Dead Rising 3 Review
Written Sunday, November 17, 2013 By Dan Webb
Since the dawn of time, man has essentially held the holy grail of ultimate power at his fingertips. While many have used it for good, there are those that have used it for evil. That power – or maybe ‘art’ is a more appropriate word – is the power of combination. Men have combined reading newspapers with their morning visit to the john to maximise the efficiency of their day, while women – my exes, anyway – have combined the art of whinging about their woes during sex.
Since Dead Rising 2, Capcom Vancouver has used the power of combination to up the ante with their open-world zombie-survival horror franchise, enabling protagonist Chuck Greene to concoct devastating combo weapons. With more power and oomph at their disposal, can the franchise finally break that barrier between being a great game and being a terrific game in Dead Rising 3? Computer says yes.
Rhonda and Nick: mechanics united.
Dead Rising 3 takes place in the city of Los Perdidos - a fictional city in California that takes obvious inspiration from Los Angeles - 10 years after the events of Dead Rising 2. You play as Nick Ramos, a rag tag mechanic with a strong moral compass and a slick hairdo. He’s your typical all-round nice guy who won’t do wrong by anyone… well, unless they're a zombie, of course.
72 hours after the zombie outbreak hits the city, with six days until it’s about to be levelled by the over-zealous military, Nick and his bunch of uncharismatic chums must do all they can to get the hell outta dodge.
The new generation of consoles and sheer power of the Xbox One opens up doors for the franchise that were once a pipe dream. When we used to say open-world, most of the time that meant sparse open-worlds with load-times galore. This is not true of Dead Rising 3, and if this is the shape of things to come, be excited. Be very excited.
Not only must you no longer suffer pesky load times in Dead Rising 3 once you’re in, but Los Perdidos is one of the densest game worlds I have ever spent a considerable amount of time in. Now when you see a door that’s locked, it’s not a case of, “oh, I must not be able to go in there,” it’s now, “is there a window I can use to get in? Who do I get the key off? Can I go in through the roof, or even the skylight?”
Rather brilliantly there are absolutely loads of interiors to explore, scavenge, and even get a feel for the kind of people that once frequented it and what kind of a life they once lived. With different music playing, sometimes haunting corpses with small notes attached labelled as ‘Tragic Endings’, and with all distinct visuals and their own unique vibes, these atmospherically distinct environments make Dead Rising 3’s world one of the most believable and immersive in video games. Even better, it’s a persistent world too. Leave a car in the street on one side of Los Perdidos and do a circuit of the huge map, and it’ll more than likely be there when you return.
DR3 may be a new game in a new generation, but it’s still the same ol’ Dead Rising at its core. Los Perdidos is a world chock full of whacky weapons, fairly solid RPG mechanics to enhance Nick's abilities and attributes, barmy psychos, survivors to rescue and assist – who aren’t quite as stupid as they were in previous Dead Risings gone by either – and even some great cinematic moments and tense set-pieces.
It wouldn’t be Dead Rising without combo weapons either, and with over a 100 of them – some of which are completely batshit crazy – and the ability to combo combo weapons to create stronger forms, you’ll always be discovering new tools of zombie slaughter tens of hours after you’ve been in the game world.
New to the franchise are combo vehicles, allowing Nick to put his mechanic qualifications to good use. There are only a few combinations – 11, in fact – but they’re all rather satisfying from the get go, especially the all-conquering “Rollerhawg,” a motorbike combined with a steamroller that spews fire. Even after 30-odd hours, mowing down hundreds, nay, thousands of zombies with it was immensely satisfying.
The sheer power of the combo vehicles and some of the ‘Ultimate’ combo weapon creations does make Dead Rising 3 a much easier jaunt than usual though, especially with the normal mode's ‘save anytime, anywhere’ system that has replaced the game’s save-in-a-bathroom tension building mechanic. It does mean that we spent more time having fun and enjoying the world than traipsing to the toilet after every meaningful event, but that comes at a cost, and that cost is a loss of tension. It’s ultimately the funniest and entertaining Dead Rising that we’ve ever experienced though. You win some, you lose some.
