Dead Rising 2: Off the Record Hands-On Preview – To Be Frank
Written Monday, September 12, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
We've missed Frank West, and despite Capcom already attempting to placate the die-hard Dead Rising fans with downloadable spin-off Case West, we welcome more from the intrepid photo-journalist and self-styled 'original zombie killer' with open arms. Enter Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, a 'what if' scenario in which West takes the place of Dead Rising 2 hero Chuck, plonking you right back into the middle of Fortune City following the same story arc with a few tweaks here and there. And yes, there's still thousands upon thousands of zombies waiting to be slaughtered.
Kicking off with the tale of Frank's rise and fall post-Dead Rising, with the Willamette Mall incident temporarily transforming him into a national hero until he lashes out and his fame spirals into a steep descent, Off the Record inevitably ends up with Frank in the Terror is Reality wrestling ring, as he strives to claw back his tattered reputation. From here, fans who played Dead Rising 2 will find the action instantly familiar, as Frank must pummel his way through an arena packed wall-to-wall with the undead, as master of ceremonies TK looks on. Before long, you'll be retreading Chuck's path, albeit with a camera to recapture the inherent fun of snapping photos a la Dead Rising 1.
It's the return of the much-missed camera as well as West that will be the biggest draw for most fans, but the addition of a new area called the Uranus Zone and the all-new Sandbox Mode ought to help sweeten the deal. Having said that, these additions feel somewhat like short shrift for what will be a retail release, even if it is a budget title. However, all of the cut-scenes have been completely redone so that this really is Frank's story and the only sign you'll see of Chuck, is in the game's co-op mode. Essentially though, you could be playing with a Frank skin as you're replaying the same story from Dead Rising 2, even with the same conceit of having to gather vials of Zombrex still intact, except this time, West himself is the one with the disease, meaning he has to administer the drug every day between 7pm and 8pm.
There are some new combo weapons to discover though, and the simple joys of ploughing through masses of zombies with a battleaxe or a lawnmower seldom wears thin, especially now that you can stop to snap pictures of the carnage, admire the results and earn vast amounts of PP while you're at it. Having the camera back is great, and encourages you to mess around and experiment more than you did in DR2 playing as Chuck. As ever, capturing drama, brutality, horror, humorous outtakes and erotica is the name of the game, and looking out for special areas of interest and PP stickers to photograph mixes things up a bit.
So, while Off the Record feels like a return to the values of the first game, purists may weep at the introduction of checkpoints, which for the rest of us non-sadists is actually a godsend, making interminable traipsing back and forth between the safe room and where you just died, a thing of the past. Psychos are obviously back too, but these hideously unfair battles of attrition are less of an annoying prospect when you know that a checkpoint isn't too far away. If things do prove a little overwhelming in the Story Mode, then you can always retreat to the Sandbox, where time constraints are removed, the story is stripped out and it's just Frank versus the zombies, completing missions and dispatching psychos.
Dropping in from a helicopter onto a rooftop, Sandbox Mode is Frank's vacation, giving him free reign to simply kill thousands of zombies and muck around, while allowing you to explore the grounds of Fortune City, its casino complex and the new Uranus Zone sci-fi theme park at your leisure. Purple star icons denote where challenges can be found, but to unlock them, you need to have reached a certain number of zombies killed, and some targets are high in the thousands. You could be ripping through the undead hordes for quite some time it seems.
Frank also gets soaked in blood to a ridiculous level, making it possible to turn his clothes completely red with arterial goop. Gore hounds will love Dead Rising 2: Off the Record just as much as previous instalments, and aspects like improvements to the loading times and so on should help in selling the game to the unconverted. Despite improved loading times though, our code still had some rather protracted loading screens to sit through, so we'd say that in its current state, they're really only a marginal improvement over what's gone before.
The first few hours of Off the Record were an almost straight-up retracing of Chuck's story in our preview code, so we can only hope that the latter parts of the game prove to be a little more adventurous with the narrative, perhaps throwing in an unexpected curve ball here and there to keep those who played Dead Rising 2 on their toes. We don't expect that this will be the case, meaning that Off the Record looks to be Dead Rising 2 starring Frank West in essence, with a few token additions and reworked cut-scenes. For many though, that might not sound like such a bad thing, and let's not forget that this is still Dead Rising 2, and therefore still as inherently fun and recklessly entertaining as you'd expect.
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is out on October 11th in North America and October 14th in Europe. For more from Frank West's zombie-slaying holiday, check out Lee's mega interview.