Dead Rising: Off The Record Review
Fortunately, the new Sandbox Mode is pretty incredible. Previous Dead Rising games allowed players the option to just dick around and ignore the time limit, but aside from the thrill of killing zombies, there wasn’t anything to do. Off The Record has created an actual mode, accessible from the menu. You can still just kill zombies until you’re bored, wandering all over the map of Fortune City, but now you can also unlock quest markers which give you objectives like “kill as many zombies as you can in 2 minutes”. As you unlock them the quests get more varied, but they aren’t mandatory, which means you can either keep killing for lulz or try doing it for in-game money.
It doesn’t sound like much, but the promise of a GTA style zombie game is, in part, the freedom to run around and do whatever. The lack of it in previous games was a stupid oversight, and it’s great that they’ve finally decided to include it now. Hopefully, if there ends up being a Dead Rising 3 Capcom will keep this feature.
Frankly*, multiplayer is an afterthought. Players can choose between playing the story mode in co-op, or joining a sandbox game. They’re both fun, and Story mode is improved by co-op, a rarity. But there’s almost nothing you can do in multiplayer than you can’t get from the single player experience. Mainly, it’s there to give you something to do after you beat the game. Not terrible of course, just… unimportant.
When Off The Record was announced, Capcom promised improvements such as optimization of loading times and improved network performance. I had no trouble with XBLA interactions, but I can report that they absolutely did not deliver improved load anythings.Simply put, Off The Record is full of load screens. Ready for a cut scene? Load screen first. Cut scene over? Load screen. Time to interact with an NPC? Load screen. Changing locales? Load Screen. It’s absolutely infuriating not only because you spend way too much time waiting, but whatever momentum you felt is crushed.
Worse, off the record keeps up the series tradition of having the worst save system imaginable. Once again you can only save by going into the nearest bathroom, and those bathrooms can be quite far apart. Sure, the game has better checkpoint but that’s usually only valuable at the start of a particular incident.
See, the time limit is a great idea. Having 3 days of in-game time to complete your objectives and solve the plot is a great way to keep you motivated and it adds genuine difficulty. That tension is made better still with Frank West’s need to find Zombrex. (As I said, it really improved what amounted to annoying, constant and mandatory fetch quests in the first game). But having to travel far too long to find a place to save turns genuine tension into an annoying chore. There is no reason other than cheapness that Capcom insists on forcing players to game like it’s 2005, and it practically breaks the game.
Not helping matters is Off The Record’s incredibly stupid AI. Obviously the zombies do what zombies do, and they do it well. But NPCs are so ridiculously stupid that some objectives are next to impossible. During one of the game’s many escort missions, the NPC will run right into a wall of zombie. Instead of fighting to get out, they’ll just stand around uselessly, screaming for help and getting killed. Worse, you can’t do anything to help them. Run in and kill the zombies? Sure, but then they just run forward aimlessly into another wall of zombies and the whole thing starts again. Honestly, when someone asks you to escort them to safety and then refuses to behave like anyone who actually wants to survive is expected to behave, you kind of stop caring about saving them.
And given that the game contains a lot of escort missions…
The Final Judgement
No one expected Dead Rising 2: Off The Record to be the greatest game ever. Not even Capcom, who are selling it at a reduced price. But I’d hoped that the promised improvements would, you know, improve things. Instead, it delivers largely the same experience as previous games while keeping the series’ many flaws. I still remain hopeful that Capcom will eventually get around to making a Dead Rising game that lives up to the premise. But they haven’t done it yet.
If you already love the series, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. But if you’ve never picked up a Dead Rising game, now is not the time to start. Best to save your strength for a zombie attack worthy of your time.
* Sandbox mode is addictive, almost endlessly fun
* Zombie killing is fun, satisfying, disgusting
* Variety of weapons
* Decent sense of humor
* Frank West is a terrible protagonist
* Glitchy graphics
* Constant loading screens
* horrible save system from previous games returns
* Photography wastes time, isn’t fun
* extremely stupid AI
* Too many fetch quests and escort missions
FINAL SCORE: 75/100