Contrary to what Capcom Vancouver has stated pre-launch, Dead Rising 3's normal mode does in fact have a game timer, like all the other major games in the story. That said, it’s almost an inconsequential-story device as not only did we finish the game with days to spare, but we completed every side mission and defeated every psycho too. It's disappointing that when all is said and done from a story-perspective, there is no free-roam world to venture back in to – with it being two-player co-op too, we can’t help but feel that’s a missed trick there – but stats, blueprints and clothing options do carry across playthroughs, so it’s no real loss.
This even carries across into the frighteningly named Nightmare Mode, a classic Dead Rising experience for seasoned fans. Nightmare Mode retains much of the traditional Dead Rising mechanics: save only at toilets, zombies are a little tougher, and it’s chock full of strict time limits. Whether you’re going down the normal route or hardcore, it’s one hell of a romp with one hell of an ending. It definitely had that ‘wow,’ factor, that’s for sure.
"So... Nandos or TGI Friday's?"
It’s not perfect though, not by a long stretch. We suffered the odd audio issue, a few frame rate hiccups, some occasional pop up, Nick’s outfit resetting to his original mechanic garb randomly, and Kinect got so annoying we had to turn it off.
Don’t get us wrong, using the controller and Kinect to shove zombies away is ace, as is distracting zombies with your own voice, but voice controlled menus that activate mid-game at random moments, that’s not fun at all. It’s still also a pain to pick up a specific item when you’re surrounded by a ton of them, something we can’t believe has gone unfixed after all these years. That all doesn’t really put much of a downer on the game though, they’re just infrequent mild annoyances.
Considering the density, depth, brutality, gore, the attention to detail, and the combo weapons and vehicles, surely Dead Rising 3 must have a great achievement list, right? Wrong. It’s rather boring and atypically by the numbers – Dead Rising 1 gave you an achievement for using a bowling ball on zombies!! That said, it does encourage you to venture forth and do every damn thing in the game, and although the list is boring, going back to complete everything is completely worth it. It might get a little grindy killing over 100,000 zombies – we killed 25,000-ish in around 30 hours – but using the Rollerhawg, one thing is for certain; it will be fun.
Capcom Vancouver’s world building expertise are what makes Dead Rising 3 not only a next-gen game, but the Xbox One’s launch killer-app. Even having been spoilt with GTA V recently, nothing even comes close to the density of Dead Rising 3’s world, and that's something to be applauded. Not only does it herald a new era of what we expect from open-world games in terms of depth, but it's one hell of a fun and satisfying ride to boot. Buy this and don’t look back.
There are a few balance issues when it comes to audio, as well as occasional times when it cuts out, but other than that the John Carpenter-eque synth beats are a delight, as well as all the gooey zombie slaying SFX.
Other than the infrequent case of pop-up and slow down, Dead Rising 3 is a visual delight. High-res textures, brutal blooding splattering takedowns and the ability to render hundreds upon hundreds of zombie on-screen simultaneously, are easily the game’s highlights.
Dead Rising games of old have often been described as clunky, and that my friends, is a thing of the past. Combining weapons and dismembering zombies has never been more fun or more satisfying.
An open-world zombie game with tons of interior environments, and one that oozes class, character and style. It’s brilliant. The sheer density of Los Perdidos is mind boggling, as is the amount of zombies on-screen, especially when you realise there are no load times. Dead Rising 3 is now effectively an innovator, setting the standard for what we now expect from open-world games.
Considering the amount of fun you can have with Dead Rising 3 and its weapons, the numbers are a bit of a yawn fest. Do 20 of this, collect 50 of that, yada yada, yada. We expected more. It does encourage you to explore though, and that’s rewarding in its own right.
It’s a new day, a new dawn for the next-generation consoles and the Dead Rising franchise. Easily Microsoft’s best launch title and the very definition of a killer-app, if Dead Rising 3’s environmental depth and detail is a sign of things to come for the new generation of consoles, get ready to bask in the glory that is open-world games. Dead Rising 3 is an undead treat.
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