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November 14, 2011
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
14/10/2011THQCapcomCapcom/Blue Castle12
Media HDD Install Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is simply bizarre in places.
Game remakes and re-releases are nothing new, in fact they are all the rage lately (look at the God of War Collections and the bevy of HD re-releases), but game ‘re-imaginings’ are more or less unique. Capcom has ‘re-imagined’ Dead Rising 2 with Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, putting Frank West, the hero from the original Dead Rising game, in the lead role at the expense of Chuck Greene. Aside from the change in character the major additions are Frank’s ability to take photos, a new fun park area called ‘Uranus Zone’ and a sandbox mode which enables you to play the game without any time pressure or survivors to rescue. Do these changes make Dead Rising 2: Off the Record new and interesting enough to warrant your hard-earned money? Read on...

Seeing as Frank West is the star of the show this time around, the beginning of the game is slightly different to Dead Rising 2. Frank was the hero of the first Dead Rising game (which never made it to the PS3), saving the people of Willamette from a zombie outbreak and gaining instant celebrity as a result. However as time passed people began to forget about him and it didn’t take Frank long to fritter away whatever money he once had. Desperate to make a comeback Frank jumps at the chance to star in the ‘Terror is Reality’ TV show. Straight after his appearance there is a zombie outbreak, and it’s up to Frank to rescue the survivors and figure out who is behind this new outbreak.

It’s important to say this right from the outset – Off the Record is pretty much the same game as Dead Rising 2. The story events are almost identical, though they are told from a slightly different perspective. Most of the psychopaths from Dead Rising 2 return with just a small tweak to their comments and Frank’s one-liners at their demise. There are no significant graphical or audio improvements here, and the same survivors you rescued last time are still in need of help here. The game mechanics remain unchanged; the limited inventory system returns, you can only save the game in the restrooms and you still require prestige points (PP) to level up.

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A frypan to the face!
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I loved Dead Rising 2, and Off the Record is a match for it in every way. However if you played Dead Rising 2 it’s extremely hard to justify purchasing Off the Record – there’s just not enough new content here to make it worthwhile unless you love Frank West or want to make use of his trusty camera.

On the flip-side, if you’re new to the series then Off the Record will be a lot of fun. Frank has two main goals in the game; firstly to get to the bottom of how the zombies got free, and secondly to rescue the few survivors scattered around Fortune City. The city is not a particularly pleasant place; to go along with the zombie outbreak more than a few people have snapped, going insane and becoming psychopathic thorns in the side of our man Frank. These psychopaths represent optional boss battles in the game and your reward for taking them out is a hefty PP bonus.

PP is used to level up, which earns you useful upgrades like increased attack power, health, inventory slots and new attacks. Occasionally you’re given combo cards which tell you the weapons you need to combine to make combo weapons. You make combo weapons at any of the maintenance benches throughout Fortune City. Often the maintenance rooms have a couple of weapons in them that can be combined, giving you easy access to select combo weapons. Combo weapons are more powerful and durable than standard weapons and killing zombies with a combo weapon also earns you bonus PP.

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Running round the Uranus Zone!
As well as weapons you’ll find magazines and food items you can use throughout Fortune City. Magazines provide a set benefit like increased gambling winnings in casinos, more durability for weapons and discounts on items purchased from the pawn shop. Magazines must be carried on your person to receive these benefits, which makes them a luxury item given the limited inventory slots.

Food and drink restores your health and it soon becomes imperative to carry some with you wherever you go. Every bar has a mixer, used to combine any two drinks into a much more powerful juice. Juices have special properties such as damage reduction making them very handy for boss and psychopath fights.

There are various vehicles you can push or drive around town too. Pushing wheelchairs and trolleys lets you run faster, mowing down zombies as you go. You gain access to a motor bike early on, and it is both extremely fast and durable; you can run over three-hundred or more zombies before your bike explodes. Golf carts are less durable but equally effective, and if you have a few million dollars saved you can buy keys to an SUV or sports car which wreak even more havoc than the motorbike. Motorbikes do have the advantage of being modifiable – there’s nothing like adding a chainsaw to your bike to make it the ultimate killing machine (queue maniacal laughter).

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Brett Ratner may say he needs to reherse!
You have a couple of other tasks in the game. It turns out Frank was bitten by a zombie during the first game, so he needs a daily dose of Zombrex medicine to stave off permanent zombiefication. You can find Zombrex laying about the place or buy it for exorbitant sums from the pawn shop. You’re also on the clock; missions need to be completed on time, and survivors will die if they aren’t rescued in a timely fashion. Failure to complete missions on time does not end the game immediately, but the story won’t continue any further, pretty much forcing you to load your last save game (or start the game again with your level and money intact).

