Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dead Rising 2: Off The Record

After the success of the original Dead Rising, a sequel developed by Blue Castle Games followed and was met with great critical acclaim. It introduced the world to another protagonist named Chuck Greene, a former motocross champion who had to fend off the zombie horde in Fortune City while protecting his daughter. While I did think he was a likable character, I had never gotten to known Frank West at all due to my lack of an Xbox 360. Thankfully, enough fans missed him to warrant the release of Dead Rising 2: Off The Record. In this game, fans get to see how the events of the game would have played out with Frank at the player's control instead, and I found his version of the story a bit better.

The opening shows us that in the intervening period between Dead Rising 1 and 2, Frank West got to be down on his luck, but he still got by as an active photographer. As he gets sucked into the events of the second game, his story has a lot of the same cues as Chuck, but it has enough variety to make it different and interesting. Players also get to take advantage of his unique skill to take photos for PP, but this time without needing to worry about the battery life or amount of film in his now digital camera. While Chuck Greene was able to make plenty of crazy gadgets with duct tape, Frank West can make everything he could and more, a lot of which I had fun using.

The variety continues throughout the game and doesn't stop coming. There are plenty of new psychopaths to battle, with plenty of surprises and references to the first game that any fan would enjoy. A new expansion to Fortune City can also be explored, known as the Uranus Zone. It's alien themed and contains even more objectives and weapons to use, plus some killer rides and attractions, and didn't feel out of place within the confines of the game.

My favorite addition however is one that I had wished for since the original Dead Rising 2, a Sandbox Mode available from the start. The three save slots return, but now contain saves for both the Story and Sandbox, meaning players can have a file for each without the need to take up unnecessary room or save over their progress in either mode.

In the actual mode itself, players get to explore Fortune City at their own pace, battling optional psychopaths that appear at regular intervals and complete challenges for more cash or PP. Challenges vary from reaching a particular platform in the allotted time to killing as many zombies as possible. They can also be specific to the point of only allowing your camera for gaining PP. There are also some Co-op challenges, which enables a second player to control Chuck Greene, who controls exactly like Frank down to the camera tricks.

The greatest tweak of all is that while Dead Rising is built for multiple playthroughs, it is no longer a requirement to begin the story anew if you find yourself underpowered at any point. Instead, it is now possible to level up via the sandbox and seamlessly transfer your skills back to the Story. I liked how they addressed this, as I found myself having more fun without the need to constantly backtrack through the story like with Chuck.

The online multiplayer mode Terror Is Reality has also been scrapped from this game, but while it was good in theory and enjoyable in practice, it only ended up this way once you got past the various shortcomings it had with getting a single game off the ground, such as a painfully long queue time. Thankfully, the Sandbox mode more than makes up for it.

Off The Record manages to be different enough from its original counterpart to not seem like good DLC instead. There are plenty of new things you can do and it doesn't feel like a clone game at all. Plus it feels like a great bargain at only $40. If you've never played Dead Rising or its sequel, I would tell you to pick this game up now.

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