I’ve always been on the fence when it comes to the Dead Rising franchise. I really love zombie games like Resident Evil but the almost-slapstick humor aspects of Capcom’s series with all the wacky costumes and crazy weapons felt a bit imbalanced in a world that was every bit as deadly as it was comical. But after seeing the early videos for Dead Rising 3, that showed a huge open-world city literally swarming with thousands of undead I was ready to give the game another chance.
While Dead Rising 3 might be strong in scale and spectacle it still lacks a strong story to keep you motivated throughout, what can be, a rather lengthy game; especially if you are a completionist. That, combined with some problematic controls and some annoyingly long load times, especially after dying (and you die a lot in this game), are noticeable distractions from the game’s other more impressive achievements.
Structured like most other open-world games, Dead Rising 3 puts you in control of Nick Ramos, a capable survivor who is part of a small group trying to get out of the fictional city of Los Perdidos. With the zombie outbreak growing out of control the government is going to bomb the city in six days. So basically, you have six chapters to get out of town while having as much chaotic fun as you can along the way. To that end the game offers core story missions to drive the flimsy narrative, but the real attraction is all of the sideline stuff. There are numerous mini-quests, challenges, and a seemingly countless number of collectibles that will have you going way out of your way into hostile zombie territory in the name of “completion”. If you are using SmartGlass you will also have access to additional game content delivered to your phone or tablet in one of the more ingenious uses of the technology.
Everything you do and the way you do it all fuels your performance points (PP) that in turn allow you to upgrade a nice selection of skills and abilities. This system adds a bit of RPG flavor to the experience, but the real meat and potatoes are the various blueprints you will uncover that allow you to combine everyday items into devastating multipurpose weapons. There are even diagrams on how to combine various vehicles into some pretty crazy and deadly modes of transportation, and nothing beats the thrill and carnage of driving through the city squashing zombies.
The only thing more impressive than the sheer amount of zombies Capcom was able to stick into any given scene was their realistic mob AI. From the very first moment on the street after the airplane crash I was experimenting with the “awareness factor” of these undead. From a distance zombies are oblivious, but then one might see or hear you and wander your way and then a few more see that zombie and the next thing you know you are standing on the roof of a car surrounded by a pulsating mob of walking corpses. Noise attracts them so you can use various gadgets like fireworks or a deadly Jack-in-the-Box, or my favorite, a teddy bear armed with a machine gun to lure them away and even kill a few. You can even shout into your Kinect to attract zombies – just make sure you are someplace safe when you do. Fire and grenades work great against large mobs sending bodies flying or catching on fire that will realistically spread to nearby undead.
There is a nice mix of ranged and melee combat, often dictated by your customized weapons, but controls are sluggish and Nick jogs around town at an almost leisurely rate, and his jumping, climbing, and vaulting abilities really aren’t up to video game standards. Perhaps they were trying to realistically immerse the “out of shape” gaming community into the game. Even button taps were frustrating and often unresponsive; especially when trying to pick up items with small or overlapping detection boxes. All of these issues are manageable for the majority of the game and the more casual zombie encounters, but when you get to the larger enemies and boss battles the controls prove to be detrimentally frustrating.
While the game lacks any serious multiplayer component like a four-player Left4Dead mode there is a nice drop-in/out co-op that runs continually unless you opt for a private game. You can even indicate your preferred play style so only likeminded gamers are matched up with you. While the game is a blast shared with a friend, I had just as much fun when total strangers dropped into my city and we just started doing “stuff” together. There is an added feeling of safety when you know somebody has your back.
Dead Rising 3 is a technical marvel in its ability to put hundreds of semi-intelligent zombies on the screen and have them act and react in a realistic and threatening way, but sadly those numbers come at the cost of resolution. Rendered at 720p, the game has a layer of grain and fuzziness about it, along with some annoying jaggies and shimmering in the more panoramic scenes. One could argue this gives the game a bit of grindhouse ambience, but sadly the only thing I could keep thinking was how much better this would look at 1080p on the PC – if it were available.
The audio is fantastic with great sound effects, a great score including the opening theme song, and a wide range of voice acting performances that do the best with the script they had to work with. Many of the characters are so over-the-top, clichéd, and blatant stereotypes that they border on the embarrassing.
Dead Rising 3 can range in completion time based on your play style – which again, you get to set at the very beginning – so you can meander through the city for weeks and months to come collecting every last blueprint and random quest item, or you can focus on the story and speed run the game in a day or two. I enjoyed the random assistance from co-op players, but had just as good a time while playing alone. I would have really enjoyed a four-player co-op story mode.
Dead Rising 3 is easily the most epic of zombie games when it comes to scale, numbers, and the incredible herd mentality of the zombie hoards, but much like the first two games, that feeling of fear and danger is offset by putting on crazy costumes or wielding weapons more suited to a Ratchet & Clank game. The weak story, boring characters, and clumsy controls also contribute to the games lengthy list of non-fatal flaws. I’m not saying you won’t get a rush when playing Dead Rising 3; at least for the first few hours, but once the game loses its focus, so did I.