Dead Rising 2: Off the Record takes a bold, if potentially exploitative stance in its story: what if, instead of focusing on the character of Chuck Greene from the original Dead Rising 2 (that's a weird phrase), we instead got to see the fall of Fortune City from everyone's favorite fearless photojournalist, and original Dead Rising hero, Frank West? Stranger still, what if Frank went through virtually the same trials and tribulations as Chuck, albeit slightly revised to follow his own personal rise and fall? Is Dead Rising 2: Off the Record a cheap retread or a bold alternate reality to the Dead Rising universe? Find out after the jump.
After his meteoric rise to fame after the Willamette mall incident from the original Dead Rising, scandal and controversy saw Frank West's career die on the vine. Desperate and down on his luck, he finds himself doing what he does best: slaying zombies, although now he's doing it professionally for the pay-per-view spectacle Terror is Reality. Unlike Chuck Greene and his chainsaw-handled motorcycle, however, Frank takes a more hands-on approach with his soon-to-be dead again victims: he wrestles with them before luring them into a set of grinding blades to reduce them to chunky chutney of ghoulish gore.
From there the story follows a lot of the same beats as Dead Rising 2's original plot thread, right down to some cutscenes using the same motion-capture animation as the previous game, with Chuck swapped out with the model for Frank. There are some key differences between the two plots and how they unfold, but there are really no surprises in store except for one doozy at the end of the game. Even plot mechanics from the previous game like the need for a dose of Zombrex every 24 hours are in place, with Frank's own zombified condition standing in for Chuck's ailing daughter Katie.
That doesn't mean Off the Record is just a character model different from Dead Rising 2. Thankfully, in addition to the fantastic weapon-cobbling system that Dead Rising 2 brought to the table, Frank West's camera-snapping ability also makes a welcome return, along with all of the PP-building bonuses that it offers. In addition to this appreciated revision—using both systems together is a combo as delicious as peanut butter and chocolate—there are a slew of new weapon combo cards to build from, a Broadway production's worth of new costume elements, and an entirely new environment: the immaturely named Uranus Zone. This last addition is by far the most significant, bringing an entire amusement park to Fortune City and proving my long-standing theory that a Dead Rising sequel needs to be set in a theme park. It's as ridiculous and stupid as I could have ever hoped and dreamed for, with Frank sending zombies to their doom with rides and games, all with a cosmic paintjob. And if that's still not enough, there's also the game's fabled Sandbox Mode, which sends Frank on a story-free tour of Fortune City to complete a series of simple missions in a completely timer-free version of the game.
While these few enhancements may seem minimal—the bulk of the game is the same Fortune City map as Dead Rising 2—Off the Record's Frank West-centric retelling is a surprisingly beefy and bombastic entry into the Dead Rising series. That, along with the game's budget price of $39.99, makes this a must-buy for fans of the franchise. It's great to have you back, Frank! Here's to many more wars—and zombie apocalypses—for you to cover.