Dead Rising 2: Off The Record opens with a bankrupt Frank West taking part in an episode of the knockabout, laugh-a-minute game show Terror is Reality, before his naturally inquisitive nature takes over and he begins to start asking questions about what goes on behind the scenes. He’s tubbier than you probably remember but is still every bit as snide and cynical you remember him, and despite Chuck Green’s likeable old-school swashbuckler turn in the original Dead Rising 2, having Frank West take centre stage again gives the series back some of its original, belligerent edge.
It’s difficult to tell if casual fans of last year’s sequel will be tempted to bite again here – although a new set of achievements and trophies are in place to lure them in – but if you’ve played Dead Rising 2 to completion you should be aware that only a small handful of minor amendments have been made to the main campaign. Hardcore fans will notice a few new Frank-starring cut-scenes that replace Chuck’s old ones (and you’ll find a few new combo weapons as well) but the mission structure and plot is (broadly speaking) essentially the same.
Although the nuts-and-bolts of the experience remain very similar, two much more significant changes have markedly improved it. In Dead Rising 2 Chuck Green’s daughter was one of the infected, which meant that your perpetual hunt for the Zombrex vaccine was followed by a mandatory gallop back to the safe-house so that you could administer it. This time it’s Frank himself that’s on the turn, so all of those time-consuming sprints are no longer necessary; giving you a whole lot more time to crack some mushy skulls together.
Secondly – and more importantly, for big fans of the original game – Frank has remembered to bring his trusty camera along for the ride too. Fantastically entertaining though it was, this was the exclusion that initially hurt Dead Rising 2 the most; robbing it of so much of the humour and attitude that defined the original game. You’re still free to take pictures whenever you want, but there are now PP coins to “collect” by snapping the right thing at exactly the right time; an enjoyable mini-game which also helps you to level up much faster.
In addition to that there’s also now a separate Sandbox mode, and you’d be surprised by just how compelling it is just to simply hang around and cause havoc inside it, without having to worry about ticking clocks or screaming innocents that need saving. Victims are there to be rescued if you want them – as the sandbox is littered with tons of challenges to undertake if you get bored – but the lack of strictures will probably inspire most people to be a bit more creative with their zombie-offing, which is no bad thing.
So it’s essentially Dead Rising 2: The Redux, and if you never played the first incarnation then this is unquestionably the version to go for. Frank West is back, the sandbox is compulsive and the brand new ‘Uranus Zone’ – which is packed with amusing gags and is somehow even more juvenile than it sounds – is definitely a place that’s worth at least one visit. Preferably with a friend in co-op. The budget price is the icing on the cake, and if you’ve never visited Fortune City before, then Off The Record is easily your best excuse to do so.
Dead Rising 2: Off The Record is released on Xbox 360, PC and Playstation 3 on Friday October 14th 2011.
Watch the Dead Rising 2: Off The Record trailer below: