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Dead Rising 2: Off The Record Review (Xbox 360)

Posted by Jim Cook, Oct 11, 2011 10:37

Reviewing an updated re-release of a game is interesting, especially in the case of Dead Rising 2: Off The Record, because there are roughly three groups of people: Those who played the original Dead Rising 2, those who are familiar with the series but skipped the sequel’s normal release because they thought this update might happen, and those who have completely missed out; I’ll try to address all of these concerns. Off The Record is a mix of update, revision, and ’what if?’ story for the original game. Off The Record doesn’t reinvent the formula, so it’s still a third-person action title all about wandering a huge, detailed environment while killing zombies and rescuing survivors. The hordes of enemies and the huge variety of weapons are still present, and most of the ’game world’ is taken from Dead Rising 2’s main content. What this version offers is a revised story, improved loading times, the much-requested Sandbox Mode (without the persistent health-drain that dragged down Dead Rising 1’s version of this idea), and the return of Frank West; whether that’s enough is worth discussing.

Dead Rising 2: Off The Record (Xbox 360)The immediate fear one might have is that Off The Record is just the previous game with Frank taking Chuck’s place. This isn’t quite true; while Frank is clearly retelling the previous game’s story from a perspective of "what if I was the hero rather than Chuck?", the plot has been revised some to account for this. They didn’t just replace Chuck’s character model with Frank’s, so you won’t be doing the exact same things though there is significant overlap. You’ll see plenty of familiar moments that are done with either no differences or only subtle ones, but also some new material to go with it. One major change is the use of fewer vehicle segments, since Frank is a journalist and prefers his camera over Chuck’s motorcycle stunts. For example, missions that called for vehicles may instead have Frank sneaking around and photographing people to uncover the truth of what’s going on. This isn’t to say vehicles are gone, they’re still present and Frank uses most of them just like Chuck did.

Along with a revised storyline, Off The Record adds a mix of wholly new content. The most noteworthy of these is an outer space/alien invasion styled theme park called Uranus Zone, which is comparable in size to any one casino area of Fortune City. While it’s slightly sparse, what things are there are very fun, and many of them factor into the new combo weapons. Since practical weapons for killing zombie crowds are already available, Off The Record’s new weapons mostly go for excessive firepower, humor, or sheer ’cool’ factor. Perhaps the best of these is the Cryo Pod, which combines one of Uranus Zone’s futuristic trash-cans with a fire extinguisher as a ’rocket thruster’; stick a zombie inside it and the pod will take off, flying around wildly and plowing through other zombies before eventually crashing in spectacular fashion. They’re not very practical for completing the story missions with, but they are hilarious and worth using for that reason alone.

The developers seemed to realize these new weapons aren’t very good for normal play, because they added a new mode where you don’t have to rely on an inventory full of ’boring’ and practical equipment. Sandbox Mode, otherwise known as ’This should have been in the Dead Rising series from the very beginning Mode’, is built specifically to let you play around with few hassles. There are no story missions, no harsh time limits or mandatory Zombrex injections, and nobody calling to nag you about rescuing survivors. Sandbox Mode is all about zombie-killing fantasy fulfillment, though it does offer a few twists to keep things interesting. You can just deal with zombie hordes and wandering boss fights with whatever weapons you wish, but there are also a series of optional challenges you can activate to see just how good you really are at various tasks. Some measure how quickly you kill zombies, others how well you navigate obstacles or handle special jobs such as gathering certan items, and so on. Sandbox Mode is available from the very start of the game, plus stats and money carry over to the main story.

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Our Rating for Dead Rising 2: Off The Record Review (Xbox 360)
8.0 Replay
Sandbox mode and several secret items to find will keep you coming back for a while, though anyone who has already played Dead Rising 2’s story mode will find about half or more of the main missions are recycled from that version.
8.5 Graphics
Being an update of Dead Rising 2, this looks pretty much identical to it. You’re still given a large, very detailed world to explore and lots of subtle easter eggs to find, so this is fine. The framerate still tends to drop during outdoor motorcycle use in large zombie crowds, but it remains playable throughout.
8.0 Sound
Frank’s silly commentary adds a lot to the game as he takes cheap shots at what’s going on in his version of the story. Adding voice-overs to mission alert calls was also a very good choice, and a few new music tracks round out an area that was previously lacking.
9.0 Gameplay
It’s still the classic ’sandbox survival’ romp, and having a whole new area to play in along with several new, hilarious weapons makes it even better. Load time improvements and simplifying the Zombrex injection mechanic for the main story are also welcome additions that take away some of the worst frustrations in the original release.
8.5 Multiplayer/Online Content
The addition of a true, convenient Sandbox Mode makes online co-op with a friend much more fun. You don’t have to mess with cutscenes, escorting survivors, and so on; it’s just you and your buddy doing whatever you want against the hordes of zombies and psychopaths. While Terror Is Reality online play is gone (and likely won’t be missed given how unpopular it proved to be), co-op through the regular story mode does remain.
8.0 Overall
This is the best version of a great zombie-killing experience, with significant improvements over the original Dead Rising 2. Nonetheless it does retread a lot of old territory and will be best enjoyed by devoted fans of the series who really wanted a proper sandbox mode, or those who want a good starting point for getting into the franchise.

Rating: 4.5, votes: 2


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