Review: Dead Rising 2: Off The Record
Dead Rising 2: Off The Record presents players with a re-imagining of Dead Rising 2, where the lead protagonist is Frank West from the original game rather than Chuck Greene. Has enough been done to reignite the series and make this game worth a purchase, or is it a forgettable game in the end?
- Worth The Time?No, not if you've played Dead Rising 2
- Things LovedEndlessly killing zombies, the new sandbox mode
- Things HatedThe story mode with Frank West, the same problems from Dead Rising 2 remain, the painfully slow pace, the frequent loading screens
- RecommendationIf you've played Dead Rising 2 enough, then there's barely any reason to buy or play this. Newcomers may just find enough reason to want to get hold of this game. It would rather be advisable to hold out for something better.
- Name: Dead Rising 2: Off The Record
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online (2 players)
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox360
- Developer: Capcom, Blue Castle
- Publisher: Capcom
- Price: R329-399 (PC), R349-399 (PS3, 360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
Dead Rising 2: Off The Record presented me with a rather interesting dilemma when I played it. It’s a difficult game to actually critically evaluate, because it presents a sort of Catch-22 situation. See, if you’ve already played Dead Rising 2, then there’s just hardly any reason to play this game at all, because aside from the new sandbox game mode, there’s nothing really new here that can capture your attention. However, if you haven’t played the last game, and you’ve been interested in this franchise, then I have to issue a word of warning because the story mode is significantly less interesting and engaging this time around, but the sandbox mode is something that Dead Rising 2 lacked. The idea was to re-imagine the last game with the original game’s lead, Frank West, taking Dead Rising 2’s Chuck Greene’s place, and experiencing the story over again in a gigantic “what if” scenario, but sadly for someone like me who has played the last game, this is hugely problematic in many ways.
I honestly lost all drive to play the story mode barely five minutes after starting it. While the opening Terror Is Reality game is different to Dead Rising 2’s, and Frank West’s trademark camera makes a return, the game is literally almost exactly the same to the last game’s story. The only difference is that dialogue changes, events have been altered somewhat to make room for Frank, and there is no daughter to get Zombrex for, but rather Frank is infected and needs it for himself. In the previous game, Chuck’s motivations could come down to him wanting to save his daughter, but in this game, Frank is self-serving and honestly it’s not at all engaging to have someone like him as the lead, especially since we’ve experienced this exact same plot before with a better lead protagonist and a more interesting plot. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to be playing the exact same again except with a weaker story. I’ve already played this. It was called Dead Rising 2, and it was arguably better.
Keeping true to the idea of changing as little as possible, Dead Rising: Off The Record barely adds anything new to the game. You’re still going to be trapped in a tedious grind-fest until you level up to be strong enough to not die easily. You’re still going to endlessly kill zombies, scour the lands for weapons to combine so that you can level up faster, and choose whether to do the storyline within the time limit or just do what you feel like doing. If I had not played Dead Rising 2, this would keep me hooked, but it just doesn’t. I wasn’t having much fun playing this game, because I’ve done the exact same thing before for many hours. I don’t know how much more I can stress this. I’ve already reviewed Dead Rising 2, pretty in-depth. And I can’t treat this as a separate game, because firstly it is actually a sequel and secondly I can’t just throw aside my experience with Dead Rising 2. A sequel is supposed to be better than its predecessor, it’s not meant to retain the same flaws as the previous game, include a near identical but weaker single-player campaign, and only feature some slightly better gameplay elements.
The one thing about Dead Rising is that it caters for a very select audience. Not everyone can enjoy this game, and it’s really not a game for everyone. Either you’re going to have fun with this game, or be completely bored playing it. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a game being for certain groups of people only, but there is definitely a lot wrong with the fact that there is virtually no reason to play this if you’ve played the last game. There’s still fun to be had here, granted, but it feels like a downloadable extension rather than a full-on sequel. Maybe fans of the series will appreciate Frank West and his camera, which allows you take as many pictures as you want, with you being rewarded with varying amounts of experience points depending on how good your snapshots are, but his arrival takes away any emotional investment you would have had back in Dead Rising 2, negatively impacting the story as a whole, and there’s just no reason to see the story all over again with minor changes here and there. I feel like a broken record repeating that multiple times over, but I feel restricted overall in what I can actually talk about with this game, because honestly there’s just so little to actually talk about.
