The sleeper hit of the year
A lot of doubts filled the air when Dead Rising 3 was announced. As both an Xbox One exclusive and a Capcom-produced title, not a whole lot of excitement was abound when the game was first announced. Then you add in the "We're going for a Call of Duty audience" developer comments, and you have one certified shit-storm of a release.
But nothing compares to actually playing it for yourself, and I'm pleased to say that the third iteration of this now famous franchise has risen (ha!) to the occasion. In fact, Dead Rising 3 is the first game I've seen that really harnesses the power of next-gen consoles.
Oh, and it's also a phenomenal game as well.
Dead Rising 3 (Xbox One)
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: November 22, 2013
During the opening moments of the tutorial of Dead Rising 3, everything looks fairly familiar. You'll slowly make your way through an underground area, learning the basics of the game while you battle a few zombies -- nothing too spectacular. But then you go outside, and see what the new engine really has to offer.
Literally hundreds of zombies dotted the landscape. For a second, I thought it was a cutscene, but then the game gave me control and expected me to make my way through a giant sea of zombies to reach the first objective. It was completely unreal, and I was sold on the engine almost immediately. For the first time in a videogame, I really felt like I was in a zombie apocalypse, unfettered by the limits of prior console engines.
It sounds like an overstatement, but it completely took me by surprise, to the point where if my car broke down in the middle of a highway, I was legitimately scared of having to battle my way through hundreds of undead to survive. I'm the kind of person who really couldn't care less about how great a game looks if it plays well, but in this case, the engine really does wonders for gameplay.
Having said that, everything else looks very, very good. There's a ton of detail in almost every piece of road, with a huge draw distance to boot. Dead Rising 3 also sports a solid framerate, despite the fact that the game is rendering so much on-screen (the only dips are occasionally indoors, and they did not impede my enjoyment of the game whatsoever). When coupled with other nuances like shadows, lighting, and the sheer amount of weapon models available, it really is a sight to behold, and a great way to show off your new console. A ton of care went into making this game, and it's the best next-gen release I've seen so far, all things considered.
Frank and Chuck will take a backseat this time around in favor of Nick -- a mild-mannered mechanic who is stuck in the middle of yet another outbreak, 10 years after the the events of Dead Rising 2. The setting is Los Perdidos. California, an area modeled after Los Angeles. As you might be able to tell from the new visual style, things look a little more bleak this time around, which changes the tone of the game a bit. In short, it's decidedly less camp.
Nick, in many ways, is not as iconic as the prior two heroes, and I didn't really connect with him as much. Frank had the camp factor and droves of cheesy lines, and Chuck had a rather lavish backstory as a racer, with a decent father-daughter tale to boot. But Nick's identity isn't as pronounced, as it evolves over the course of the game. It's not bad, per se -- it's just...different, and slightly a cut above your average zombie flick. Although I'll take the vibrant visual style of Dead Rising 2 any day of the week, I still much prefer the technical advancements in Dead Rising 3, as they make for a far better game.
But make no mistake -- just because Dead Rising 3 is less out there doesn't mean the core humor isn't present -- because it totally is. There's still tons of crazy characters to meet, and the new Psychos (modeled after the seven deadly sins) are as colorful as ever, including Sloth, who is literally too lazy to get out of his chair to fight. The cast is a bit more well rounded this time around, as there's a good mix of walking campy caricatures, and actual characters.
The core silliness of the series is also preserved through gameplay. You can still put Servbot masks on your head, play with RC helicopters, wear banana hammocks and disco outfits, and throw machine-gun-toting teddy bears at zombies. All of it is a ton of fun, as you're constantly looking for the next "out there" item. There's also a few big surprises in store for Dead Rising fans, and some enjoyable Capcom-related fan service littered about. While the story is a bit more low-key to a fault, the actual gameplay is anything but, and as a series fan I enjoyed all of the connections made to the overall storyline.
One of the biggest advancements I found in Dead Rising 3 is the emphasis on exploration. The open world is bigger than the first two games combined, and with hardly any load times to speak of, you never really feel gated at any point. Instead of just ticking a box and calling it a day, Capcom Vancouver has created a sandbox worth exploring, with tons of buildings to enter and landmarks that will catch your eye at every street corner. Add in the fact that you can create vehicles as well as take advantage of a whole host of transportation options like anti-zombie buses and sports cars, and you have even more of a reason to get out and go.
For those of you who hated the save systems and limitations of the first two games, don't fret -- you can now save anywhere in Dead Rising 3's normal game mode by pausing the game and hitting "save." There's also a comprehensive tutorial that teaches you absolutely everything, and you can now combine weapons anywhere rather than at specific workbenches so long as you locate the blueprint. Finally, instead of rushing you through the game, there's no hard timer outside of sidequests. As a result, it's a lot easier to roam around for fun.
But as someone who actually liked the hardcore elements of the first two games, I sincerely appreciated Dead Rising 3's Nightmare Mode, which allows you to bring back most of the original mechanics -- most notably the concept of forcing you to find bathroom save points. It's a more difficult mode that preserves the spirit of the original game, and hardcore fans will choose it immediately. So if you hate the idea of an easier Dead Rising, just switch Nightmare mode on.
As you're cruising around the city, the vastly improved radar system makes everything much easier to locate. There are Frank statues to collect, military PA systems to destroy, randomly-generated citizens to rescue, and tons of sidequests to find. Everything gives you PP and contributes to your skill system, so you never feel like anything is a waste. Multiple endings also return, as do fun completion rewards, like Mega Man X's armor and X-Buster.
Kinect takes a backseat in Dead Rising 3, as it's completely unnecessary and not needed to play any portion of the game (thank goodness). In fact, the only real functionality it has is the ability to yell at zombies to attract their attention, which is a neat, inoffensive little extra. For the more adventurous, there's also a SmartGlass mechanic that allows you to use your real-world device as a map or an airstrike support attack. Said functionality isn't live currently, but we will be doing a separate impressions article (to be linked here) when it is available. In other words, it's also not needed at all to enjoy the game.
In the same vein as Dead Rising 2, multiplayer returns in a big way. The second player will play as the story character Dick (ha, Nick and Dick), with one major improvement -- they'll be able to keep all of the progress they've made in the campaign. You'll also be able to save any blueprints you pick up, as well as essentially every other item and advancement.
Without any hoops to jump through whatsoever, multiplayer is much less of a chore than Dead Rising 2, and the game actively encourages you to have fun with it, with new additions like co-op vehicles. Given the larger, open-ended focus of Dead Rising 3's world, it's also a lot less of a pain having to navigate the constant instances and segmentation of Dead Rising 2, as there's more freedom for everyone to go where they want in Los Perdidos.
Although it sacrifices a tad of its loveable camp factor and neon style in favor of a few other advancements, the outcome is a much stronger, more involved Dead Rising game. For once, I actually felt overwhelmed in a zombie outbreak, which is a real example of how next-gen technology can be used to do more than simply "make things look better." Out of all the launch titles I've played on both new consoles, Dead Rising 3 is my personal favorite, bar none.
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