Announced at this year’s Captivate event back in April, Capcom Vancouver’s Dead Rising 2: Off The Record is due to launch next month, and we suspect there are still a number of you either unaware or cautious as to what this enhanced version of the game will actually bring to the table. Truth be told, we were also sceptical, so when Capcom invited TSA for a session with the game’s Executive Producer, Jason Leigh, we leapt at the opportunity.
“Off The Record is a re-imagining of Dead Rising 2,” Leigh began, “this time we’re bringing Frank West back from [the original] Dead Rising. There was a bit of a surprise around Dead Rising 2 when we had Chuck Greene as the hero. There was originally going to be a director’s cut, but instead we re-envisioned the game with Frank in it. So he’s back with his camera and so on with gameplay features from the original Dead Rising.”
Despite West now being in the driver’s seat, Chuck Greene hasn’t been completely removed from the game. He still plays an important role in the story, which Leigh wasn’t quite ready to discuss, and will also stand in as the co-op character, both zombie-slaying protagonists having their own unique animations.
Thankfully there is a cross-connection between sandbox and the regular story-driven singleplayer component. Each save slot you maintain will be divided into two portions, allocated to both game types; whether you start off in sandbox or story mode is entirely up to you. Character level, Prestige Points, Combo Cards and cash will be transferable between the two, Leigh mentioning that players could essentially max out Frank West before making even a shred of progress in the main game.[drop2]There’s literally hours upon hours of content to explore in Sandbox Mode, extended by dozens of subtle hidden objectives and Easter eggs. However, if you’re a gamer who craves some form of structure, even in a free-roam environment, there is also a horde of challenges to interactive with. “We have a whole set of challenges here, 30 singleplayer challenges and 30 co-op challenges. And it’s not just “kill zombies,” it’s kill zombies, collect items, race challenges… there’s even camera challenges.”
The challenge we were shown was one of the first, taking place on a rooftop where Sandbox Mode begins. The player is given is set time limit to kill as many zombies as possible with cash prizes for meeting bronze, silver and gold criteria. Leigh explained that the challenges are completely optional, though it’s likely players will be drawn by competitive elements such as score chasing with friends and uploading records to online leaderboards.
A number of staff members back at Capcom Vancouver have already been formulating meticulous strategies to ensure victory, weapon preparation being a key factor. Challenges are scattered around the game world and will require unlocking. However, this is as simple as racking up kills, a pass time which Sandbox Mode entirely focused on.
One of the mechanics that players missed in Dead Rising 2 was the use of Frank’s camera, something which wasn’t exactly remedied in the Case West downloadable episode. “This time around we have all the PP categories from Dead Rising,” Leigh confirmed; horror, brutality, outtake, and erotica-themed points of interest all add a healthy bonus to your snapshots, Jason being all to happy to demonstrate the last category for us. It goes without saying that the camera brings back a much-needed element of variety to the gameplay, and for those who deem themselves completionists there are also plenty of rare shots to be found, all of which yield generous helping of Prestige Points.
Off The Record doesn’t exactly take itself too seriously, something which become immediately noticeable from the opening strands of dialogue. Essentially acting as a lost chapter in Dead Rising fiction, we imagine there was plenty of free reign to go completely over the top.
“We’ve added so much to the game,” Jason stressed, “new weapons, items, clothing, food, survivors and so on, but we knew what the fans would want most and that is new Psychopaths. Already wacky and audatious we really want to up the bar in Off The Record.”[drop]For those who are unaware Psychopaths are optional side bosses who reign over certain sections of Fortune City (there were also a number of them in the original Dead Rising) and for many players they have proved to be somewhat of a highlight. We were shown one of the recently announced Psychopaths in the game, an ice cream-loving clown on stilts who announces himself as the brother of Adam MacIntyre, the chainsaw wielding clown from the original game who met a gruesome end after encountering Frank at Willamette.
Content-wise, the Uranus Zone is by far the biggest addition in Off The Record. A fraction larger than an average in-game casino, it’s chock full of all-new weapons, costumes and various unique attractions. “The Uranus Zone has been fully integrated into the [existing] game world. Anybody who has played Dead Rising 2 will appreciate the inclusion of a new area but for those who haven’t played it will never know it wasn’t there originally, it’s been that well integrated.”
Recalling the Laser Sword from previous Dead Rising instalments, Leigh showed off one of OTR’s newest additions to the existing armoury, Laser Eyes. Swiftly combining a costume alien head with a fistful of gems, Frank now had a weapon of mass destruction suspended between his shoulders, capable of frying zombies from afar which Jason then upgraded, allowing the helmet to spew a deadly arc of concentrated energy.
Theme park rides and carnival games are also a new focus within the Uranus Zone. “Whack a mole” and other classics are present here and, like other elements of the game, specific contextual actions in this area will reveal hidden bonuses. On the other hand we have the rides, huge constructs with potential to deal out mass destruction; by removing the safety fencing around them players can use flares and other items, luring undead hordes into a certified kill zone. Though we didn’t actually get to see one in action it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture what happens when a brain-nibbling meat bag steps into the path of colossal pendulum.
If you scour the depths of our filth-laden comment archive, you will come to the conclusion that I wasn’t all too enthusiastic with Dead Rising 2 and all because of one reason – limitations. In a game that featured such a detailed open world, all I wanted to do was explore without being held back by timers or scavenging for Zombrex. I wanted to deal with the single player missions when it suited me and that’s exactly what Off The Record brings to the experience; you can finally play one of this generation’s most diverse and demented games exactly how it was intended.