Dead Rising 3 is in some ways a technological marvel, the amount of zombies on screen at any one time can be enormous. Yet, the game itself seems to be crippling under the weight of all these enemies, seemingly caving in on itself. A metropolis is open to you, to explore and destroy any undead foe in your path, yet poor mechanics, even worse writing and patchy graphics can make this feel, like Dead Rising of old.
You play as Nick Ramos, a seemingly everyday guy, with not so everyday mechanical skills. Nick finds himself in the midst of a zombie apocalypse in the fictional faux Los Angeles city called, Los Predidos. The government has condemned Los Perdidos to destruction and it leaves Nick and a haphazard band of misfits six days to escape or risk certain death. The writing here, is at best passible, yet at its worst, is almost unbearable.
Characters are written in such stereotypical fashion, it feels so old old and passed it. Some characters in actual fact sit quite on the verge of being downright homophobic; it’s just plain lazy writing, that makes this feel terrible in places. The actual story is your standard zombie tale and seems to tread a path well trodden, it’s where you stray away from this, that Dead Rising 3 becomes its most interesting.
Customisation if your friend
The open world setting is pretty formulaic, you have your main story arc that drives the narrative forward whilst sprinkling many side missions, trials and other quests that ultimately provide some respite from your end goal.
It’s in these side quests that Dead Rising is most enjoyable, the best fun can be had during PP Trials (PP is Dead Rising’s version of XP), where you challenged to kill the most zombies using predefined means. They offer several rewards, which can then be used to level up Nick, which ultimately helps you. Spending time seeking these out is certainly worth your while and adds some variety to your usual fetch-and-deliver missions, of which there are plenty.
Los Perdidos is huge in scale, you’ll no longer be able to traverse entire areas by foot and you are encouraged to use vehicles both standard and customised to do so. The world is simply crawling with infected zombies, and when using transport you’ll need to dispose of these undead in a variety of ways.
It’s here, like in previous Dead Rising titles, that the customisation elements come into play. Pretty much any inanimate object in the world can be used as a weapon, from traffic cones to handguns. Each of these can also be combined with other weapons to create combos with are more deadly and overall, more satisfying. There are many sly nods to Capcoms other titles within this mechanic, such as Roaring Thunder – a combination of a Blanka mask and a car battery, which, you’ve guessed it, can be used to send electric shocks through heaps of enemies, using Blankas signature finisher.
The combos are created using blue prints, scattered throughout the game. You’re actively pushed to find these and they ultimately help you keep zombies at bay. It’s a neat idea to make these collectible as it feeds that compulsive need to get that 100% record but it also fuels the gameplay. You can also find blueprints for vehicles, which is very rewarding as they offer a more enjoyable and dynamic experience, rather than your run of the mill sedan. Adding weapons to vehicles and having a player partner up with you is really good fun and makes Dead Rising 3 feel like a different game all together.
Too much for too little
In terms of this being a showcase for the Xbox One, it’s kind of stuck in the middle. The amount of zombie populating the screen at any one time can be staggering, with little to no slowdown, its very impressive in this regard. However, graphically, it’s not quite the leap forward I had hoped; facial expressions and character models are pretty poor and there can be quite frequent texture pop ins. The loads times are also quite the hinderance can can make those tiresome boss battles, even more frustrating.
Dead Rising is also now far more accessible than previous entries into the series. Players are no longer punished with harsh checkpoint systems, thus making save points more frequent and dying not such a casualty. The option for the more hardcore is still there, but the lifting of this barrier makes it more enjoyable. You’re no longer thinking along the lines of health and weaponry, but simply you’re having fun.
Although it has, in many places progressed, it seems that some of its other features have yet to leave the previous generation. Combat is very simplistic and at times, archaic. At first, your enemies are simple, they move slowly and the unforgiving melee and camera system can be manoeuvred around to at least progress through the games early stages. It’s later on, where the wheels start to fall off.
Against more mobile enemies, the combat system feels tired and the difficulty in swapping weapons and health packs becomes oddly apparent. It can sometimes be a matter of life and death when swapping a weapon for a soiled burrito in the midst of a difficult boss battle – and it usually ends in the latter. It can be very frustrating when trying to find the exact move you want to fulfil and the cumbersome controls make it very difficult to do so.
Dead Rising 3 can feel very irrational. It is at times very inventive: the customisation, side quests and general off the beaten track stuff is fun and enjoyable. Yet, the camera, combat and general story telling is lacking. It feels like a game trapped between two worlds, and in a way it is. Caught between what we’ve come to expect from the previous generation and what we’d like to see from the next. Ultimately joy can be found within Dead Rising 3, it’s just you make have to search much of Los Perdidos to find it.