Exclusive to Xbox One
Just last week we were praising Ryse: Son of Rome for its incredible graphics, while bemoaning its insubstantial gameplay. Now with Dead Rising 3 we find the opposite predicament. This is nobody’s idea of a showcase launch game nor does it exactly get you excited about the potential of Xbox One. On the other hand it’s not such a shallow experience; there are enough complex gameplay systems here to keep the disc in your Xbox One for weeks.
Like Dead Rising 1 and 2, Dead Rising 3 is an open-world game of ultra-violent zombie slaughter, this time featuring a hard-working mechanic, Nick Ramos, as he and his friends try to escape a fictionalised Los Angeles, Los Perditos. It’s a much bigger setting than the shopping mall of the original and the casinos of the sequel, taking in multiple neighbourhoods, shopping precincts, industrial zones and mansions, and the story works on a larger scale too. Following a zombie outbreak in the city, Nick and his crew have only a few days to fix a plane, gather survivors and get the hell out, before the military cleanse the city through the medium of saturation bombing.
Watch the Dead Rising 3 announcement trailer:
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The shock with Dead Rising 3 is that this doesn’t really look like a next-generation game. It runs at 720p at a rather inconsistent 30fps, and while you can spot a little more detail in the textures it’s hard to see any advance on Capcom’s work in Resident Evil 6 – though that wasn’t exactly an ugly-looking game. The character models still display the rather stilted, mannequin-like animation we’ve grown used to in Capcom games over the last five years, and we’re a long way away from current next-gen benchmarks like Killzone: Shadow Fall, Ryse or Battlefield 4. The fact that the frame rate wavers when the screen gets busy isn’t exactly a tribute to the engine or the hardware.
So where has all the extra processing power gone? Simple. Not only has the team at Capcom Vancouver put together an enormous open-world you can explore without any loading times, but it’s packed it to the brim with shambling, snarling, grabbing, biting zombies. Just as Dead Rising 1 expressed the leap in power from the Xbox to Xbox 360 by putting dozens of zombies on the screen at any one time, so Dead Rising 3 does it by rolling out hundreds.
Does this boost the game’s gruesome spectacle? You bet. Dead Rising 2 introduced combo weapons, which you could craft by bonding two or more items together. Dead Rising 3 throws in combo vehicles, which you can manufacture by standing in between the two ingredient vehicles and holding A to build. Take to the streets in your new hybrid steamroller/motorbike or your zombie-electrocuting bulldozer/ambulance and you can smear scores of restless corpses on the tarmac in a matter of seconds. Ignite a fuel barrel or start throwing high-explosives around, and you’ll see dozens go up in a shower of gore.
Most of all, the sheer numbers make you fight against rising panic. You need to get from A to B? Vast hordes of zombies in the way? You had better come up with something good. What’s more, you’d better collect some weird or nutty clothing, so you look good while you’re doing it.
Luckily the combo weapons also make a return. An assault rifle or a samurai sword might take out a zombie or two, but combine a sledgehammer with a car battery or boxing gloves with a motorcycle engine, and now you’re talking. Some, like the Jack-in-the-Box or the delightful Dynameat, can be used to attract zombies and then destroy them in their droves. Others, like the flaming sword or grim reaper, are ideal for slashing your way through the brain-munching masses. And, as Nick is a more practical guy than previous heroes, he can craft these combos on the hoof. There’s no need to find a workbench to turn some gloves and a car exhaust into a Tenderizer; you can do it where you stand.
The combo weapons and combo vehicles are the heart and soul of Dead Rising 3. You can only build them once you find a blueprint and the items required, but once you do so the urge to try the latest addition to your arsenal is irresistible, even if the results are occasionally disappointing (we’re looking at you, Zombie Raker and Pole Weapon.) Play solo and it’s fun. Play in drop-in, drop-out co-op and it’s even more fun. However, something in Dead Rising 3 is out of whack, because it’s easier to get lost in the search for new blueprints and combos than it is to keep pushing through the main thread of the game.
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Basically, the actual storyline and plot-driven missions of Dead Rising 3 are worryingly forgettable. It’s not that it’s devoid of interesting characters or interesting situations, but you’ll spend a lot of your time getting from one part of the city to another so you can pick up object X and deliver it to person Y, or get to location A through obstacle B or enemy C.
This doesn’t always sit well with the size and zombie-infested nature of the setting, either, because wading or rolling your way through the hordes to the next objective can become a bit of a trudge. Nor does it help that weapons soon wear out, or that you’re very limited inventory makes it hard to carry materials to craft new ones. The amount of time spent dropping and picking up items just so you can gather what you need is probably the most annoying aspect of the whole game.
Gaining experience and levels by killing zombies improves things, because you can splash out points on more inventory slots and perks that make your arms last longer and do more damage. This, in turn, encourages you to complete the game’s secondary objectives, which range from finding statues of the first game’s Frank West to saving mobbed survivors and solving disputes between neighbours. All the same, for a game that’s so focused on slapstick fun (how many other titles have you slaughtering zombies with a weaponised shopping cart in a tennis kit and afro wig?) Dead Rising 3 can be surprisingly hard work.
Meanwhile, we’d recommend you remember to save often. The game only rarely checkpoints progress, and usually when you’ve either completed your objective or you’re about to enter a boss battle. It’s hugely depressing to find new blueprints and craft new weapons only to get overwhelmed and lose the last half-hour of play. Luckily, on normal mode you can save anywhere, though Dead Rising traditionalists and masochists with time to burn can enjoy the Nightmare mode instead, which restricts saves to safe houses and scattered porta-toilets.
Plus, though the boss battles themselves are entertaining, they remain one of Dead Rising’s weak points. Avoiding melee attack patterns only to get spammed by ranged attacks is a common source of aggravation, and until you invest points in health upgrades you’ll spend half the battles scavenging for health-reviving food.
Once you get past the less-than-next-gen visuals, Dead Rising 3 is one of the best games on the two new consoles. Sadly, it’s still held back by the above irritations and the fun but repetitive nature of the gameplay. There’s plenty of fun to be had here, but like those brilliant combo weapons you may have to find the right ingredients, then make it for yourself.
Dead Rising 3 ups the scale and volume of the slapstick zombie slaughter, but there are too many minor irritations for it to stand up as a great game. The graphics aren’t particularly impressive, the storyline missions are forgettable and managing your inventory is a chore. What brings it up is the addictive combo-weapon crafting system, and the pleasure of trying out your new toys on the walking dead.