The game itself remains mostly identical—same characters, same Fortune City—but everything and everyone’s just a bit different. As a whole, it’s really a different game under the guise of Dead Rising 2.
And under the hood, everything’s changed. Off the Record’s fast, furious, and not plagued by slow load times or a crawling framerate when too many undead fill the screen. Frank can run through massive areas with hundreds of zombies, and the game will still stay at 30 frames per second. Even the frustrating old-school checkpoint system’s been upgraded, so players won’t always have to find a bathroom and save before doing anything dangerous.
But it’s Frank that’s the life and soul of Off the Record. He’s not simply pasted over Greene here, either; everything’s been remade to match his character, whether it’s minor character dialogue or epic boss confrontations. We haven’t had a taste of West’s sardonic quips and cool demeanor in too long, and he doesn’t disappoint.
And the fan service doesn’t stop there. Dead Rising finally has a new sandbox mode, which shares experience over to the story mode. Complete with side missions and all the shambling undead anyone could ever want, sandbox mode is everything Dead Rising was made to be: a kick-back-and-relax zombie massacre, without a timer.
Off the Record’s real meat is in the story mode, though—with frustratingly hard bosses, a constant stream of missions and survivors, and the never-ending search for Zombrex. Only this time, you can bring a friend. Online co-op works anywhere and at any time, so players having trouble with one boss or mission can have a buddy lend a hand—or jump into sandbox mode and rip the hordes to shreds together. Plus, this incarnation adds more weapons, combo-weapons, vehicles, and even a whole new theme park—Uranus Zone—to play with. The sheer number of improvements and add-ons make Off the Record more than a game just for fans; it really becomes the ultimate Dead Rising experience.
Even photography makes a comeback, as players can earn experience points by taking shots meeting certain criteria—like “horror,” “erotica,” and “brutality.” Camera challenges are hidden throughout the game, but the big points are in the special shots, like “psychos.”
As fun as the over-the-top world of Dead Rising is, the pace is still too fast and too antsy to really enjoy every second of the story. Off the Record offers lots of improvements to help players cope—like a warning when following survivors aren’t close enough and voiced radio transmissions—but the general rush is all too often overwhelming. The checkpoint system isn’t perfect, either, so if you don’t save often, expect to replay sections of the game.
In the end, Off the Record isn’t a new Dead Rising. It’s the same one we had last year—but it’s made right this time, with Frank West at the helm and taking care of business with an attitude that matches the game’s lunacy. Greene, in his everlong quest to save his daughter, could never do that. And with the all-new sandbox mode and online co-op, players can wreak havoc on the zombie hordes as they please, carefree and without remorse. Because, after all, that’s what zombie games are all about.
SUMMARY: I’ll take a Dead Rising 2, extra spicy. …Oh, can you throw in a Frank West instead of Chuck Greene? That’d be really helpful, thanks.
- THE GOOD: Frank West, co-op, and the all-new Sandbox mode
- THE BAD: Imperfect checkpoint system
- THE UGLY: Frank riding a baby’s tricycle in a top hat and underwear
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on the Xbox 360.