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Dead Rising 2: Off the Record Review(Xbox 360)
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is Capcom's attempt to once again milk money from their consumers by rehashing the same game. They did it with Street Fighter 2, Street Fighter 4 and are about to do it with Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. Off the Record is a "what if" scenario where the events of Chuck Greene in Dead Rising 2 didn't happen but instead the protagonist of Dead Rising 1, Frank West, lives through them. This game first and foremost is Dead Rising 2. Same cutscenes, same story, sans one character's intentions, and one new area. The same items are in the same places, most survivors are in the same places and you'll fight all the same psychos with a small handful of new ones. While Capcom tried to get away with selling this for a "bargain price" it doesn't justify the half-assed direction of the story.
I enjoyed the gameplay of the first two Dead Rising games and this is no different. You can fight zombies with a massive array of melee weapons from dildos and donkey lamps to fire axes and chainsaws. Frank also has Chuck's ability to craft his own weapons. Throughout the map you'll find maintenance rooms where you can combine 2 or sometimes 3 items together to form one more powerful item. You get old combinations like the paddlesaw and the electric chair as well as new ones like a grass trimmer lined with knives and a sledgehammer that turns into Thor's hammer. You can use these combo weapons to not only deal heavier amounts of damage but also earn PP which is Dead Rising's equivalent to XP. As you level up using this PP, to 50, you'll gain larger health and item bars as well as new skill moves which are all returns for Frank from Dead Rising 1. I love the Guile flash kick, takes zombie's heads clean off in one hit.
The one new gameplay mechanic that Off the Record adds is the photography mechanic since, well, Frank is a photographer. You can use photography to get additional PP from unique types of photos as well as take pictures of PP stickers scattered around the map which give PP as well as unlock achievements. This mechanic doesn't really add anything at all to the game and other than the 3 times you use it during the storyline I never once found myself using the camera. Other new mechanics added to the game are checkpoints which many douchebag "purists" are heavily against while people, like myself, welcome them. Yes auto checkpoints that occur each load screen do make the game a little easier but they also make it much less of a nuisance. Gone are the days of dying at a psychopath then having to reload a save from like two hours before. Also, thankfully, if a braindead survivor dies 5 feet away from the safehouse you can just reload your checkpoint(entering Royal Flush Plaza) and try again to save them. Safe from those additions this game is Dead Rising 2.
On the technical side of things the only glitch I encountered was that during some cutscenes the game would show the scene for 2 seconds, stop, show the scene for a few seconds before stopping again. This would go on for about 10 seconds before rectifying itself but I encountered it on three separate occasions. The other problem I ran into was a constantly dropping framerate. When in heavy traffic areas, mostly Silver Strip, the game would dip about 10 frames or in some cases go into perpetual slow motion. This problem is not only annoying but consistent throughout the entire game. I encountered these problems when playing with the game installed on my harddrive. One great technical aspect of Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is the much-improved loading times. Yes gone are the days of taking survivors to the air duct just to sit through a 30 second load screen then another to exit. Those times, in most cases, are reduced by a third and I even found myself saying that this game seemed so much shorter than vanilla Dead Rising 2 and it was because of the greatly reduced load times. The only expense I see of the shorter loads is that sometimes the weapon in Frank's hands or even some survivors have to load from nothing after a load screen. What I mean is that after a load screen whatever weapon is in Frank's hand will be invisible for a second or two before loading into the world. It's not a problem that affects anything gameplay-wise but one hard not to notice.
Graphically, Off the Record is a mixed bag. Character faces still look pretty damn good and the animations are still campy as shit. The problem lies in very muddy-looking textures. When looking as clothing close-up like Frank's wrestling boots for example or even his chest hair, it all looks like one big muddy texture. Dead Rising 2 also had this problem but I would have liked to see the once Blue Castle games clean up, at the very least, Frank West. The environments still look great and Frank still looks like Dan Aykroyd. One odd thing I couldn't help but notice is the face of Stacey, the C.U.R.E. protester from Dead Rising 2. She looks alot different and while this "might" be because of a story element later on I just found it weird and very distracting during cutscenes involving her.
Doo do de do do doo de doo de do do. Yes the enchanting mall music from the first two games is back and yes you'll still be humming it while bludgeoning the zombie hordes of hell. Also returning is the great psychopath songs. Here you'll hear some hard-hitting rock music that really amps you up during these sometimes long battles. Many of these songs return, like "Switchback", while many other fights have brand new songs. Other additions include full voice-overs by Stacey when calling you over the radio which is a first for the series. No more mute Otis...is that a good thing? All of the voicework is, as you guessed it, the exact same as in DR2. Cutscenes all have the EXACT same lines of conversation other than where characters need to reference Frank instead of Chuck. Other than that the weapon hits are still satisfying, Frank's footstep sounds are still annoying and the ambient noises of the new Uranus Zone are hilarious.
The story mode of Off the Record is the same length of Dead Rising 2, about 8-10 hours depending on if you go for the full "S" ending. There's plenty of reasons to replay the story including finding all the new survivors, getting all the endings or even playing through it on co-op where player 2 is Chuck Greene. Also during the story you can look for hidden clothing items that add special abilities to Frank. These clothing options are all the DLC costumes from Dead Rising 2 but are hidden throughout various areas of the map. The great thing about these is that once you find them each piece is placed in your locker in the safe room. Other than that there are few additions to clothing options though it is hilarious seeing Frank attempting to squeeze his husky frame into some of the old clothing options.
The biggest addition to Dead Rising 2: Off the Record has to be the Sandbox mode. Sandbox mode is what fans of the series have wanted since the first game. Here you are plunged into the entire open map of Dead Rising 2 and you can do whatever the fuck you want. No Zombrex, no time-limit and no retarded survivors. Actually what's awesome is that all the survivors are now hostile so you can take all your frustrations out on Europa for forcing you to find some damn underwear while the other survivors died doing nothing. Scattered around the map now are challenges for you to complete that are entirely optional. These range from killing x amount of zombies in a time limit to doing races on motorcycles. Doing better in these challenges will earn you better medals which in turn unlock new clothes, combo cards and achievements. They will also earn you massive amounts of money and PP which will all carry over to your story character. My advise is to start off in Sandbox mode to learn the map and level up a bit to increase your health and inventory which will make fighting psychopaths and escorting survivors much MUCH easier. Another great thing about Sandbox mode is that it can be played completely in co-op which also gives way to additional challenges. Sandbox mode is an amazing addition and while takes the place of the online multiplayer TIR mode, it offers so much more.
Off the Record adds almost nothing on top of the Dead Rising experience. You'll encounter the same areas, same cutscenes and mostly the same story. The real meat of this game relies on how much you like the Frank West character and if the Sandbox mode appeals to you. If you haven't played DR2 yet I suggest you pick this up but for everyone else I say wait for this to drop $10-15 since the small amount of content isn't worth another $40.