Written by Jason Nawara, @JasonNawara
It’s hard to focus on reviewing Capcom and Microsoft Studio’s Dead Rising 3 when my mind keeps wandering, daydreaming about how many makeshift weapons I could create in my apartment right now using only everyday household items. Dead Rising has left a big impression on me; I want to attach knives to everything, and I won’t stop tinkering until my corgi is equipped with full body armor and a rocket-powered backpack that shoots spears and bad intentions towards the amassed zombie hoards. Yes, I’m addicted to Dead Rising 3, and I can’t think of a better launch title across both systems.
What makes Dead Rising 3 so great? Read on to find out.
Dead Rising 3 stars you as Nick, a mechanic in living in Los Perdidos, Capcom’s version of Los Angeles. It’s a few years after the initial zombie outbreak of Dead Rising (and I think after Dead Rising 2). Nick is a good guy. He has many tattooed friends and he’s handy with a wrench – be it bashing in a skull with said wrench or building incarnations of zombie redeath. Nick isn’t really as much of a ‘character’ as Frank West from the original game, he certainly isn’t as iconic as the freelance photographer turned zombie killing machine. Nor is he quite as gripping as the desperate father searching for Zombrex, but he and his weird gang of friends are fun, if forgettable.
Since this game is being released as a launch title on the Xbox One, it has the opportunity to hit a whole new section of fans. Because of this, DR3 isn’t as difficult as the wonderfully grueling previous games. Luckily, you can choose harder difficulties that will only let you save where a toilet is present, if that’s the type of thing you’re into. Now, if you’ve played a Dead Rising game before, you’re getting the ultimate Dead Rising experience here: This is the ultimate zombie holocaust – You have become death of death.
Every idea that was maybe a little half-baked in the previous titles is fully-realized. The leveling up system is expanded and in general very deep. When you level up, there are perks to put PP points in as well as a traditional point progression skill system (alliteration is fun). This character customization, furthered with magazines that can be selected as single, passive bonuses (rather than having to hold onto them like in the old games), your character at level 30 can be tuned completely different than a playing buddy.
About that wildcard second player known as “Dick.” DR3 has expanded on the Dead Rising 2 MP and has kind of gone the route of a 2-player Borderlands. You can hop into a friend’s game and join them wherever they are in their campaign, keeping your accumulated XP, items and blueprints found, but not weapons. The game touts a save system that takes completed missions from multiplayer sessions and applies the completion to your single player session, but that didn’t happen for me. I don’t really mind though.
So while searching for play sessions, I met a random drunk Canadian on Saturday night (celebrating Georges St. Pierre’s questionable win) and we became fast friends. He specializes in ranged weaponry, building items and cooking. Yes, cooking. You can combine items to give yourself passive skills as varied as my Canadian friend’s cooking, to being able to build certain cars. Knowing this, I put all of my points into health and melee bonuses, making me a tank of sorts. It was awesome – many zombies fell to our tactics.
At it’s core, the game is just a good hack n’ slash game, but it also rewards your delicious, pink, brain for out-thinking these hordes of walking corpses. When two people are cooperating and coordinating their way through the endless waves of undead, that’s when the game really shines.
As a single player game, Dead Rising 3 is strong, but little flaws shine through in the far more stressful solo experience. Picking up items is as much of a chore as it’s been in previous games, while the running, jumping and climbing is better, but still clunky. It also must be acknowledged that the game is really just a giant fetch quest repeating and repeating, but playing with a friend (or anyone) really ups the fun factor, especially when searching for Frank Dolls or blueprints (one player can distract the zombies while another searches for the pickup).
In a single player game, there are almost too many zombies. Hell, in a multiplayer game there are almost too many zombies. I mean, I get it; it’s a zombie killing simulator to the nth degree, but let me breath for 30 seconds, please.
My thumbs are tired.
That said, there are few feelings better than putting on a sailor moon outfit with a pair of fireman boots while equipped with a flaming sword and a teddy bear machine gun turret. The best way to level up is making a couple good combo weapons then killing fifty or a thousand or so zombies before everything breaks down on you. Chopping up zombies was always a satisfying and diverse experience in the previous DR games, but it’s never been this good. The zombies get sliced apart or smashed up in numerous different ways. Limbs go flying and piles of bodies begin to collect at your bloody feet. It’s incredible how many zombies are on screen at any time coming at you.
