Video Game Review: ‘Dead Rising 2: Off the Record’ Offers Alternate Take

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CHICAGO – “Dead Island,” “Resident Evil” (which just had “Resident Evil 4” & “Resident Evil Code: Veronica X” re-released and upgraded for Xbox 360 and PS3), “Left 4 Dead,” “Dead Nation” — the zombie genre is one of the most resilient and creatively impressive in the world of gaming. So much so that Capcom has actually released an alternate version of their 2010 hit “Dead Rising 2.” With a different protagonist, sandbox mode, and some alterations to gameplay, “Dead Rising 2: Off the Record” is like a greatest hits version of an album with slightly different versions of some key tracks. If you own the original, I wouldn’t worry too much about picking up this version with a few extra B-sides and demos, but if you haven’t picked up the game yet, this is the way to go. Video Game Rating: 3.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 3.0/5.0

The main appeal of “Off the Record” will be for fans who missed the hero of the first game, photojournalist Frank West. He’s back and has basically been inserted into the action of the 2nd game complete with his handy camera. Guess what? The game is still basically the same even with a different personality driving it and the ability to take photos. Perhaps more interesting for players who have been begging for a sandbox mode in the “Dead Rising” world is the new ability to play around in Fortune City to your twisted heart’s content. I don’t find the basic world of “Dead Rising” and its somewhat-sketchy controls and graphics to be deep enough to support a sandbox mode but here it is for those of you that do.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record
Photo credit: Capcom

The fact is that “Dead Rising 2” is a game that doesn’t have that high of a replay value. Sure, there’s fun to be had in new combinations of found weapons and what they do to your zombie enemies, but saving the same residents of Fortune City as you did this time last year gets old pretty quickly. There is a new area called the Uranus Zone and it’s fun but no one would call such a minor addition to the overall setting worth the purchase price for those who have played the game already.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record
Photo credit: Capcom

The developers of “Off the Record” didn’t have to paint so completely inside the lines. Even items are in the same place as last year. They could have moved things around, changed the difficulty of some challenges, and altered other elements that would have made the title more of a rewarding experience for those who played “Dead Rising 2” last year.

Which creates a unique situation for Capcom. Hardcore fans are the most likely to buy “alternate versions” of a game they already own and love, but I can’t recommend this title for that audience. In other words, people who haven’t played “Dead Rising 2” are unlikely to look at “Off the Record” and finally be persuaded to jump into Fortune City but those are really the only people who should.

What will they find there? Zombie mayhem. The “Dead Rising” games are mostly about melee zombie destruction. The key charm of the games has been an ability to use a wide variety of the environment as weapons. Pick up a crowbar, bat, park bench, potted plant…whatever you can find that you can swing at a lumbering hulk could get the job done. Most of the people I know who adore these games also happen to be people who adore co-op.

For the record, no pun intended, there are also subtly fine-tuned elements like shorter load times and improved network performance, however most players are unlikely to notice these differences.

How’s the sandbox mode? Fun, but pretty shallow. With all of the storytelling removed and replaced by only a few challenges, it gets repetitive very quickly. Do I like killing zombies? Sure. But the best of these games have a threat and usually a ticking clock. By removing those and making it JUST about the carnage, you’d be surprised how easy it is to get tired of crushing the walking dead.

And that’s the biggest problem with “Dead Rising 2: Off the Record” — whether it’s the familiarity with the story or the lack of one in sandbox mode, it’s a game that too easily gets pretty dull. The last thing that anyone wants from the zombie genre? Tedium.

“Dead Rising 2: Off the Record” was developed by Blue Castle Games & Capcom Vancouver and released by Capcom on October 11th, 2011. It is rated M (Mature) and the version reviewed was for the PS3 but the title is also available for the Xbox 360 and PC. content director Brian Tallerico

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