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Dead Rising 2 Off the Record Review

Off the Record is an example of something that you really don’t see a whole lot of in the world of game releases. In a nut shell, this is a tweaked version of last year’s Dead Rising 2. While that game did offer fans more of what they wanted from a sequel, it also came with everything you didn’t like about the first game as well as some problems of its own. Off the Record seems to be an attempt at addressing those flaws, and reintroduce Frank West as the protagonist this time to try and claw back in anyone that didn’t warm up to Chuck Green for whatever reason. In many ways, Off the Record is successful in removing a lot of the flaws that this franchise has become known for, but it also brings into realization what is still lacking from the game after so many iterations.

Before I get into any gory details, it is imperative that I stress just how much of Dead Rising 2 has stayed the same for Off the Record, and that is a good 80% of it. The story has been altered slightly to accommodate Frank West instead of Chuck Green and some key events play out a little differently. Frank is now the one infected and in need of Zombrex instead of Chuck’s daughter. But the main journey is the same and the content is very similar to what you saw last year. That’s not to say there isn’t anything new to discover though. There are plenty of new combo weapons, psychopaths, survivors and a brand new area (the theme park) to explore. The biggest addition is, without a doubt, Sandbox mode. In this mode, you have no time limits and every location is made available. There are tons of challenges dotted around the city for you to try out. This is easily the best thing about Off the Record. All your money and experience will transfer from sandbox mode to your story save too, so this allows you to better yourself if a particular situation is giving you a lot of trouble. The photography mechanic also returns, but is significantly overshadowed by the combo weapons, I don’t know about you, but I would much prefer to gain experience by duck taping knives to grass trimmers and cutting off hundreds of zombie legs rather than taking pictures of them.

                                                                                                                                           Yep, this is still very much a Dead Rising game

There’s also a surprisingly high amount of references to the first game, some subtle and some not so much. The fact that you’re playing as Frank is played up as much as possible and more than once comes off as a little forced. Especially when you’re rescuing survivors as they still have the same dialogue as the previous game, it just feels like token fan service to a character that doesn’t quite hold the status the game would have you believe. That being said, I did get a couple of good laughs out of some of nods to the first Dead Rising.

Perhaps the most prominent criticism of Dead Rising has been its very unforgiving save system.  Even in Dead Rising 2 there were no auto saves and due to the unreliable nature of the mechanics, death usually accompanied a huge setback in progress as well as a large dose of frustration. This is tackled head on and now whenever you enter a new area, you always get a checkpoint, likewise when you trigger a psychopath confrontation. These checkpoints are not permanent, but they are a very welcome addition. The load times are also significantly better this time around due to a mandatory install. No longer will you have to wait two to three minutes between hitting start game and actually playing the game. Taking missions no longer interrupts the action either thanks to Frank’s trusty earpiece replacing the usual radio. The frame rate is also much more stable than before. These improvements are easily the most noticeable to anyone who picked up Dead Rising 2 last year, and while they are very welcome, they simply aren’t enough to justify releasing much of the same game as a new title. Every single item location has been changed from Dead Rising 2, so even if you have played that, there is still some element of exploration and discovery here. There’s also a good chance this will just annoy anyone coming in from Dead Rising 2 though.

All these improvements make you realise just how much more they could have improved upon for Off the Record. The combo weapons are an awesome addition to the series, but they just don’t last long enough to justify hunting down the various different ones. More to the point, there is no way you can make them last longer. You can pick up magazines to increase blade durability, but as soon as that blade is used in a combo weapon it no longer applies. It’s rarely worth your while to hunt down various objects and experiment because the maintenance rooms always contain at least one weapon's worth of items. You’re always better off using them until you find the next one. There’s also no way to store or repair your items. It would have been a great addition if you could, say, repair a combo weapon three times before it broke. This would encourage players to find the more obscure ones because you would end up getting more use out of them.


                                                                                                                                You can find some interesting combo weapons in the theme park

Off the Record is easily the best entry in the series so far. It removes some of the problems that were holding back the previous games, but you still can’t shake the feeling that the developer is, for whatever reason, reluctant to go all out and fix everything. If you didn’t pick up Dead Rising 2 last year and wanted to do so, then skip it entirely and get thi. If you did play Dead Rising 2 last year, then Off the Record does not warrant a day one price tag, but it’s still worth picking up further down the road just to experience the improvements that make the game better overall. I still truly feel there is a great game somewhere in the Dead Rising formula, but I’m sorry to say that Off the Record is not it.  



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