The Dead Rising series, with it's pulpy crassness and commitment to immaturity, has always felt like the worst trends of the comic book industry scraped up and dumped in a barrel - and that's always been a knife which cuts both ways too. On the plus side, it's made for a consistently irreverent adventure filled with deliciously objectionable content and regular laughs. Zombies! Insanity! Sex-crazed psychopaths!
At the same time, Dead Rising has also suffered from these influences, with pointless sexism and lecherous presentation combining with awkward controls to make the games feel often clumsy and one-tone. You like boobs and guns, Frank? We get it.
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record takes the comic influences even further however, using the fan-servicing 'What if...' scenario to re-tell the tale of Dead Rising but with a different protagonist in the fore. Chuck Greene, the more sympathetic everyman who just wants to protect his daughter, has been discarded. Frank West, the photojournalist with a heart of bacon grease and arrogance, is back on the case.
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The first thing to say about Off the Record, however, is that this initial premise is by far the most unique idea in the whole game - though, to be fair, it is an incredibly appealing notion. Dead Rising 2's Fortune City has been subtly reshaped to offer a slightly new experience even for the most ardent fans of the original. New areas have been opened up, new weapons litter the streets and the story proceeds down a redecorated path.
Frank West's photographic skills (he's covered wars, you know?) return as an on-going mini-game that allows him to gain experience by snapping pictures of violent, funny or arousing events. It's a familiar addition, but one which still proves interesting enough to invigorate the action.
The downside is that it weaves yet more of Frank's depressingly vocal character into the game, prompting leery grunts every time he grabs a down-blouse shot and sadistic chuckles for every dismemberment. The photo-hunting itself is actually a lot of fun, as is most of the game, but Frank himself serves only to highlight how likable Chuck Greene is by comparison.
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More annoying than Frank is the fact that Capcom has only addressed about half of the complaints that were levelled at the original game. Sometimes Off the Record feels like the game that Dead Rising 2 should have been, with logical extras like an art gallery and sandbox mode proving cheap and cheerful fun. At other points, Capcom hasn't enhanced the game at all - you still can't change the PC key bindings, for example.
It's tough to tell what effect flaws such as this have on how Dead Rising 2: Off the Record should be received - it's offering more of what the series does best, but it's not cleaning up after itself as it goes. A chef might make you a delicious meal, but if the forks are dirty, then are you still going to want to eat it?