It's the End of the World as We Know It

Dead Rising 3 Review Screenshot

HIGH Wading into a sea of zombies and slaughtering them all with one of the game's ridiculous combo weapons.

LOW Traveling all the way across the map to complete a quest, then being told I need to travel back again to get back to the quest-giver.

WTF Who makes zombie porn during the apocalypse?

Long heralded as Capcom’s “other zombie franchise”, Dead Rising finally gets an opportunity to shine as one of the Xbox One’s launch line-up exclusives , and Capcom Vancouver has clearly bought into the mantra of “go big, or go home.” Everything in this latest zombie slaughter simulator is larger than life, and its own previous entries. Where the first two games kept the action confined to relatively small locales, this third title features a mid-sized city to explore. The square footage of Los Perdidos is so expansive that Capcom could fit all of Dead Rising 1 and 2 inside of it, and still have room to spare.

All this new space has to be filled – and what better to do that with than hordes of flesh-craving zombies? Dead Rising 2 boasted it could fit 7,000 zombies on the screen at any one time. Dead Rising 3 laughs at that paltry number and multiplies it by three if developer claims are accurate. There are seas of zombies everywhere in this game – particularly at night. Even more impressive is that the vast majority of the standard walking dead seem to be unique in appearance, and there’s not much slowdown happening when the screen is packed with shambling corpses.

The whole 'bigger' thing doesn’t stop there. There are more weapons, items, combo weapons, vehicles, and pretty much everything else gamers could possibly think of in DR3. This is new console hardware, and the devs are doing their damndest to show players what’s possible now.

Unfortunately, if this is an accurate representation of what gamers can expect over the course of the next seven years, then the future is going to look a lot like the present. Dead Rising 3 might up the ante in terms of sheer volume, but the actual game doesn’t do a whole lot to distance itself from previous iterations.

Take the story, for starters – when the game was revealed last year, the Internet was immediately concerned that Dead Rising 3 would be “too serious” and not as lighthearted as the first two games. Personally, the idea of a serious Dead Rising sounded just about perfect to me. Even though I like Chuck Greene and Frank West, I like gripping zombie survival horror where I can’t dress the protagonist up as a female dominatrix even more.

As with most Internet whining, these fears turned out to be unfounded. Dead Rising 3 retains the tone (and narrative wackiness) of the previous installments, with new lunkheaded hero Nick Ramos tasked with saving survivors and racing to escape the city before the military nukes it from above. I’m not sure why Capcom insists on having another zombie franchise with a ludicrously nonsensical mythology when Resident Evil already has that covered in spades, but it is what it is.

If this sounds like I’m a bit down on Dead Rising 3, that’s not entirely true. Capcom has shown a willingness to listen to fan feedback with these games, and this entry is no exception – things that began with Dead Rising 2 have been refined even further in this new adventure.

The game now has a story mode that eliminates the strict deadlines of the first two installments. I understand Dead Rising purists argue that this change eliminates some of the game’s tension, but I’m still pleased. There was nothing more frustrating than having to try to complete two missions on opposite sides of the map in a short amount of time, and I'm glad that these arbitrary time limits aren't constantly hanging over my head any more. 

By the way — before getting angry about that issue, those who do love the timed mode can still experience it thanks to a setting that keeps the traditional clock ticking down as players work their way through the adventure. It’s the best of both worlds, which is just one more example of Capcom’s focus on the players.

Even better than the removal of the clock (and the new ability to save anywhere in story mode) is what it allows: wholesale zombie slaughter. One of my biggest complaints with Dead Rising 2 was that Chuck Greene could make loads of exotic weapons, but there was never enough time to lay waste to the countless throngs of zombies in his path. With that timer constantly ticking in the back of the player’s head, it was more effective to dodge zombies than kill them. Well, guess what? Players can now kill until their heart’s content.

Nick remains the “Errand Boy of the Dead” in that the game’s structure is still built around sending him on ludicrously stupid fetch quests for needy survivors who should know better, but it’s all a little more tolerable given that getting from point A to point B now allows for ample amounts of zombie killin’. Yeehaw!

Even better, Capcom’s done a lot to facilitate the player’s ability to litter the street with corpse parts, including a refinement of weapon crafting. No longer will gamers have to find components and waste time running to a work bench to make that fancy katana/machete hybrid – if Nick has the parts, he can make them on the spot if he’s found the blueprints already. Better still, he can procure new versions of anything he’s touched or used from his safehouse’s lockers. Yes, I know – it’s not the traditional Dead Rising, but I like it anyway. This game should have always been about killing zombies, and now it is.

Disappointingly, it’s not all wine and roses with this game, however. Remember that huge open world map? Well, Capcom pads the running time by making players trek from one side to the other and back again in many later missions. It’s a puzzling decision, since Dead Rising 3 is already lengthy without it, but it is something players will have to contend with. It becomes more annoying because traversing through the game world (even with a posse of survivors watching your back) is dangerous and time consuming given the sheer number of enemies along the way. It also kills narrative momentum at the most critical moments of the endgame chapters, and it almost ruined the game for me – wasting my time as a player is a cardinal sin as far as I’m concerned, and Dead Rising 3 does that far too often near the end.

The title also has one cheap section where players are stripped of their gear and forced into a confined area that constantly fills with respawning zombies. Worse still, Nick is forced to interact with environmental items – and can still be hit while in the animation. I would hope Capcom would finally move past this stuff, but no dice so far.

Overall, Dead Rising 3 is a worthy launch title for Microsoft’s new console. No one will mistake it for Halo in the annals of launch game history, but it does achieve the thing a launch title should – showing off the new system. Only some late-game missteps on Capcom’s part hold this experience back, but even with those miscues, Dead Rising 3 continues to take this franchise in the right direction. Rating: 7.0 out of 10

Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the [Xbox One. Approximately 25 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 time) and 0 hours of play in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood and gore, intense violence, sexual content, strong language, and use of alcohol. Parent will want to steer the young ones clear of Dead Rising 3 — it's gory, it's violent, and it even has an attempted sexual assault. The zombie apocalypse isn't kid stuff, that's for sure. 

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Hearing impaired gamers can tackle Dead Rising 3 without worry — the game has a subtitle option that converts all dialogue to text. 

Mike Bracken
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