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Two Be Frank

Despite the fact that Dark Souls is probably all the game I would ever need, I found myself distracted last week by two things: a nasty tension headache, and Dead Rising 2: Off The Record.
Off The Record is basically a non-canonical spinoff game of the original Dead Rising 2 where the protagonist is replaced by the protagonist of the first game, Frank West, a hard nosed war journalist who is a bit of a likable jerk.  The canonical hero of the second game, Chuck Greene, was a former motocross champion and a more sympathetic single father with a sick kid.  Sorry Chuck, Frank was just more fun, and I guess that sentiment was strong enough for this spinoff to happen.

Of course, the real star of the game is the zombies.  Dead Rising is a series very much about navigating seas of the walking dead.  Perhaps the foremost feature of the series was putting hordes of them on the screen at once.  Tens of them in the foreground, with several times that in effective imitators shambling about in the background.  The interface is perhaps deliberately awkward, hightening the sense of horror in dealing with a situation like this.  The storyline is inspired by some of the most well-known zombie movies of recent years. 

There's also more than a little bit of tongue-in-cheek lunacy.  As you wander abandoned businesses, you can choose to dress up in ridiculous outfits, bike around on a kid's tricycle, and kill zombies bludgeoning them to death with dildos.  You could also choose not to be such a weirdo, but hey: if you're going to go through a zombie apocalypse, you might as well have fun with it.
Oddly enough, a second star attraction of the game seems to be the adult content.  There's no actual sex or visible naughty bits, but the game takes place in a Vegas alternative "adult playground," and consequently has no shortage of sexual paraphernalia and sex workers, many of which have skirted the main outbreak and now require rescue.  

I don't know if it's because there was a collaboration with Playboy, or if it's because there was a little bit of titillation in the first game and they were hoping to recapture its acclaim by upping the ante.  Regardless, there seems to be a remarkably lecherous handling of the ladies, with a cutscene camera that fixates overmuch on boob and butt, and it's rare to find a living woman in the game who is neither in some state of undress nor spouting lines out of a porn script.

Well, I came for the gameplay, not the lechery.  (Honest!)  Slaying undead, rescuing survivors, and unraveling the mystery behind the outbreak is very fun.  Like the first game, Dead Rising 2 keeps the clock running during the whole action adventure, so you are unlikely to be able to be all places at once in your first run through, and this ratchets up the tension.  Meanwhile, you are earning "Prestige Points" which levels up Frank and unlocks new capabilities, giving a strong sense of progression without becoming a full-fledged RPG mechanic.  This was also the first game in the series to add "combo cards," which is basically learning how to make powerful survival equipment by sticking two things together on a work bench.
Admittedly, a large part of the games I have been playing lately are inspired by watching the GameGrumps play something similar.
Overall, the Dead Rising series is a great sandbox.  On a blog about sandboxes, it definitely deserves mentioning.

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