Review | 10/18/2011 at 12:43 PM

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record Co-Op Review

Frank West is back, baby!

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record is well-nigh the same damn game from a year ago.  This is nothing new for a Capcom franchise. It's kind of what they do.  *cough* Street Fighter 2.  The premise is simple enough: 1) Create ridiculous, over-the-top weapons out of a multitude of conspicuously placed items. 2) Re-kill thousands of zombies while killing time between plot points.  3) Explore a large-ish Las Vegas-inspired area for even more obscure weapons, survivors, and psychopaths. 4) Rescue or kill the survivors and psychopaths accordingly.  5) Repeat steps one, two, three, and four until the credits role, then do it again.  NGP FTW!

Sure, some things have changed, but let’s not kid ourselves.  All of the gameplay elements from Dead Rising 2 return.  There are some new weapons, baddies, outfits, and even a new area, but the game is one big case of deja vu.  The save system, brutal load times, RPG-like leveling, and Fortune City itself largely remain unchanged.  

Co-op works in almost the exact same way as in DR2.  Two players can join up for online co-op sessions.  No local co-op love, sorry.  Both players earn XP, cash, and weapon combo cards.   Story progress and items only apply to the host’s profile.  Since a big feature of the Dead Rising franchise is replaying the game over and over again, the lack of story progression for the client player doesn't seem to be that big of a deal, especially if you have a consistent co-op partner.  It would be nice if your hard-earned weapons came back to your own game as a client, but that's just not how it works.   If a client does leave a host's game and quickly comes back they will find all of their items in a pile on the ground.  Most of the Achievements and Trophies can be acquired as either a host or client.   If you want more details on the inner workings of the game’s mechanics, you can read our Co-Op Review of Dead Rising right here.  

All you need to know is that he’s covered wars.  WARS!

So what does our $40 dollars get us, other than a second trip to Zombie Vegas?  It gets us Frank effing West, that’s what.  If you don’t know who Frank West is, I lost you at “DEAD RISING,” didn’t I?  You could say he's the John McClane of photojournalism, but you'd be wrong.  It's more like John McClane is the Frank West of being a cop.  For those of you who want to know, he actually drops the "war"  line in Case 2-1!  I squealed quietly to myself, not going to lie.

The super-awesome hero from the first Dead Rising was sorely missed in the sequel.  His original Dead Rising 2 replacement, Chuck Greene, was a nice enough guy, but he was such a downer, what with the dead wife, zombie-bitten daughter, and the whole getting-framed-for-the-murder-of-tens-of-thousands-of-people thing.  The joining co-op player will actually play as Chuck, which creates some interesting paradoxes, but we don’t have time to worry about plot logistics!  It’s the freak’n zombie apocalypse!

Frank West is the anti-Chuck Greene.  He hasn’t come to Fortune City to help some infected little girl.  No, he’s here to “get back in the game!”  You see, Frank hit it big after blowing the lid off of the Willamette Mall zombie outbreak.  So big, he got his own show!  Fame, fortune, women, money, and huge-ass Chris Redfield arms soon followed.  

Fast forward through the inevitable scandal, failure, show cancelation, receding hairline, and what must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of Baconators, and we’ve got one washed up photojournalist, desperate for a piece of that zombie-clobbering celebrity pie.  Enter Fortune City’s hit TV show "Terror is Reality."  Enter fat Frank West in a wrestling singlet.  I mean, he got fat.  Okay, maybe not Rob McElhenney fat, but he’s still on the crazy train to adult onset diabetes.

Frank West: Man's man. Cue the damn fireball.

Here’s where things get weird.  What exactly is Dead Rising 2: Off the Record?  It’s not a sequel.  It’s not DLC (though it should have been).  It’s not even a parallel story.  The game begins with our intrepid hero rising from the depths of has-beenism into the burning spotlight of an episode of "Terror is Reality," where contestants re-kill zombies in extravagant scenarios for bucketloads of cash.  The one and only TK is hosting the show, and we all know him as the total jerk from Dead Rising 2.  

I soon realized DR: Off the Record is a simple retread of DR2, with odd nods to that title while retelling the same story.  We can see posters of Frank West plastered over those of Chuck Greene in the TIR arena.  The cases have been reworked, but they’re basically the same.  I won’t spoil anything for you, but if you played through DR2, consider most of the game spoiled.  The only major difference to the story mode is that Frank has better dialog than Chuck, and now you can take photos.

Anyone who played the original Dead Rising or Dead Rising: Case West will be familiar with the camera feature.  You’ll use it to take photos which will award you Prestige Points (XP).  These pics can be classified as Horror, Drama, Brutality, Outtake, and/or Erotic.  Taking fantastic pics of your co-op partner is, quite frankly, awesome.  You can even share your ridiculous pics with one another.  

My co-op partner took this pic of me while on my sweet ride in front of this Chuck Greene standee.  Suck it, Chuck!

I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to bet that you’ll spend 90% of your camera time trying to take pictures of T&A.  Protip:  Zombie boobs don’t count as “Erotic” photos.  I don’t know from experience... I read that somewhere, or something...   

Frank's gut isn't the only thing that's grown.  Fortune City has its own addition, as well.  The new Uranus Zone adds a whole new area to explore.  It’s a space-themed amusement park that offers some new weapons and outfits as well as some zombie killing hazards.  I felt like I had adequately probed the depths of the Uranus Zone after approximately 15 minutes, and then I was ready to move on.

The biggest addition to the game is the sandbox mode.  This replaces the awful "Terror is Reality" competitive games from DR2.  In this mode players can explore all of Fortune City free from the constraints of the franchise’s time-based mission structure. This seems like a really cool idea, until you realize all of the game’s novelty disappears without the pressure of the clock.

You would think this would never get old. Somehow, it does.

The sandbox mode has several challenges, both in single player and cooperative play, which will keep it  fresh for some players.  These challenges range from simple zombie killing, to zombie wrangling, to zombie dress up, to zombie racing, etc.  Some players may absolutely love this form of free roam, but I found it got boring rather quickly.  The best part of the sandbox mode is that all of the cash and XP you earn transfers over to your main story profile.  If you have a friend who is easily entertained you could spend hours completing the challenges of Fortune City and then return to your main games as rich, high level characters.

The technical annoyances from the previous titles are ever-present.  The load times are abhorrent.  Co-op players are booted when the host attempts to save.  This issue was patched in the previous titles, so I expect it to be resolved soon, but I'm astonished that DR: OtR shipped with the same built-in flaw of its predecessor a year later.  The game freezes for a few seconds when entering certain menus.  It recovers, but this is rather unnerving when you're attempting to save.

Despite Dead Rising: Off the Record’s shortcomings, the improvements make it a better game than Dead Rising 2.  This is the sequel I wanted.  The Dead Rising games are just plain fun, and you can play them in their entirety with a friend.  If you didn’t pick up DR2, but were a fan of the first title, this game is a must buy, especially at $40 bucks.  If you have already played through DR2, there’s not enough here to justify a purchase, unless you have an un-healthy obsession with Frank West, like me.  Now we can all sit back and wait for Super Dead Rising 2 Turbo HD Remix: The New Challengers.  Come on, Capcom.  You know you want to.

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.