Whether you like them or not, it seems as if zombies are here to stay. Sure, they may not be realistic forms of nightmarish realization, but they’re nonetheless grotesque and make us squirm with both fear and delight. As such, we can look forward to more movies, television shows, video games and pieces of literature based around the shambling, brain-eating undead, and if you ask me, that’s a great thing.
Thanks to the recent launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One entertainment console, gamers, zombie fanatics and general pop culture geeks can now go toe-to-toe with thousands of the undead via Capcom Vancouver’s Dead Rising 3. Yes, I said thousands. The exclusive game, which serves as the third numerical sequel and fourth iteration of the popular franchise, utilizes the impressive power of the aforementioned device in order to bring forth jaw-dropping amounts of reanimated corpses, and does so while presenting a sandbox world that is devoid of loading times. It’s impressive stuff, to say the least.
Although it pays homage to the past with nods to both Frank West and Chuck Greene, Dead Rising 3 focuses its narrative on a new hero. Referred to as Nick Ramos, said protagonist is a former mechanic turned badass, who must attempt to survive a new zombie outbreak. Things are relatively different this time around, though, because the chaos isn’t limited to a retail centre or a gambling-focused strip. Instead, the action moves with its storyline, sending players from one part of Los Perdidos, California, to another, then back again. In-between, they’re able to take in the local scenery, while utilizing everyday items as weapons.
With its unique stores, urban architecture and endless amount of zombies, Los Perdidos is a nearly perfect setting for this type of game. It’s large, possesses varied types of real estate and is at least somewhat open, which means that cars, motorcycles and heavy machinery can now be driven. Not only that, but they can also be combined, much like most of the game’s weapons and food items, in order to create epic vehicles, such as the “RollerHawg,” a Harley Davidson mimic mixed with a heavy duty roller. It was, by far, my favourite part of the game, and you can imagine why.
Despite all of its pros, however, the in-game sandbox isn’t without issues. First, its labyrinthine streets are quite similar, making memorization somewhat difficult. Next, obtrusive blockades and other forms of destruction do a good job of setting the post-apocalyptic mood, but create frustration whenever driving is concerned. At night, it can be especially difficult to navigate one’s self through the metallic skeletons of destroyed vehicles, while dealing with gigantic crowds of brain-dead beasts.
From its prologue to the end of its seventh chapter, Dead Rising 3 takes full advantage of its brand new hub, and does so well. Its quirky storyline, which deals with the search for a cure amidst hidden agendas and years old plot lines, fits in well, too, but is sometimes too busy for its own good. In fact, things jump around so much that it can be hard to keep track of what’s going on at all times. However, this isn’t a dramatic film or an in-depth novel that is targeting awards, so those complaints aren’t too difficult to overlook. This is Dead Rising, after all, and if you’re not familiar with it, it just so happens to be a series that focuses more on fun than anything else. On top of that, it’s also a game that ties queen bees in with zombies. Needless to say, its developers surely cared more about the creativity that they could unleash than the narrative that they were going to explain it all with.
As a new recruit, Mr. Nick Ramos is a good fit for this game’s shenanigans. He’s young, wide-eyed and brave, lacking any sort of handicapping fear. However, he does have one Achilles’ Heel, that being beautiful women. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a major part of Dead Rising 3‘s ten to fifteen hour-long campaign centres around a fellow survivor named Annie. That’s all I’ll say, though, because spilling much more would be detrimental. Although calling it quirky would be an understatement at times, this particular storyline remains quite interesting until its conclusion, even though the gameplay becomes grating once Overtime begins.
If you’ve played a Dead Rising game before, then you’ll surely know the gist and won’t need to worry about the next few lines of text. It’s important to mention how things work for the newcomers, though, so let’s get to that.
Like its predecessors, Dead Rising 3 is an action game at heart. While it may include a couple of survival horror mechanics, it’s far from that type of game, because the goal isn’t to conserve ammo or to sneak by enemies; instead, you’re supposed to use as many weapons as you possibly can, so that you can kill as many zombies as you can. Simply put, it’s more about the adventure than it is about the goal. Getting to the end is important – especially if you want Nick to get out of Dodge before it’s blown up – but how you do so is key.
The game, which is playable in two-player online co-op, features a time limit of seven days but doesn’t enforce strict time limits as far as quests go. In fact, Dead Rising 3 is the most lenient of them all, though it hasn’t done away with timed missions completely. You’ll still need to worry about getting things done before their meters run out, but won’t suffer from anxiety while doing so. I was able to complete a large majority of the side quests (all of which dealt with helping fellow survivors via colourful objectives or battling strange bosses that were based around the Seven Deadly Sins) and complete chapter 7 with close to two days’ worth of time remaining. I did, however, end up picking the wrong pathway, which forced me to restart chapter 7 and make a different choice before it let me go to Overtime. That is, the final part of the game – a frustrating mission that leads up to the last boss. Everything was great up until then, but the developers marred their fantastic work with a forgettable pre-boss objective that showcased more glitches than the everything before it had.
Thankfully, the several chapters that led up to Overtime’s less than stellar design were thoroughly entertaining, not to mention quite impressive. The series’ core gameplay mechanics – which focus on finding, using and/or combining items, guns, tools and melee weapons in order to pummel, eviscerate or blow up walkers – is at its best here, thanks to an amazing amount of variety. Furthermore, the need to visit utility rooms in order to meld two items (or types of food) into one badass piece has been removed, as that is something that now can be accomplished quickly and easily, through the use of Nick’s upgradeable inventory.
It goes without saying, but I had a blast during my time with Dead Rising 3 – that is, until I got to O.T. It’s not perfect, but truly is a great and must-play launch title. That makes me happy, because I was eagerly anticipating its release more than just about any other 2013 video game and Capcom Vancouver didn’t disappoint. Even now, having just finished my sixteen hour play-through, I’m contemplating jumping back in and playing through the more difficult Nightmare Mode.
Presentation-wise, this horror-based sandbox is also an impressive hit. It’s fast, fluid, detailed and action-packed, with almost no frame rate slowdown to be found. That’s the big thing, because of the sheer amount of independently animated enemies that are on-screen at any given time. I was honestly blown away by the hordes that I saw as I ran and drove through Los Perdidos. I simply couldn’t believe that I was playing such a game without having to worry about loading screens or immense slowdown.
As a result of the aforementioned throngs of undead, Dead Rising 3 is never the shiny showcase that something like Battlefield 4 or Forza Motorsport 5 will be. However, that’s not to say that it doesn’t look quite good, because it does, despite being overly dark during nighttime segments. The zombies themselves are both varied and thoroughly detailed, and they animate well – even going as far as to grab onto vehicles in order try to force their way in through windows as you’re driving – but that’s something that can be stopped by a quick button press or a shake of the controller. Honestly, it’s tough to complain, especially given the realistic-looking facial animations that show throughout each cutscene.
The audio is also quite strong as well, though it doesn’t stand out as much as its peer. Then again, it doesn’t need to. Just keep in mind that this is a campy experience, meaning that the writing and voice acting are both a bit out there at times. That’s what you get with this series, though, and it’s worked out well thus far.
Despite its lacklustre final mission, Capcom Vancouver’s latest effort is an incredibly entertaining home run. If you’re a fan of the zombie kind, then it behooves you to pick up and play through Dead Rising 3, as it’s an excellent Xbox One launch title that you won’t soon forget.
This review is based on the Xbox One exclusive.