STAFF REVIEW of Dead Rising 3 (Xbox One)

Friday, December 6, 2013.
by Adam Dileva

Dead Rising 3 Box art I remember when the original Dead Rising was revealed for the Xbox 360 and was amazed with how many zombies Capcom was able to show on the screen at once (which I think was a few dozen or more, which was unheard of at the time). Turns out it was a hit, was more fun than it should have been to dismember zombies, and had a ton of black humor within as well. Dead Rising 2 raised the bar even further, so naturally when Dead Rising 3 was announced (and as an Xbox One exclusive), I knew that they were going to blow it out of the water given the power of the new hardware. Turns out Capcom Vancouver has delivered, as the technical increases alone have made the Dead Rising world not only seem more believable, but it actually feels as if you’re finally in a true zombie apocalypse where you want to avoid the hordes of zombies, for fear of being overrun.

Frank and Chuck from the first two games have been replaced with a new protagonist, Nick Ramos, whom is seemingly an average mechanic that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when this newest outbreak started. Dead Rising 3 takes place a decade after the events with chuck in Fortune City and this time is set in the fictional setting of Los Perdidos California (obviously a take on Los Angeles). Where Fortune City was bright and lit, Los Perdidos is very grim, bleak, and run down after the massive outbreak.

Nick will meet new people along his journey, sometimes saving them, other times being helped. They must escape the city within a few days before an impending missile strike will wipe out the city and any organic life left within its borders. Just like the previous games, you have that impending doom countdown timer that you’re always on watch for, though there’s no need to worry about rushing through the game this time if you choose (more on that shortly).

While at first Nick may not be nearly as iconic as Frank or Chuck were, though I remember thinking the same thing about Chuck when he was first revealed as well. Nick eventually grows into a character you do care about and the inner story surrounding him becomes very interesting, though it takes quite a while for it to get to that point. Will Nick be a memorable as Frank and Chuck when the obvious sequels come in the future? Who knows; but by the end I did really care for Nick and his story and hope it’s not the last we see of him. That being said, I’m going to avoid any story spoilers, but let it be known that if you were a fan of first two games, its lore and characters, stick with this until the very end, as there is a massive reveal that seriously had my jaw on the floor and was wrapped up very well.

As Dead Rising 3 begins you may get a small sense of deja-vu. You begin thrust into an impossible situation, have the basic tutorials thrown your way of how to play, then are set free to do as you wish in the open world of Los Perdidos. As soon as you step outside and see the scope of the game you will be blown away with how impressive it is. Not just graphically, but the sheer magnitude and scale. This goes not only for the environment and city, but once you see how many zombies can be on the screen at once, it’s more than impressive. You’ll need to fight through a massive wave of zombies to get to your first destination, and you’ll be taken back by how many can flock around you and make travelling quite difficult simply because of the volume of zombies in your way.

From the get-go you’re given this massive world that doesn’t have many locked off areas (though some for story purposes obviously) and can be explored in any way you wish. Being that it’s an open sandbox game, you’ll no doubt become very distracted by doing side missions, exploring, finding collectables, and of course, killing hordes and hordes of zombies for PP to level up Nick’s abilities. Sure you could simply follow the story markers and progress through the story quickly, but like many other sandbox games, the real enjoyment comes in trying all the things you can do and the exploration.

Los Perdidos is massive, to the point of it being bigger than the other games combined. Running all that way would take forever, so that’s why there’s a hearty amount of vehicles for you to use to get from one point to another. While not every car and truck can be used (look for the ones with the hazard lights flashing), you’ll quickly be taught about the new combo vehicles. Just like how you could create combo weapons in Dead Rising 2, this carries over into the vehicles as well and allows for some crazy and incredibly unique vehicles that not only will get you from point A to point B, but also being able to clear any amount of zombies in your way as well. Combining certain vehicles once you have the appropriate blueprints makes for some truly unique rides, such as the Rollerhawg (Steam Roller and a Morotcycle) that plows over zombies and spits fire. This just makes it even more fun to go grind PP and kill zombies for fun, and with the amount of unique vehicles you can make, it never gets old. Surprisingly, zombies can become so condensed in an area that if you try and run through them in a regular vehicle, you’ll actually slow down, even to a stop if you hit that many at once. Again, the amount of zombies on the screen at once cannot be understated.

