Dead Rising 3 (2013)
Rising for a new generation…
Capcom Vancouver brings their zombie-destroying series to Xbox One as a console launch title, with bloody good results.
Developed by Capcom Vancouver
Published by Microsoft Studios
Released on Xbox One
When compared with both the Wii U a year ago and the PlayStation 4 earlier this month, the Xbox One is generally considered to have the most robust launch lineup of games. Multi-platform blockbusters like Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and NBA 2K14 were all there on day one, but to get a solid feel for the gameplay capabilities of the new Xbox, I figured I should focus my efforts on one of the platform exclusives. This narrowed my choices down to Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza Motorsport 5, or Dead Rising 3.
Initially I was leaning more toward Ryse, because it definitely garnered a reputation early on as the graphical darling of the launch lineup: it was practically cinematic in its presentation, and it definitely helps to flex the next-gen graphical muscle of the new console pretty definitively.
Eventually, though, with input from both friends, readers, and further thought, I settled on choosing Dead Rising 3. I’m relatively familiar with the series, since the original Dead Rising was one of the first games I ever played for the Xbox 360 when I picked up that console in a pawn shop in 2007. Dead Rising was actually the first video game I played that terrified me, because it was so easy to focus ahead and then get swarmed by a mass of the undead from behind.
It was also a hard game, with the bosses being particularly tough for me, and the end boss being nearly impossible, at least to me. 2010′s Dead Rising 2 was an interesting expansion of the story, with a far more crucial goal (get the medicine to save your young daughter from becoming a zombie? That’s motivation), but I didn’t spend as much time with the sequel as I did with the original.
So, jumping into Dead Rising 3 came with a little bit of a learning curve for me. The controls and interface were familiar enough to dive straight into, but everything else about the game was so much bigger, that at times it seemed a tad overwhelming. If anything, though, just the simple act of having that feeling means that there’s a massive amount of game here, and quite a bit of material to occupy a player’s time.
Design and Story
Dead Rising 3, unlike Ryse: Son of Rome, is not the graphical darling of the Xbox One launch lineup. If you don’t look too closely, then you’d be correct in saying that the environments, vehicles, character models, and animations look like they could likely be pulled off on an Xbox 360 or a PS3. Largely, that doesn’t matter: the truth is that this game would be way too much for the previous consoles to manage, because the sheer number of zombies rendered on the screen at one time is astronomical.
The environment is also enormous, larger than the open worlds of the Willamette Mall and Fortune City from the first two games combined. Developers of the game from Capcom Vancouver have stated that the amount of zombies that can be rendered on the screen are three times greater than those in Dead Rising 2, which more often than not will find you trying to find ways through an entire sea of undead humanity.
The game world is the city of Los Perdidos, California, which is based on Los Angeles (just as Fortune City, Nevada was based on Las Vegas in the second game). The game world is definitely vast, but it’s also peppered in various areas with abandoned vehicles that can allow you to traverse distances between neighborhoods relatively quickly. Annoyingly, you’ll also find your route toward an objective in another part of the city often blocked by obstructions on crucial intersections, like a massive car pileup, wrecked buses, or abandoned roadblocks put up by authorities.
For me, this was one of the most absolutely aggravating elements of the game, and needlessly complicated a lot of the travel between the city’s neighborhoods. Because of the ease of getting around the entire game map in vehicles, perhaps these impediments were added in an attempt to make the game map seem bigger, but the only thing that I would find getting bigger was my sense of frustration.
As you get into new types of vehicles, you also store them for future use and can then conjure them if you visit any of the city’s garages. This is extremely useful if you find yourself without a car in the city, since more often than not you’ll find yourself having to plow through a legion of zombies to get where you’re going. Be careful, though: a car can only take a limited amount of damage before it explodes. If you aim an imminently exploding car correctly, you can use it as a weapon against a bunch of zombies as well.
The story of the game is actually pretty interesting, and it takes place about ten years after the events of Dead Rising 2. You’re Nick Ramos, a young mechanic with a mysterious past that tries to get enough materials and parts together so that you and your friends can fly out of town before the government bombs the city to contain this latest zombie outbreak. Although it sounds like a serious action story, a hallmark of the Dead Rising experience is an element of camp.
Since it’s an open world game, you can change Nick’s wardrobe and make him look really strange, all while the cinematics play things very straight. Want to put Nick in a Lego-type helmet and a pretty dress, fighting zombies off with a giant stuffed bear? Go for it! Want him to look like a cowboy or a luchadore? Also possible.
There are almost as many wardrobe possibilities as there are weapons, since you can wield almost every object just laying around in the game: you can soak zombies with a water gun, throw bricks at them, beat them with brooms and rakes, or combine certain weapons (like, say, a shotgun and a flamethrower) to make even more powerful combo weapons.
Dead Rising 3 is a sandbox game, meaning that you can pretty much chart your own course. You can follow the story really closely, or you can go off and explore the city while accomplishing one of the many side missions that are available. A lot of side missions can amount to little more than “fetch quests,” meaning you’re tasked with going out into the city to find certain objects and bring them back to a survivor. Other side missions have you squaring off against bosses known as “psychopaths,” which are other survivors who have been driven mad by their society crumbling around them.
Much of the cheekiness of the game is evident in the bosses you encounter, from a morbidly obese woman killing people to stop them eating food at “her” buffet, to a sex-crazed cowboy gimp who makes phallic puns like they’re going out of style. It can get pretty zany. Some of the boss fights are absolutely ridiculous, as well. One encounter that comes to mind is in a history museum, where your psychopath climbs into the shuttle within a space exhibit and comes out dressed in a fully-functional space suit, with a jet pack. He then flies around the ceiling grabbing the hanging, decorative moons and throws them at you.
By the time the story comes to an end, you get to see some cool connections to the previous games that manages to tie everything together nicely. While the tone can be all over the place, it still somehow manages to be engaging.
Sometimes you can take damage far too easily. Among the fact that you have hordes of undead swarming you at all times, you can also still take damage when you’re in the middle of a task like opening doors, or flipping a switch. It’s really annoying, and kind of an oversight in my opinion, but it’s made up to a degree with some of the ungodly machinations of weapons and vehicles that you can make.
Dead Rising 3 is a solid game, with a few quirks here and there. Most of those quirks aren’t new to the game series, and have been present since at least part 2, but it’s still a lot of fun and very immersive. Using Xbox SmartGlass with it makes for a weirdly altered reality type of experience, and your ability to level up your abilities and weapons helps you incrementally take on the dead of Los Perdidos.
It’s bloody, violent, campy, gory, and fun. When it comes to a zombie game, what more could you want? As for its status as an Xbox One launch title, others might have the graphical glamour, but Dead Rising 3 helps show off the power of the new console to a greater degree just by the virtue of its large world and impressive number of rendered zombies.
This review originally appeared on a website I served as senior editor.