Within the first few hours of dismembering zombies, it became apparent that Capcom Vancouver has done an admirable job of retaining the series’ signature weirdness while providing fans with more freedom and less time restraints. Though still flawed in some areas, Dead Rising 3 by far the best entry in the series.
Whereas its predecessors restricted the zombie epidemic to a shopping mall and a casino complex, Dead Rising 3 places us in the apocalyptic streets of the fictional city of Los Perdidos as hard-working mechanic, Nick Ramos, as we help him and a few survivors escape before the military cleanses the city through the medium of saturation bombing. Split into four areas, this fabricated Los Angeles city is nowhere near the size of GTA 5‘s Los Santos, but it’s a sizable space that’s bigger than both of the previous games’ maps combined. As previous games you’ll still get access to retail stores like toy shops, gun stores, restaurants, clothing outlets, etc–resulting in hundreds of everyday objects available for use as weapons. Dead Rising 3 also eliminates the prevalent loading screens, allowing you to move around the entire city seamlessly.
In addition, Dead Rising 3 lessens the prevailing time restraints of the previous games to the point that you hardly have to worry that there’s even a timer in the first place. Although there is a looming threat of an air strike to occur six days hence, you can still go about your business and explore Los Santos- without being constantly reminded of the progression of time. In the past, it was nearly impossible to complete all of the side missions your first time through. Each step of the storyline had its own short timer that demanded you get on with the plot sooner than later, or else risk having to start the entire game over. In comparison, you could go through Dead Rising 3 and easily complete every generously timed side quest and non-timed story mission on your first try. And even if you somehow don’t make it to the end of the story, you can restart at the beginning of any chapter right up to the final one. The decreased time pressure may make Dead Rising 3 more appealing to a wider audience, but fans looking for a more “classic” feel and challenge should initiate Nightmare mode which increases the restrictions on saving, health, and time limits.
Maintaing a mostly stable rate of 30 frames per second, the substantial increase of on-screen zombies is impressive, but the absurdity of weapons you can meld together is the purest joy the game offers. An assault rifle or a samurai sword might take out a zombie or two, but combine a scythe, katana and gasoline canister, and now you’re talking. Expanding upon the combo weapon mechanic, you can further expand upon already combined weapons with further add-ons to create crazier super-weapons, ex. attach assault rifles to the arms of an adorable robotic teddy bear to create an adorable turret, then strap on a boombox to make it a turret that lures zombies into its bullet spray. Nearly 100 schematics for combo weapons are strewn across the city, their locations marked on the map – always found lying conveniently next to the elements you need – and include familiar items from the previous game and many more new ones. Food can also be combined to create tonics – ex. mixing cabbage and soda makes you temporarily immune to zombie grapples, while vodka and sushi allows you to incinerate foes with fiery breath.
Thanks to his day job as a mechanic, Nick is also pretty handy with vehicles, and greatly expands on Chuck Greene’s modified bikes. As this is a true open world, there are cars you can drive around, and you can combine several of these to create totally ridiculous vehicles that let you suck up zombies and spit them out as zombie balls, or place a steamroller on the front of a motorcycle to let you mow down hundreds of zombies at a time. There are plenty of combinations to discover on your adventures, each with unique capabilities. Putting all those ridiculous destructive implements together has gotten even friendlier now that you can do it anywhere, rather than having to find a workbench just to build your weapons. This streamlining of Dead Rising’s more grueling aspects allows you to get on with the fun of bashing zombies to a bloody pulp.
There have been even more enhancements to the way Dead Rising works, in the form of a variable skill tree that lets you customize a number of categories to make your weapons more durable, give you more health, make your followers heartier, and so on using Attribute Points. In order to do so, you’ll need to collect Prestige Points (PP) by locating collectables; killing zombies; taking part in Survival Training challenges, which task you with killing a target number of zombies under specific conditions; and defeating optional Psycho missions, which are essentially mini-bosses. It’s a great way to make the game feel looser and more tailored to the way you want to play it, while keeping the constant feeling of character progression in place.
For all its innovation, Dead Rising 3 stumbles in two areas – boss encounters and presentation. Even with your new-found abilities, both the mandatory storyline encounters and the Psycho missions feel clumsy and arbitrary. Controls that work well when navigating through the lumbering undead come unfastened against more agile foes. Outside of the hordes of enemies, Dead Rising 3 doesn’t have the graphical fidelity that a large section of next-gen purchasers expect. The environments, crowds and lighting effects occasionally cohere into something to show off the potential power of the Xbox One, but too often the engine shambles about with its texture-popping. Objects and road markings sometimes appear out of nowhere, while prominent textures flip between resolutions gracelessly. Given that this is a launch title, it’s easy to overlook this shortcoming. Besides, if you wanted to see what the Xbox One is able to achieve than I would suggest you pick up Forza or Ryse.
Co-op mode returns from Dead Rising 2, and it is vastly improved in most ways. For starters, the second player is no longer a clone that doesn’t progress his character; instead, player two plays as Dick (yes, Nick and Dick) and you actually keep all of your own progress in asynchronous saves.
In the end, Dead Rising 3 is a little less silly than its predecessors, but it’s close enough that it should satisfy most franchise fans. It has a lot to offer and you could easily spend a couple dozen hours maxing out your character level, doing every side mission, and scouring for all the collectible weapon blueprints and Frank West statues. Sadly, its run-of-the-mill visuals and performance issues make it an improper demonstration of Microsoft’s new hardware.