Just like the vehicles, the combo weapons return in Dead Rising 3, but have been cranked way up on the outlandish scale. Sure there are some basic weapons like adding chainsaws to a paddle, or a saw on the opposite end of a sledgehammer, but there’s some absolutely unique and ‘out there’ weapon creations to be had as well once you find the blueprints. Putting a beer keg onto a construction hat allows you to head butt zombies (and drink for health when low!), wrapping a football in barbwire, and a battery attached to a traffic light can obliterate any surrounding zombies as well. There’s a ton of other crazy weapons, and half the fun is finding the blueprints and then making them for the first time, so I don’t want to spoil any of the really cool ones.

If you found some of the design choices from the first two games a little frustrating like I did, you’ll be happy to know that some changes have been implemented to make things a much easier and smoother experience for your zombie killing ways. No longer do you need to frantically find a bathroom to save, you can simple save on the fly whenever and wherever you like now. The same goes for creating the combo weapons (and vehicles), as you no longer need a workbench to do so, you simply create them if you have all of the components in your inventory (if you’ve found the appropriate blueprint). The timer that was always counting down in the previous games has been removed as well, and you’re no longer forced to be rushing through the game. Without the hard timer restrictions, you can explore and roam around much easier and have an unlimited amount of fun within.

I know what you’re saying, I can hear the cries now. You liked those hardcore elements right? You like having the hard clock timer and more aggressive zombies right? Well you’ll be happy to know that Capcom Vancouver knows those are some of the elements that you enjoy as well and has specifically catered to you with the Nightmare Mode difficulty. This brings back the bathroom saves and makes things much more difficult if you’re looking for a harder challenge, so don’t fret, there’s something here for everyone to enjoy.

As you cruise around the city, either doing story missions, side questions, collection hunting, or simply killing zombies, the new mini-map makes things much easier to find when you’re in proximity to them. Doing side quests gives massive amounts of precious PP that can then be used to upgrade Nick’s abilities and skills based on your personal play style. I personally upgraded the inventory slots first so that I could carry more, but if you like to create weapons and vehicles all the time, you can specialize into that if you desire. There’s a lot of really cool perks and abilities to unlock once you reach certain milestones, so check them all out before committing to a specialized line of abilities.

The over the top and absolutely crazy psychos (essentially the bosses) make a return in Dead Rising 3 and are more flamboyant and over the top than even the previous games. Based on the seven deadly sins, wait until you see the boss that represents Gluttony, Lust, and Pride. Wow, just wow. They may come across as a little ‘too’ cartoony in their personalities, but it fits with the series and are extremely memorable (I’m still trying to block out Gluttony). The only issue I had with these boss battles is that the majority of them require firearms to effectively take them out. The problem with that is that there’s no lock-on system for the shooting weapons and brings a huge amount of frustration when you constantly miss your shots and run out of ammo.

When Dead Rising 3 was first announced, some fans were a little worried that it lost its humorous aspect as it didn’t really show much of the silliness that the series is known for. Fear not, the absurdness and plain oddities that the series is known for is still here. You can still dress up Nick in any clothing you find, even if that’s a hazmat suit or lingerie. It makes it incredible hard to keep a straight face in the cutscenes because Nick is wearing whatever you make him wear. Trying to take a scene seriously is quite difficult when Nick is wearing a horse mask, lingerie, and gum boots (my personal outfit of choice), or simply a banana hammock and nothing else. The other problem with having this mechanic is that some of the cutscenes don’t take into account some of these items. For example, the cutscene that would normally focus on Nick’s face always zoomed in on the nose of my horse mask (though it’s pretty cool hearing his voice slightly muffled underneath). The same goes when the characters are talking about Nick’s neck tattoo, but you can’t actually see it because it’s under your mask.

