The Dead Rising franchise is perhaps one of the most divisive to have been born on current-generation systems. Having given us two editions of the zombie mashing videogame, audiences revered the unrelenting challenge while at the same time revolted against it’s maddening save system. In truth, neither Dead Rising nor Dead Rising 2 would have been quite the same experience without the reliance on the save system, but here with Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, all that has changed.
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record doesn’t carry that magical third numeric simply due to its revision nature. Capcom hasn’t shied away from the fact that Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is a retread of Dead Rising 2 with added bells and whistles, hence the lower price-tag awarded to the retail package, but that doesn’t mean it’s light on content by any means.
Upon booting up Dead Rising 2: Off the Record for the first time, the player will be faced with two options: Story Mode and Sandbox Mode. Both gameplay modes are played with a synchronised character, meaning bonuses and cash earned in one gameplay mode are automatically transferred to the other, creating a symbiotic relationship that takes Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2’s accumulative level system one stage further. The Story Mode featured in Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is a love letter to fans of the original Dead Rising. For most it may simply appear to be an excuse to throw Frank West into Chuck Greene’s game, but this is a continuation of the story of our unlikely hero. He may play the same role as Greene, but there are subtle differences that mean the inevitable Dead Rising 3 could well offer to alternate story paths, one for each hero. Then again, we could receive two entirely separate releases again.
There has been a considerable amount of refinement in Dead Rising 2: Off the Record beyond the swapping of character models. Of course, it’s well known that the photojournalistic aspect of the original Dead Rising returns, and has even been expanded upon, and the addition of new weapon combinations and more zombies on-screen at any one point has also been heavily documented. What’s not been conveyed so directly are the changes to the aforementioned save system; or rather, the additional layer now added to it via checkpoints.
Though it’s called a ‘checkpoint’, the temporary save system may not be as generous as you are thinking. It literally holds a temporary bullet point at the last loading screen, which is lost when reloading a save or exiting the game. It’s not very clever, and can often leave you in a worse position than your own manual save, but it will come as a comfort to some less experienced gamers. Those well versed in the ways of Dead Rising may wish to steer clear of it altogether, and are granted that option. The bigger question however, comes not in the how but in the why. Why is it now, with a budget priced spin-off release, that Capcom have chosen to make Dead Rising even a little more user friendly? Surely those who haven’t become infatuated with the series with either of the earlier two releases aren’t likely to invest in this third edition, especially as it’s widely noted to be little more than a revision of Dead Rising 2, and by the same token gamers who have endeavoured to pride themselves on the game’s obtuse punishment will surely deem it necessary here in Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. It surely would have made more sense to include the option in Dead Rising 2, and then remove it here in Dead Rising 2: Off the Record.
In addition to all the new renovations, Dead Rising 2: Off the Record’s Sandbox mode is in fact the real added bonus. Beginning with West entering in a similar fashion to that of the original Dead Rising, though with much more confidence, the player is free to roam as they wish, without the constraints of mission objectives or a time limit. Instead, the player will find many challenges littered around the environment, located at glowing purple stars. From killing a set number of zombies within a time limit to gaining a certain amount of PP, the challenges are hardly inspiring, but then neither is the thrust of the gameplay mode. It’s an alternative, a more relaxed variation of an action game built for anyone who has spent more time driving through the streets of Liberty City and goading the cops into chasing them than taking part in the preset missions. It is, as the name suggests, an area in which you make your own entertainment.
Though it’s undeniably built on the same foundations, Dead Rising 2: Off the Record does look slightly better than Dead Rising 2. As stated above there are far more zombies on-screen at any one time, right from the start of the game. The new area, the Uranus Zone, is a ghastly neon lit theme park that takes all the worst of your expectations and piles them high before littering them with the undead, and the characters have been attuned to the presence of West in such a way that’s it’s not noticeable to the untrained eye, which is perhaps the most respectable part of the Story Mode’s transition.
As a new retail product in the market, Dead Rising 2: Off the Record does exactly what it promised. It’s a retread of Dead Rising 2, featuring new additions and a replacement of the lead character. It’s not a revolution for the franchise, but it does have plenty of new ideas. Much like Capcom’s decision to release Super Street Fighter IV as a retail product rather than a downloadable content (DLC) package after the success of Street Fighter IV, a question will always present itself as to why Dead Rising 2: Off the Record wasn’t made available digitally, but at it’s budget price few could argue that it doesn’t provide value for money as a disc-based release.