Therein lies the big problem. There is just not much to say about this game that hasn’t already been said at the time of Dead Rising 2. I’ve realised I haven’t actually said much about the game or gameplay, but I really feel as if I’ve said all there is to say, and I have discussed this game in my review of Dead Rising 2. I could tell you about the new Sandbox mode, that it’s actually a half-decent mode that allows you to freely roam Fortune City at your own leisure and do whatever you want, but it really should have been available back with the last game. It gets boring fast, probably after a few minutes if you’ve already had your time with this series, thanks to having nothing of value to do in the sandbox other than killing zombies, and doing challenges that involve killing zombies. Also because, as always, the combat system is just as shallow as it gets. Nothing new has been added, so expect to dispatch the zombie army by rapidly pressing a single button, or holding it down for a power attack, for hours on end. I could tell you about the game’s one new area, called Uranus Zone, which is an amusement park of sorts, but it’s a small addition in an otherwise identical world. If you know the world of Dead Rising 2, then you know this one because barely anything has changed, not even the locations of secrets.
You may be thinking, if it’s the same game with some better gameplay options, why am I rating it significantly lower than Dead Rising 2? The answer to that good question would be because I’ve played Dead Rising 2. This experience is worse the second time around, especially because the story is significantly less engaging, the gameplay is dreadfully boring before I’ve even played Off The Record for longer than five minutes, and I have no incentive to do this over again. That doesn’t mean I’m the wrong person for this game, it just means that this isn’t a good sequel. If you’re a newcomer to this series, then at best I can say that this game is mediocre, but your choice of which to get should come down to whether you want a better story or whether you want the freedom to just kill zombies and do what you want. If you want my opinion, I’d say avoid this series entirely, but if you’re really interested in it, then you’d honestly be better off with Dead Rising 2 because as I’ve said many times now, there is a better story at the expense of the Sandbox mode, and not much has been added to Off The Record to make it worth playing. This is not how a sequel should be made, and this is not worth it. Not to me.
But the biggest reason, overall, as to why I’m rating it much lower is because the second time around the game’s flaws become much more noticeable. This time around, if you’ve played the last game, you aren’t focused on zombie-slaying or discovering the game’s secrets, and you aren’t getting distracted by the feeling of everything being new. Not only have the exact same flaws from the previous game remained unchanged, but this time around you’ll notice them more. You still move at snail’s pace, which is contradictory to the attached time limit you have to complete every objective, the combat is still painfully shallow, you’ll still get stunned, knocked back, grabbed on and surrounded by zombies when you’re trying to get somewhere, there are frequent loading screens scattered all over the game like before, progression is still extremely slow, the AI is still as bad as it was before and you’ll still find mountains of useless weaponry when your good ones break. And of course, the save system is the same, which means prepare to rage and cry if an undeserved or silly death causes a lot of your time to be wasted. There’s so little that’s new that everything that was there before has just become worse.
The graphics haven’t really changed much either, highlighting the game’s dire need to remain unchanged. They weren’t bad at all the first time around, and it’s still impressive how many zombies can fit on the screen at once. But as always, Dead Rising has been one for quantity over quality in this department. The graphics are still decent, but now they’re just that little bit less impressive since they haven’t really been improved at all. Everything about this game just seems to scream mediocrity, and Off The Record has shown the title’s remarkable lack of ambition. That, or it was just a quick bit of business to capitalise on Dead Rising 2. Either way you look at it, this just isn’t the way sequels should be made, and it’s not what I expect to hand over my money for. The only value that can be found in this game is if you’re a newcomer to the series, and even then you aren’t guaranteed to enjoy this game because of it being for a select audience in the first place. The only way to know if this is the game for you is if you play it, but even if you enjoyed Dead Rising 2, I’d strongly advise against this.
Dead Rising 2: Off The Record serves to show the title’s remarkable lack of ambition. It’s the exact same thing all over again, except with a new sandbox mode and a weaker story. The game barely provides you with any incentive to play it if you’ve already played the previous one, and this is just not how sequels should be made. Off The Record is redundant, and it just doesn’t feel worth it.