There are two other core features that need to be mentioned as they are great inclusions. Firstly, Dead Rising 3 is Kinect enabled believe it or not. One of the main features is being able to actually shout at your TV and the surrounding zombies will actually hear you and come after you, and yes, this can be disabled if you have that jerk roommate. You can also navigate any of the menu options completely with voice; not anything spectacular, but I found myself using it periodically without even thinking about it. Lastly for Kinect, certain bosses can also be taunted with a specified catch phrase (such as “You’re crazy”) that is shown in the top right corner. Doing so might infuriate the boss and force them to make a mistake, allowing you to attack them much easier. It’s a great use of Kinect that isn’t intrusive or changes the gameplay, but adds some simple fun.

If you have a supporting smartphone or tablet, Dead Rising 3 is also Smartglass enabled which allows you to do a lot of really cool things with the second screen. Your smartglass device will actually mimic Nick’s in-game cell phone and when you get a call in game, it’ll actually go to your phone or tablet. You can see an overview of the map, where hidden items are, and even get exclusive smartglass-only missions as well. If you’re looking for a specific component to make a combo weapon, you can look it up and it will show you where the nearest one is. Now and then you can even call in air strikes if you’re very desperate to clear a path in front of you. All of these features are not essential by any means, but they are incredibly fun and extremely helpful.

Co-op mode returns from Dead Rising 2, but is vastly improved in most ways. No longer is the second player a clone that doesn’t progress his character; instead, player two plays as Dick (yes, Nick and Dick) and you actually keep to keep all of your own progress in asynchronous saves. Any blueprints that the other player finds you unlock, any weapons they create and drop for you also unlock them in your locker (you’ll still need to find the blueprint to create them in the wild though), and any campaign progress is also saved. With every vehicle having room for two, the game encouraged the exploration together and to have fun. Once you learn the mechanics you can also abuse it in a way where one player can give a new character the best weapons in the game to level up incredibly fast. The only complaint I had with the co-op system was in the matchmaking (when you’re not partied up with a friend beforehand). You can decide to join someone else’s game but you actually have no control of who you get to join or see what chapter they are progressing in until it’s too late and you’re joining. If I want to search for a lobby for someone that’s working on the same chapter and episode I am, there’s no possible way to do so, so I suggestion sticking with friends unless you simply want a partner to grind away zombies with.

While I had no game breaking bugs or anything massively frustrating, there are a ton of smaller glitches and bugs that can completely take you out of the immersion. For example, multiple times I had cutscenes with invisible characters. A friend and I actually had the same glitch in the same cutscene where one of the main characters was invisible, which didn’t make sense when someone was hugging them (though all we saw was an awkward floating hug motion from the visible character). My friend also was unable to see one of the key characters in all of his cutscenes which is very problematic in certain scenes, especially near the end. Some zombies will glitch out, I’ve had a few floating zombies, and certain animations look very jagged as they start instantly the moment you press the button instead of being a fluid motion. None of these are deal breakers by any means, but there was a lot of bugs beginning to finish.

That being said, the pro’s definitely outweigh the con’s, as the the amount of zombies that can be on screen at the same time is absolutely staggering. Add in the fact that all the zombies look and act differently and not simply cookie cutter copies of each other and it’s even more impressive. All of this without losing much framerate either (aside from when many explosions and zombies at once) is equally impressive. The magnitude of this outbreak is very extraordinary and gives me high hopes for what’s possible with these new next-gen consoles.

Graphically the game does look great, especially in the cutscnees where you can actually see Nick’s stubble (if you’re not wearing a silly mask like myself obviously), but it’s more about how much can be on the screen rather than photo-realism. The voice acting across the board is very solid, even from the lesser seen minor characters, even if much of the dialogue is a little cheesy at times. If you’re looking for a game for your new Xbox One to show off what it’s really capable of, Dead Rising 3 is a safe bet, just make sure you realize you’re about to get sucked into many hours of zombie killing.

There needs to be the ability to search lobbies, specifically by chapters and episodes. Being put into a random persons game that is 10 minutes in isn't as fun, especially when it takes minutes at a time to find and load a game.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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