They all look different, and sometimes when you slice through multiple waves, they reanimate and crawl or shamble after you with pieces of their body missing. I know that was in the previous games, but it’s so much more impressive here. There have been some complaints about the visuals of DR3, but I have nothing to bawk about. The game runs at a smooth 30 FPS, with only a couple hiccups here or there, but I can’t stress enough how impressive it is to see hundreds of unique zombies coming at you. It’s seriously scary with a low-level character, and it really sets the bar for atmosphere in a zombie game.
I also want to acknowledge what some reviews are calling a lack of “next-gen” feel for this game. Listen, this is Dead Rising through and through – you either love it or hate it. However, if this game could be pulled off on last-gen hardware, it would’ve been seriously neutered. Visually, the lighting is stunning, blood splatters on everything, and the textures are top notch. A few graphical stutters, aside, the game runs as smooth as a zombified hell. The only loading you will ever see, even if you cross over the vast map of Los Perdidos, is when you walk into a cut scene. That’s seriously impressive. Los Perdidos is huge, and almost every building is enterable and filled with items to pick up. Somewhere, Rocket from DayZ is playing DR3 and drooling.
The game is as whacky as ever, and the plot is silly and ridiculous. The cut scenes are hilarious, featuring the eclectic crew of friends and psychopaths we expect out of a Dead Rising game, and the gore is definitely at a new level. This game is a little more sexual than the previous releases, and the psychopaths in general are supremely dark… Except for the orca-sized fat lady who is guarding the last buffet in town. Yeah, between shoving food down her maw, she charges at you in her wheelchair like a bull. She isn’t that dark, just… Hungry.
Psychopaths are boss fights that have a single gameplay hook that you have to figure out before defeating said boss. You can also mock these psychopaths by yelling through your Kinect. Yes, your neighbors will hear you yelling “you’re crazy,” “I’m hungry” and other strange quips throughout your play sessions. You can also use the Kinect to attract zombies by saying “over here.” The only annoying thing about that is my habit to say “right here” when playing with a partner. When I say “right here” to point out where to go, the Kinect thinks I want to get the attention of the nearby zeds. It’s annoying.
The audio is is great. Sickening splats ring though your ears as you slice and dice your way though thousands of zombies. The voice acting is as over-the-top as ever, but in general the sound design is solidly well-realized and a worthy successor to the previous games. Things are a little more realistic this time now, with less “boing” noises when weapons break, and the tone in general, has the less colorful world leaving you thinking DR3 is going all Walking Dead. Well, it’s not. You’ll still be witnessing horrific murders while dressed as a Groucho Marx mariachi, and it’s wonderful.
Splattering your vast closet full of outfits with blood is a great joy, and collecting all of the different weapons, tools, vehicles and clothing is really fun. You can access all of your items at safehouses throughout Los Perdidos, where you can take a well-deserved breather from zombie killing.
Like any DR game, you’ll want to play this all the way through multiple times with your new game +. After it’s all said and done, you’ll end up killing thousands upon thousands of zombies, and then go back to do it again. As you level, you only become more badass which in turn makes the zombie killing experience that much more fun, and all the while you can work towards being Mega Man X. All in all, completionists have a lot to do here.
I’ve already logged 12 hours, with maybe 40% completion and a level 30 character. I could see the game, with its PP challenges and multiplayer, lasting upwards of 40 hours if you want to get every ounce out of it, which I will.
The Final Word: Dead Rising 3 bridges the gap between console generations as well as any game could and offers a brilliantly satisfying action/RPG title that is an utter blast when played with a friend. If you loved the previous games, this is an scythe/katana chop to the dome (a no-brainer): You must buy Dead Rising 3. If you’ve never played Capcom’s goofy series – don’t be afraid, it looks overwhelming at first, but you’ll soon have thousands of decapitated heads at your feet, and it will be so, so good.