You could say that zombies have a lot in common with celebrities. Most people tend to get quite ‘excited’ when they encounter a zombie, for instance, and it’s the same for many people when they meet a celebrity. Zombies feed off of living breathing humans, celebrities ‘feed’ off the same, albeit in a different way (ie: they feel the need for the attention, to be constantly reassured that they are ‘special’, rather than feeling the need to munch on living flesh!) Zombies also have an annoying habit of not staying dead, much like celebrities at the end of their natural career who – just when you think you’ve seen the last of them – suddenly reappear in some last, desperate, ‘comeback’, rather than buckling down and getting a real job instead.
The main culprit for the resurrection of ‘dead’ celebrities is of course the oxymoronically named ‘celebrity reality’ shows (which are an oxymoron because, obviously, ‘celebrity’ and ‘reality’ are pretty-much two mutually-exclusive terms). You can’t turn on the TV these days without coming across an ever-increasing number of desperate fame-addicts vying for the chance to skate on ice, climb a mountain, twirl across a dance floor, sit around a house or – the ever popular – eat some poor mammal’s genitals on live TV.
All of which, you may be wondering, has exactly what to do with this latest videogame from Capcom? Well, it just so happens that budding photo-journalist Frank West, the eponymous hero of the first Dead Rising game, having somehow survived the flesh-eating hordes of the Willamette shopping mall, has become something of a celebrity himself, albeit a short-lived one. In fact Frank’s star has fallen so far that our hero finds himself resorting to the tried-and-tested failed celeb tactic of appearing in a TV ‘reality’ show. Of course, in Fortune City, reality shows have a little more ‘bite’ than the ones we’re currently used to, and thus the game starts with Frank dropped into the “Terror is Reality” gameshow where contestants must battle hordes of slavering zombies in a WWE-style ring, risking death (as opposed to just embarrassment) in order to earn themselves big money prizes.
Now if this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because this is, of course, the storyline from 2010’s Dead Rising 2 which saw Motocross champion Chuck Green competing in the same show, shortly before a zombie outbreak hit the city and left Chuck faced with surviving 72 hours of undead mayhem. And as this is a basically a revamp of Dead Rising 2, rather than a genuine sequel, the plot of the game is pretty-much the same, as Frank too falls foul of the same zombie outbreak that trapped Chuck, and he must also survive 72 hours in a Fortune City which is suddenly teaming with hordes of the undead. The game is actually described as a ‘reimagining’ of DR2, with different missions, different characters, and the odd tweak here and there, like the reappearance of Frank West’s trusty camera with which you’re encouraged to take gory, violent or ‘erotic’ pictures as you play through, in order to earn yourself ‘Prestige Points’ with which to level up Frank.
So basically… it’s the same game. If you played Dead Rising 2, absolutely loved it, and are desperate for another visit to Fortune City with some new missions and characters thrown in, then this will clearly be the game for you. Or if you’ve never played a Dead Rising game, then Dead Rising 2: Off The Record is certainly a great place to start, particularly as it’s at a reasonably ‘budget’ price-point (particularly if you buy it online). If however, you played the last one, but eventually got bored with bashing truckloads of zombies everywhere you went, then there’s very little to recommend here.
For those who for whatever reason haven’t had the chance to battle zombies in Fortune City, the game uses a Grand Theft Auto-style third-person viewpoint and sees you taking on literally hundreds of zombies at a time with the help of all manner of weapons and objects which you find lying around the environment. Rather than simply letting you wander about willy-nilly though, there are a variety of different missions you need to complete, each of which have specific time-limits and generally give you rewards on completion. There are plenty of non-player characters to help and/or hinder your progress, and if your console is connected to the good old World Wide Web then you can team up for some cooperative gameplay with a second player (sadly just the one though – no MAG-style dozens of online combatants here I’m afraid). The combat is easy to pick up and generally fairly furious, although you quickly learn to make the best use you can of the weapons you find as Frank West’s reactions aren’t quite what they need to be (at least at first) which can be tricky when dealing with large numbers of zombies in close quarters.
As someone who, for reasons I can’t actually recall, didn’t play a great deal of Dead Rising 2 (despite very much enjoying the original Dead Rising) I have to say that for me the return to Fortune City of the lantern-jawed Frank West was a very welcome one, and I enjoyed reviewing this game FAR more than I enjoyed that other recent zombie-fest, Dead Island. I think that’s probably because in Dead Island, battling the zombies almost seemed like something that got in the way of the rest of the game – exploring the island, progressing the storyline – whereas in Dead Rising 2: Off The Record, battling the zombies pretty-much IS the game. With that in mind, it’s worth mentioning that DR2:OTR has the option of a ‘sandbox’ mode for those who don’t want to deal with the missions and time-limits and just want to wander around beating up zombies. Trouble is, as anyone who’s spent time in any of the GTA games ignoring the missions and just stealing cars/robbing people eventually realises, when you take away the structured progression of the storyline, eventually it all starts to get a little dull.
All in all, this isn’t a bad game by any means, but it does tend to feel like more of an expansion pack than a whole new title. I guess with development costs spiralling and companies having to think of different ways to make more money out of their games, then releasing ‘reimagined’ versions of existing titles (which presumably take a lot less time, effort and cost to code than completely new games do) is just one more thing that we’re likely to see more of, along with pre-release teaser ‘prequels’ like Gran Turismo Prologue. Great, if all that you want in your next game is more of the same, but not really so good for those gamers out there who like to be continually surprised and challenged by their videogame experience. At the end of the day though, DR2:OTR, is an enjoyable, gore-packed romp, and I genuinely enjoyed it, so I’m going to give it a good, solid 6 out of 10.
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