If being on the clock is not your idea of fun you can play the all-new sandbox mode which lets you run free around Fortune City with no story missions to complete, and no survivors to rescue. The name of the game here is to unlock challenges by killing zombies in massive numbers, then complete the challenges. Challenges are relatively straightforward – kill x number of zombies in the time-limit, or earn x amount of PP. It’s harmless fun (unless you’re a zombie), giving you ample time to run around and explore Fortune City in a way you simply can’t do when you’re on the clock. The one criticism here is that it’s not a particularly deep or interesting mode. You need to kill lots of zombies in order to unlock challenges… where you kill more zombies. The plus side is that any money and PP you earn here carries over to the campaign, so you at least get something for your efforts.

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Getting swamped by zombies.
Unlike Chuck in Dead Rising 2, Frank carries a camera with him at all times. The object of your photos is to get as much horror, violence, erotica and drama in each shot in order to earn PP bonuses. Photos of bosses and psychopaths also earn you PP bonuses. The downside of the camera is two-fold, firstly the bonuses you earn are a pittance and secondly the controls are a bit fiddly. You might earn one-thousand PP for a quality photo, but before long that’s a drop in the ocean given you need one-hundred thousand PP (or more) to level up. The controls for taking a photo closely resemble those used to throw objects so you’ll likely throw a weapon or two away trying to take photos. The controls are fiddly enough (hold L2, press R1, then hit square) that you’ll often get attacked before you take your happy snaps. In my view the photography aspect doesn’t really add much to the game, but some people really enjoy it.

The only multiplayer component of Off the Record is the ability to join in another’s campaign, or have them join yours. The host player is able to save their story progress in co-op, but the guest is only able to save the PP and money they’ve earned – story progress is lost when they exit co-op play. The fun you have here is almost totally dependent on the host – if they’re happy to run around killing zombies it can be very entertaining. On the other hand if they’re more interested in running from one mission to the next there’s not a whole lot for you to do other than tag along. Boss and psychopath fights are much easier with two players, so teaming up for them is a good plan. If a player loses all their health in co-op they can be revived by their partner with some food or drink.

As mentioned above, the biggest issue with Off the Record is that it is so similar to Dead Rising 2. Aside from a couple of different plot twists, the inclusion of photography, and a the odd new psychopaths or survivor, the rest feels like almost the exact same game. Many of the issues I had with Dead Rising 2 are present here too, including the fact you can only save the game in restrooms, inventory slots are too limited, and heavy weapons must be used immediately rather than held in your inventory. Chuck still seems to run faster when he’s pushing something like a wheelchair or a trolley too which is odd. A sprint button is a must for Dead Rising 3.

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Taking the fight to the ring in Dead Rising 2: Off the Record.
Graphically Off the Record does seem a bit more polished than Dead Rising 2, but it’s not particularly noticeable. There is still some screen-tearing but it’s not as pronounced here, and given the number of zombies on-screen it’s easily forgiven. The environments look great and are interactive too – you can play slot machines and other mini-games in the casinos to earn (or lose) a few bucks, and the stores all contain realistic items, most of which can be used as weapons. The sheer number of items that can be picked up and used as weapons impresses and really adds to the gameplay experience. Fortune City may not be the biggest game world out there, but it feels authentic and it's a lot of fun to explore. There’s also a LOT of blood in this game – Frank is almost permanently covered in blood, and zombies spray it far and wide as they’re cut to pieces.

The sound effects are well done, zombies sound like they do in movies, weapons sound great as they hack/slice/crunch zombies and other effects like glass shattering, explosions and gun-fire work well enough. The voice-acting is much the same as last time (i.e rather average), though Frank’s one-liners are marginally improved on Chuck’s. Strangely all voices in the game are soft in comparison to the rest of the game, which is a bit of an issue. There’s still plenty of text in the game that isn’t voiced which feels archaic these days. There is music in the game but to be honest I barely noticed it among the carnage being caused.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is an undeniably fun game, but one that hasn’t gone through significant changes in the thirteen months since Dead Rising 2 came out. It may be called a ‘re-imagining’, but in reality it’s almost a carbon copy of Dead Rising 2 with a new character in the lead role. For that reason the game can only be recommended to those who missed Dead Rising 2 last year - anyone with Dead Rising 2 should pass on this game, at least until they find it in the bargain bin. As DLC this would have been very well-received, but as a full-price ‘re-imagining’ it doesn’t make the grade.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSNot significantly improved since Dead Rising 2, but still high quality. Even with a hundred or more zombies on-screen it doesn’t slow down.
SOUNDNot significantly improved since Dead Rising 2, but still high quality. Even with a hundred or more zombies on-screen it doesn’t slow down.
GAMEPLAYSlaying zombies is just as much fun as ever, and sandbox mode is fun for a while. Photography doesn’t add a lot to the game though.
VALUEIf this is your first Dead Rising experience then you’ll want to play through a couple of times. If you have Dead Rising 2 take off ten percent because you’ve practically seen it all.
OVERALLIf you have Dead Rising 2 then there’s little reason to re-invest in Off the Record. In that case the game gets 69%. On the other hand if this is your first Dead Rising experience you’re in for a treat (and for newcomers we give it 80%).

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