For a game that contained so many wonderful elements, Dead Rising 2 was hard to love. Any given moment could find you building a homemade lightsaber, beating zombies to death with a fluorescent dildo, or breaking into a shop so you could try on women's clothing. On the other hand, the overall fun factor was stymied by several recurring annoyances - notably some rock hard boss battles, and the late-game arrival of a new enemy type that was a pain in the arse to fight.
One year on, Capcom has given us Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. As Capcom Vancouver's Jason Leigh recently explained, this is more or less a Director's Cut of the game we played last year. The major changes arrive in the form of a supplemental Sandbox mode, and a new protagonist - or rather an old one, since motocross star Chuck Greene has been switched out for photojournalist Frank West, star of Dead Rising 1. Frank's reinstatement also means a return of the first game's camera mechanic, allowing you to earn XP (or PP, as it's called here) by snapping pics of dolled-up zombies, posing psychopaths, and busty NPCs.
While the plot has undergone a minor facelift to account for Frank's presence in Fortune City, the overall structure is extremely similar, with the game re-using quests and cutscene material wherever possible. As before, you'll settle into a rhythm of balancing core story missions, rescuing survivors, and pratting around with the many diversions that Fortune City has to offer. In the main story you're still working against the clock, ever ticking away in accelerated real time, but Sandbox mode now offers an easy way to escape the pressures of a strict timetable.
Unlike Dead Rising 1's Infinity mode, which took a bite out of your health bar at 100 second intervals, Off the Record's Sandbox is an intentionally relaxed affair. Infinity was a gruelling test of player resilience - one that awarded an Achievement if you could survive for 14 real-time hours - but here the game is happy to let you explore Fortune City at your leisure. As you slaughter zombies you'll gradually unlock 30 timed challenges, which pop up all over the map. Predictably, many of these challenges encourage you to slay vast numbers of zombies in specific ways, but other variants include photography assignments, PP scoring contests, and time trials that find you clambering up the scenery, revealing secret nooks and crannies that might otherwise go unnoticed.
The new play area, Uranus Zone, provides a multitude of fresh ways to pulp the staggering dead. It's an amusement park packed with the kind of enormous rides that make your stomach heave just to look at them - and that's certainly the effect they have on the game's poor old framerate, already a frail beast at the best of times. Like a visit to the Addams Family, a trip to Uranus Zone begins with a giant lurch - but thankfully things seem to settle down after a moment or two. Once this happens, you can use fireworks to lure zombies into path of the hulking, gaudy rides. It's incredibly satisfying, recalling every nightmarish daydream you've ever had while queuing at the likes of Alton Towers.
Along with the new zone there's also a smattering of new Combo Weapons, including a mask that fires lasers from its eyes, and the Pegasus - a rocket-powered hobby horse that punctures a zombie's torso, and then launches them into space. Search hard enough, and you can find the four DLC costumes that were released for last year's game, allowing Frank to dress as a soldier, ninja, psychopath, or sports Viking (must be an American thing), and granting him new powers in the process.