Dead Rising 2: Off the Record
“The Fortune City incident. People always ask me about it. ‘Why didn’t you cover it? Why didn’t you break the story? Why weren’t you there, Frank?’ Well, I wasn’t—Chuck Greene was,” spits Frank West, bitterly. “He broke the story, uncovered the conspiracy, became a hero, got famous. The next question people always ask is, ‘Well, if you’d been there, what would you have done differently?’ My answer? Everything.”
With Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, players will be able to see how things might have been if Dead Rising’s original hero had been present in Fortune City instead of Chuck Greene. If this sounds suspiciously like a quickie character swap, fear not. This new what-if scenario promises to be bigger, bolder, and better than its predecessor.
Jason Leigh, the game’s executive producer says that Capcom Vancouver (formerly Blue Castle Games) had planned on releasing a director’s cut of Dead Rising 2, in true Capcom style. After a while, he says the team realized they had an interesting opportunity—to bring Frank West into the game in a significant way, retooling the story, adding new psychopaths, and fully integrating Frank’s photography into the game. This evolved into Off the Record.
When the game begins, Frank West is a washed up joke. He parlayed the celebrity earned during the Willamettte Incident into a book deal and talk show, but he squandered his fame. Most recently, he’s been a pitchman for a baldness remedy. In a moment of desperation, he agrees to join Terror is Reality as a special guest to make some quick cash and hopefully a chance at redemption.
Soon, he finds himself in a wrestling singlet, joined in a wrestling ring with a few luchador-masked zombies. Host TK whips the crowd into a frenzy, billing West as the original zombie killer. With that, the game within the game begins. At first, Frank only has to contend with a few of the undead. He makes short work of them with his familiar moves, including suplexes, spinning lariats, and karate strikes. After a short time, the sides of the ring descend, allowing the legions of undead that were milling around the ring to enter. Fortunately, the corner areas are equipped with grinders, essentially vertically mounted augers. Climbing atop their housings activates the machinery, which liquefies any zombies unfortunate enough to draw close. Frank wades back into the increasingly crowded center area, knocking them toward the corners, and their pulpy deaths. After a few short minutes, it’s over, and Frank is victorious. Only, it doesn’t feel like victory.
What should be a celebration backstage feels hollow as a fellow contestant tells Frank that he feels like a sellout. This sentiment rings true with West, as he takes his winnings and prepares to leave. Walking past a cracked-open door, he hears voices and decides to investigate. There, in a TIR warehouse, Frank sees TK and dreadlocked activist Brandon commiserating about something suspicious. TK hands Brandon a keycard and Frank documents the exchange with his camera. Unlike the neutered photographic system introduced in Dead Rising: Case West, Off the Record delivers a much more satisfying experience. As TK and Brandon walk and talk, exchanging a briefcase and something that looks like an explosive device, a PP symbol appears over the pair. That’s Frank’s cue to start snapping from above on the catwalks. Frank can also shoot pictures of other things that catch his eye to gain valuable prestige points. A shot of a cluster of hobby horses in the warehouses scores him points in the “outtakes” category. A pile of drill buckets nets points for “brutality.” A returning favorite pops up when Frank takes a picture of a busty model advertising a club called Juggs. Erotica!
After tracking Brandon and TK through the warehouse, Frank’s camera makes a beeping sound. TK seems to hear it, but he looks around and doesn’t see anything suspicious. Just as Frank prepares to leave, he’s stopped by a few of TK’s goons. After surviving their attack, Frank thinks the worst is over. Unfortunately, it’s scarcely started.
As in Dead Rising 2 proper, the scene backstage explodes into chaos as zombies flood into Fortune City. It’s here that the difference between Chuck and Frank is made abundantly clear.
“The interesting thing about Chuck is that he’s a father, he’s got a daughter to care for,” says Leigh. “His motivations in Dead Rising 2 were very much about trying to keep her safe, keep her protected, keep her alive. He was willing to risk his own life to get her Zombrex so that she could survive. Frank is more of an opportunist. He’s a photojournalist, but he’s not really about the craft of photojournalism, but he’s about barreling in, snapping pictures and making off-color remarks.”
Without a daughter to protect, Frank looks at the surrounding chaos as an opportunity for some dramatic photography. He looks into his viewfinder, snapping up pictures of zombies attacking survivors, pulling them into hallways, and more.
Even though this is a what-if scenario, Capcom Vancouver has had a little fun teasing Dead Rising 2 fans with references to Chuck. Frank’s TIR spot is advertised in the posters the line the hallways, posters that only partially cover the ones highlighting Chuck Greene. And there’s disturbing evidence that Katie was attacked, in the form of her backpack laying in a pool of blood in the green room. Leigh says that Chuck Greene is indeed in the story, but he wouldn’t elaborate beyond that.
He did say that Chuck is playable in multiplayer. Unlike Dead Rising 2, which gave both players control of Chuck, this time around players will control either Frank or Chuck. Another multiplayer element is gone, however.
“We have removed the multiplayer Terror is Reality games,” says Leigh. “We wanted to spend all of our development with fully integrating Frank and making sure that he was as good as he could possibly be and on paying off the gameplay that comes with that and making sure that the story was new and fresh. Multiplayer Terror is Reality is out, but obviously you can see that Terror is Reality does play a part in the story.”
In addition to the new story, Leigh says that the game will include an all new area. “This is a full load zone in the game. It’s as big or bigger than any of the existing malls or casinos, and it’s not a mall and it’s not a casino. So we wanted to do something that wasn’t a rubber-stamped version of something you’d already seen. We wanted to do something that was going to offer very different gameplay this time around.”
There’s also a new mode, but Leigh isn’t elaborating about it at this time. He did say that it’s something that fans have been asking for, and that he thinks it’s as engaging as the game’s main mode. The safe bet seems to be on the return of endless mode, but we’ll have to wait and see.
More than anything, Capcom Vancouver says Off the Record has given the team a chance to correct and tweak some things that they think could have been better. Yes, this includes the game’s save system.
“This is an opportunity for us to address some of that feedback,” says Leigh. “The save system, which we improved from DR1 to DR2 has another improvement. This time what we’ve done is incorporated a checkpoint system. So every time you go through a major story event, every time you load into a new area or every time you fight a psychopath, there’s a checkpoint. That’s actually going to make the game a bit easier if you die in those crucial moments.”
Leigh started off his presentation by saying that Off the Record was like a fan’s version of the game. Judging from the amount of new content, it looks as though it’s something that should appeal to new players as well.