So the core of Dead Rising is intact in Off the Record, which means that it is just as exciting as previous games in the series. The problem is that it's almost identical to Dead Rising 2. This is not an exaggeration. Off the Record takes place in Fortune City, and it's mostly the same as you may remember. There is one new area, called Uranus Zone, that's a purple-toned amusement park, but the casinos, restaurants, and stores from the previous game return unchanged. Weapons and healing items appear in the same spots, psychos return with the same attack patterns and cheesy dialogue, and the same helpless survivors need to be rescued once again. It's jarring just how similar Off the Record is to last year's release, and because of that, it's not nearly as much fun as before. Much of Dead Rising's appeal lies in uncovering its many secrets, but there's no such draw here because everything is located in mostly the same areas. Although there are a few new combo weapons to play around with, it's still smarter to stick with the bat/nails or knife/gloves combos.
The biggest problem with replaying the same environments against the same enemies is that the issues become more noticeable. Dead Rising has never had particularly strong gameplay. Simple combat made it easy to kill enemies but didn't allow for new mechanics or satisfying depth. And the controls functioned, though you had to do a fair bit of coaxing to get the hero to do what you wanted. Previously, you could overlook these faults because you were so engaged in the zombie-slaying, survivor-rescuing hijinks. But now that everything has been recycled, it's harder to ignore the issues that cloak your character like a body bag. For example, something as basic as picking up a specific item can now lead to moments of unabashed anger. Why would you want to pick up a cumbersome newspaper rack instead of the precious orange juice right next to it? And then there are the knockback attacks. Psychos and zombies alike can stun Frank, and it's maddening when you need to quickly move but you're frozen in place. These quirks don't destroy the fun completely, but it's just harder to brush them aside when there's so little new content to distract you.
Rescuing a fallen friend is tougher when they're dressed in skin tight leather.
And the little that is new isn't particularly well done. Sandbox mode stands alongside the Story mode as one of the two ways to experience Off the Record, but it's a poor alternative to the real thing. Here, the element of time has been completely removed, as has any story progression. Instead, you're left in the city with only your crazy whims to guide you. Like killing zombies? Kill away! It's fun for a few minutes or maybe even an hour, if you're the blood-loving type. But after a while, it becomes clear that the combat is shallow. There's no strategy or depth to be found, so once you eviscerate, dismember, and decapitate for a little while, your actions become tiresome. There are challenges to unlock, and these at least give you more specific goals. You may need to reach a certain remote part of the map or murder a set number of zombies, and it can be fun to take part in these endeavors. But unlocking challenges requires you to kill thousands of zombies, and it's not worth mindlessly butchering away to see what new objectives will be unlocked.
Dead Rising is a unique experience that no other franchise quite replicates. But part of the appeal lies in how different it is from other games. There have now been four Dead Rising games released in little more than a year, and this may be a case of too much of a good thing. Off the Record just doesn't do enough to differentiate itself from previous games in the series, so even the most ardent fans should be resistant to dive in again. And those immune to the lure of mass zombie slaying in the past still don't have a worthwhile reason to take the plunge because the Sandbox mode is so tiresome. This is still a well-designed game with a humor and style all its own, but there's not much here that you can't find elsewhere. Off the Record is a good game, but ultimately a redundant one.