Dead Rising 2: Off the Record Review
I don’t mind revisiting fun games that have received updates, upgrades, and improvements. I do, however, question a publisher’s decision to reissue an average game with little in the way of significant enhancements. Dead Rising 2 was entertaining, but it was definitely flawed and there was plenty of room for improvement. Therefore, when I sat down to play Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, I fully expected a better experience the whole way ‘round. I was kinda disappointed.
I’m fairly certain they didn’t really beef up the graphics, as they’re basically the same. There’s plenty of great gory detail, especially when you dive into a horde of marauding undead with a particularly nasty weapon. Any massive blunt object or sharply bladed makeshift weapon seems to have the most visceral effect. The environment features some nice ambiance in regards to presenting the player with a frightening atmosphere, but that’s about it. It’s pretty standard; nothing really stands out, especially compared to new productions.
The sound isn’t much better although again, the effects are the highlight. There are some truly gut-wrenching splatter effects involved in group annihilation, and some of the voices are darn good. The return of original protagonist Frank West doesn’t spark much in the way of new dialogue, though; Capcom clearly didn’t implement a whole lot of new reactions to the new character. The soundtrack is decent but often plays second fiddle to those in-your-face effects and overall, it’s an underwhelming audio presentation by today’s standards.
That’s the second time I’ver referred to the current competition, and that’s just because the game is technically a year old, and a lot changes in a year. I also mention it because as I said above, there don’t appear to be much in the way of positive alterations to this pseudo-expansion. For instance, they make a big deal of Frank coming back into the fray but in truth, it really doesn’t change much of anything. The action is basically the same, interacting with other characters is awfully similar, and overall, this just feels like a rehash.
Now, one could make the argument that Frank’s photography ability certainly adds something to the gameplay, and there are a few new psychopath battles. On top of which, the developers tried to address one of DR2’s main failings: the complete lack of a checkpoint system. You had to find a bathroom if you wanted to save, which definitely feels old-fashioned. In Off the Record, they have added checkpoints but they’re only for the sake of death; i.e., if you die, you can restart close to where you died.
However, it’s not technically a save. You still have to find a bathroom if you want to save your game before turning off the system. That’s a little annoying but I will give them credit; they addressed a major issue and, when playing, it does help with the flow of the action. Lastly, the other bonus is the game itself. I still think it can be fun to experiment with all sorts of bizarre, highly destructive weapons, and blasting through the brain-eaters remains entertaining for most of the adventure. But it’s just incomplete.
There are still the common frame rate problems when laying into large numbers of enemies, for instance, and in my opinion, there’s a general lack of direction. I assume those who enjoy this repetitive zombie slashing get a big kick out of certain homemade weapons, and the constant drive to survive offers an adrenaline rush. I’ve also heard many praise the game’s encouragement of creativity, and the environment, which can definitely cause your blood pressure to rise. I do understand the positives and pluses; they just don’t do much for me.
That being said, I did have some fun with the Sandbox mode for a while. Basically, it has replaced the Terror is Reality multiplayer mode, and you just go through challenge after challenge (you unlock them as you progress; it feels very campaign-esque). Some are time-based, others require that you take down a certain number of foes as quickly as possible. There’s nothing all that special or fresh about such challenges, but they do offer an alternative to the campaign, which gets tiring. In general, though, there’s a distinct “almost but not quite” sensation.
We weren’t big fans of Dead Rising 2, so it should come as no surprise that we’re not too enthralled with this half-sequel. Off the Record is still fun; there are still plenty of zombies to slay in a million different ways, we finally get checkpoints (even if they aren’t saves), and Sandbox is entertaining. But beyond that, the improvements are few and far between. We still have the same mechanical problems, Frank’s photography skill doesn’t add much, the frame rate issues are still there, and in the end, it’s just “Dead Rising 2+.”
And now, a year later, given what we have hitting store shelves, that just doesn’t cut it.
The Good: Nailing hundreds of zombies is still bloody fun. Weapon creativity is a big bonus. Checkpoints help action flow. Sandbox mode shakes things up.
The Bad: Not much changed with the return of Frank West. Frame rate issues and other small mechanical problems remain. Campaign gets repetitive and tiring. Not enough upgrades to warrant this rerelease.
The Ugly: “$40, Capcom? Really? How’s about half that?”
10/15/2011 Ben Dutka