Dead Rising 2 / Off The Record (XBOX 360) Review

Dead Rising 2 was a pleasant surprise to me. Unlike the sequel film, the sequel game took what worked in the original and built on it while improving or getting rid of the things that didn’t. Sounds obvious, but not all sequels actually manage to do this! I played quite a bit of DR2, and then I brought the spin-off non-canon retelling titled “Off the Record”, which is why I’m including it here. Beyond the retold story and a few small addition, they’re essentially the same, so they’d be little point in doing separate reviews… Anyway, let’s have a look!

Background:

… I mean, why wouldn’t do that in the middle of a zombie outbreak? (Dead Rising 2)

Dead Rising 2 was released worldwide in September 2010 for PS3 and XBOX 360, plus PC roughly the same time (give or take a week or two taking it into October 2010). Like the original Dead Rising, it was digitally ported to the PS4 and XBOX One online store in 2016 in celebration of the series’ 10th anniversary.

Dead Rising 2: Off The Record was a budget release reimagining of the original game with Frank West returning as the lead instead of new protagonist Chuck Greene. It was released worldwide in October 2011 for PS3, XBOX 360 and PC, and was similarly ported to the PS4 and XBOX One digital stores in 2016.

Gameplay:

The katana seemed too plain, so Frank put on a Davy Crockett hat to off-set things… (Off the Record)

The gameplay of Dead Rising 2 is very similar to that of the original, but a lot more responsive and better A.I. So you can either use melee or ranged weapons you collect from, this time, the large multi-casino complex, to fight the horde of undead. Not only are there comedy weapons and useless knickknacks, but you can now combine several items together to make practical or equally stupid weapons, like the canoe paddle with two chainsaws taped on either end seen on the original DR2 cover, combining knives and boxing gloves, or my favourite of combining a car battery and a toy Blanka head to create a deadly hat that when pop it on a zombie it electrocutes it and all around it. It adds a really fun twist to the combat that made me really want to “try them all” even if some would clearly be crap.

Much like the first game the main campaign sees you have to survive several days in a zombie-infested location, escorting survivors to a safe place and doing main missions as well. As mentioned the A.I. is greatly improved, making escort missions with survivors a comparative breeze and I’m happy to say the timing has also been streamlined, meaning I never felt rushed to do the next case / mission, they were nicely spread out both regular time and travel time-wise. As an added wrinkle you have to find a drug called “Zombrex” that holds back the zombie infection and administer it to your infected daughter at several points in order to stop her from turning. Throw in the return of Psychopath bosses and you have what sounds like a more stressful main story than the original, but actually it never feels that bad, it’s easier to juggle the three or four things here than the two things were in the last game.

Much like the original there are multiple endings, and if you get the best ending you get to play an extra “overtime” part of the story which itself has a bad and good ending. There is also an online multiplayer mode in DR2, both co-op and competitive in a TV arena setting, but I’ve played neither, so can’t really say much about that…

Off The Record adds back in the original Dead Rising’s photo mode, including your photos being rated on gore, comedy, drama and so on, and also has a “Sandbox Mode” where you can freely roam the zombie infested resort and do what you want, or play one of the new mini-games placed across the open world. The main story of Off The Record also adds in new locations and bosses, including a psychopath boss encounter with Dead Rising 2’s protagonist Chuck Greene…

Graphics and Sound:

The biggest enemy of all is behind Chuck: Cheesy advertising… *Gasp!* (Dead Rising 2)

The graphics are good, again they may not be super 4K HD modern stuff, but they’re close enough to the current generation that they look perfectly fine, especially given there’s a crazy amount of zombies on screen. Something had to give to achieve that!

Sound is also much like the first, the background music is basic horror/action stuff, the voice acting is fine but doesn’t stand out, and the soundeffects are satisfying and fun. Overall the sound is suitable, but not top class.

Story:

You know, I forgot about the anal probes you could pick up in the new sci-fi zone… and shove up zombie arseholes, if you wish. Maybe “repressed” would be better than “forgot”… (Off the Record)

Chuck Greene is a competitor in the TV show “Terror is Reality”, where people take on hordes of zombies for prize money. Chuck needs the money to buy Zombrex to keep his child daughter’s infection in check and stopping her from turning. Sadly for Chuck there’s a zombie outbreak in the Fortune City resort and he and his daughter take shelter, but the shelter has no Zombrex. With the help of other survivors, Chuck heads in and out of the shelter via air ducts in order to find more of the curative, and during the course of this comes across various psychopaths and a conspiracy involving “Terror is Reality” host Tyrone “TK” King using the outbreak to cover up his robbing of several of the city’s casinos. As things progress the zombies get more powerful and the military have to back out and call for a carpet bombing, but Chuck manages to stop TK, call off the bombing until the survivors escape and leave the city with his daughter and other allies.

Although that ending has seemingly been negated as the DLC post-game story “Case West” sees Chuck separate from the other survivors and facing down a zombified TK only to be saved by Frank West. The two form an alliance and discover the lab belonging to the company known as “Phenotrans”, the people who were actually responsible for the outbreak, and eventually watch the lab explode from a safe distance, Chuck distraught that there was evidence of a full-blown cure in the lab that’s now lost.

As for the very non-canon “Off The Record”? It’s similar, given that Frank is in Fortune City to be a special guest on “Terror is Reality”, he has to collect Zombrex (though in this case for himself, rather than a relative), he meets the same survivors in the similar situations, the super zombies, the military arriving and retreating, and in “Overtime” he has a final showdown with TK in the “Terror is Reality” arena. It just has some new dialogue, new bosses (like the previously mentioned Chuck fight) and new endings, though obviously in this case none of them are canon!

Downloadable Content:

Two pieces of DLC were released for Dead Rising 2. “Case Zero” was released in August 2010, a good month or so before the release of the full game. It acts as a prologue to the main game and sees Chuck and his daughter escaping from the outbreak that caused her to need Zombrex in the first place. The second piece is the previously mentioned epilogue “Case West”, which was only available on the XBOX 360.

There wasn’t any DLC for Off the Record, which makes sense as it was essentially extra content for the original anyway…

Thoughts Then:

You’d think that wouldn’t be something he’d need reminding about, but… hey ho. (Dead Rising 2)

Really fun was my thoughts back then! I enjoyed my few goes on the original and seeing my friend play through it, so much so that I brought “Off the Record” as soon as it came out. The weapon creations and zombie hordes were the highlight, but I did enjoy the over-the-top story as well.

Thoughts Now:

Big electric ball of death… not what I would’ve thought off first… (Off the Record)

Dead Rising 2, whether it be on or off the record, is still extremely fun to play. The zany combat and large waves of undead are still impressive today, and the story is far less stressful to get through if you really want to see those endings. Sadly (or not?) I never played DR3 due to its XBOX One exclusivity, and DR4 hasn’t reviewed well, so this might be the last entry in the franchise I play…

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