Well, it hasn't been long since Dead Island came out, The Walking Dead's just started up again, and their are plenty of undead projects on the horizon like World War Z, so I suppose it's safe to say that zombie's are still the "in" thing! As a fan of all things horror related, I'm unlikely to get bored with them anytime soon, and I do have a soft spot for the Dead Rising series, so you might say I was slightly intrigued by the concept behind Dead Rising 2: Off The Record, which is so fiendishly simple that it borders on lazy! Basically, it's a "what if" situation, where Frank West replaces Chuck Greene as the star of the show, which means that it's the same old Fortune City, the same old zombies, the same old survivors, etc etc. Or is it?
OK, there's a little more to it than I'm letting on, and to be honest I'd be pretty upset if Frank being thrown into Chuck's place was the only change, after all that would have made Off The Record your average bit of cheap DLC. That's not to say it isn't a tad repetitive if you've already played Dead Rising 2 though, in fact what your looking at is essentially the Dead Rising 2 campaign with some new dialogue and Frank's legendary wit! However, the little differences are just enough to keep it fresh and there are plenty of unique moments thrown into the mix as well, with one of my favourites being Frank's encounter with a psychotic Chuck Greene.
Frank's brought some new gameplay elements with him as well as dragging one or two old ones out of the woodwork, the most note worthy of which comes in the form of his trusty camera. Taking ridiculous photos in the original game was one of the things that made it so much damn fun, and it definitely injects a massive dose of humour into your zombie killing sessions, after all taking photos of zombies flying through the air courtesy of an explosion you've just caused using a ridiculously powerful combo weapon, means that you can laugh about it time and time again. As with the first game, you'll receive PP for your shots and their are also little photo tags hidden around the environments for you to capture, IF you manage to spot them. Unfortunately, your camera only stores 30 pictures at a time and erases old pictures that haven't been locked, so make sure you're best ones are safe before you take any more. You can also get a great comedy shot, if you use the new snap shot move, which'll make Frank grab a nearby zombie for a quick MySpace style picture of the two of them. Last but not least, you can share your gruesome images if you're playing co-op with a friend, which can lead to one or two fits of laughter swapping between your headsets.
Now, what's different about Fortune City you may ask? The map's virtually identical, with the exception of a large area in the bottom right hand corner, which is now home to the Uranus Zone Theme Park. It's pretty good for a little while as you pick up new weapons to slay zombies with, or lure them into the path of the various theme park rides present, which I'm guessing is a little nod to Zombieland. You can also pay a trip to the bank if you've picked up the new safety deposit box keys that have been littered about, for a little reward in the form of money or other items that you might find useful.
If you've played the previous instalments of the series, another big difference should be apparent almost immediately; there are more zombies . . . lots more of them! Before you could easily locate gaps between the undead to safely navigate through them if you didn't want to go to the trouble of sending them back to their graves, but now it's hard to find a space that doesn't have a zombie in it. That's not a problem for Frank though, he's faced these monsters before, and he knows exactly what to use to defeat them, whether that's a bit of furniture, or his awesome hand to hand skills. And that leads me quite nicely onto another point; Frank's pretty tough this time around, so you don't have to worry about dying multiple times before you can safely take on psychopaths, or strive to find the truth, which probably makes this the most balanced Dead Rising game to date.
The multiplayer that was present in Dead Rising 2 has been thrown on the trash heap and that's probably for the best because it was only momentarily fun before you became completely bored with it and headed back into Fortune City. However, it's been replaced by possibly one of the biggest and best changes; not only do you get story mode, you also get a sandbox mode, both of which you can play online with a friend, which I recommend you do because it leads to some hilarious antics. In story mode, you'll have to discover the truth behind the outbreak before the military arrives whilst picking up zombrex (yes, you do still have to this, but it's not quite as annoying). Sandbox mode throws you into Fortune City and let's you do whatever you want; there's no time limit in sight; you don't have to collect zombrex unless of course you want to; there are plenty of zombies to decapitate; some psychopaths to take down; and most importantly there are challenges to complete. The challenges test your skills to the limits and range from killing a certain amount of zombies in an allotted time period, to having a race around the environment and if you're anything like me, you'll put the effort in to get a gold medal for all of them! Also, your money, items, and PP, moves between the two modes, so for example you can build up a considerable amount of money in the sandbox mode and then take it straight into story mode.
There are only two thing that've really annoyed me so far. The first is that you can't both play as Frank in online co-op, which means if you join one of your friend's games you'll step into Chuck Greene's shoes. Now, whilst I appreciate having two Frank's running around side by side isn't particularly realistic (unless of course he's a twin), if you've put a bit of effort into customising how your Frank looks it can be a little disappointing the first time you take part in co-op and you're greeted by Chuck Greene's yellow biker threads! All I'm saying is a little bit of choice would have been nice. The second is that if you try to save a game in co-op the non-host player'll get thrown out and they'll have to rejoin you, which believe me becomes extremely irritating!
I'd go so far as to say that this is my favourite zombie game of the year, sorry Dead Island you're good but you're nowhere near as much fun! If you've been put off by the series in the past, or you're completely new to it, then I'd say this is the one to get because in my opinion it's the best by miles. However, if you've played Dead Rising 2 already then you might be a little bit annoyed by Capcom's apparent laziness, especially as this is being sold in shops, rather than slipping in as a bit of DLC for Dead Rising 2. Then again once you start busting dead heads you'll probably forget all about it!
- Frank's back!
- Sandbox mode
- It's sooooo much fun if you're a zombie / horror fan
- A tiny bit on the lazy side
- You can't both play as Frank in online co-op
- Getting chucked out of a co-op game when you go to save it
The Short Version: Dead Rising 2: Off The Record's definitely the best game in the series, but you might get a little bit bored with the story mode if you've already played Dead Rising 2.