Dressed in a Mecha-Dragon suit with enormous butterfly-styled wings, I launch head-first into a cascading wall of the undead, their grunts and groans surrounding me as their limbs fall away from them. “So Dead Rising is still utterly batshit crazy, then”, I say, before switching weapons to a pair of MMA gloves and going punch-crazy on the zombie’s faces. It’s hard not to actually feel sorry for the poor sods, as they are fodder for the mechanics that make Dead Rising 3 so much fun in the first place.
In honesty, there’s not much new in this third game, and although the series has fans, it’s hard to imagine there would be people genuinely clamouring for a new Dead Rising, let alone for Microsoft to make it one of the top tier staples of the Xbox One’s launch. But here we are, bloodied hands (well, bloodied everything) and corpses everywhere; this is Dead Rising 3.
The zombies themselves (referred to as Zombies, for a change in a game) are everywhere. Zombrex chips are supposedly installed in people by law now, keeping them from turning, but there are those who refuse to accept them, deeming them a form of control and oppression. Thus sets up the continued tale of governmental corruption and – look, it’s just bloody ridiculous, over-the-top and the story is barely of any consequence, alright? If you’ve played a Dead Rising game before, you’ll know that Queen Bees can kill multiple Zombies, you’ll know that you need Zombrex to stop from turning (if bitten) – all that really matters is the gameplay, which is, thankfully, a riotous amount of fun. For what it’s worth though, the story is a simple case of needing to escape Los Perdidos before fire rains down, wiping the area clean.
Nick Ramos is a mechanic who can fashion anything from everything. It’s even mentioned by the supporting cast that he’s “good at fixing stuff up”, and he is. He can turn two vehicles into one super-armoured vehicle that can fire guns (though where the guns came from is anyone’s guess) and plough through the thousands of on-screen Zombies at once. Capcom Vancouver have done away with the requirement to be at a work bench to make these combinations, instead allowing you to make them anywhere, any time, so long as you have the blueprints collected already to learn them – it really is as simple as a few button presses.
And by God is it satisfying. I actually thought I was over this type of base-level gameplay, but needless to say, most people will spend more time than is actually necessary smashing through Zombies with vehicles for the sheer fun of it. It’s not even really an effective way of levelling up, either, as PP is earned quicker through saving survivors, or finding those who have passed in a particularly dramatic way. But it is a lot of fun to explore the open-world of Los Perdidos, and whilst it’s not the biggest game world you’ll ever encounter, the ability to go into buildings and explore for hidden trinkets is something that helps keep that connection to the games that have come before it in the series.
As you gain a level, you’ll unlock a point to put into your abilities. Some require just the one point, but they get progressively harder to unlock, and decisions must be made. Obviously I went for health and inventory early on, because they made sense (you only start with a sliver of health and 4 inventory slots), but you soon realise there’s more to Dead Rising 3 than there first appears. A plethora of side-quests, collectibles and blueprints litter Los Perdidos, some useful, others just to add colour. The earliest side-mission sees you find spray paint cans for a rebel; once befriended, she opens a safe-zone for you (these allow you a moment of quiet to replenish weapons you have previously built, change costumes, etc) and then accompanies you until she dies.
The map itself is useful, offering numerous objectives and things to investigate, but you’ll quickly want to get into the action again, because it’s so much fun. However, as with previous games in the series, it’s not without fault. Boss battles are frequently sprung upon you and (as usual) offer the most challenge. There are optional bosses that are well worth investigating thanks to the PP offering and the weapons or goodies they’ll drop, but the main bosses are sometimes a surprise. Biker gangs can frustrate early on, as they will repeatedly attack with fire causing you to flail about over and over, while you try to scramble for a car to fight back. Then, after that battle, another will immediately follow. A lot of the boss battles boil down to getting in close and dealing damage, which they prevent with ranged attacks – one overweight lady will vomit on you to keep you away before dying in the most gratuitous, nasty way.
In fact, though they aren’t as painfully hard as Dead Rising 1 or 2’s encounters, the best experience is still the exploration and Zombies. Dead Rising 3 looks glorious, with plenty of colour breaking through the expected greys. An absolutely crazy amount of Zombies will appear on screen at any one time, and though it copes well for the most part, there are frame-rate issues when it gets particularly busy. Brilliantly, any clothes you choose to wear during gameplay will remain for cut-scenes, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how silly that can look. The facial animations are actually rather good, and overall the art-style and execution stands just on the right side of taking itself too seriously, while the voice acting and dialogue is purposefully daft and, despite early worries, will make you laugh out loud occasionally.
Being an Xbox One-exclusive means that both Kinect and SmartGlass are on offer as additional ways to interact with the game. Kinect offers up fairly unique qualities here: for example, you can shout to draw Zombies over to you. SmartGlass operates as a phone for Nick to communicate with others, as well as set waypoints and generally allow you to use your tablet or phone as a second screen.
Lessons have been learned for Dead Rising 3. Foolish time-limits are gone, allowing you to save anywhere and spend your time enjoying and exploring, not rushing to an objective. This also means it’s a more welcoming game for players of all skill levels. Some awkwardness remains, such as picking up items where there are many, but the irritations are minor.
Overall, Dead Rising 3 is a lot of fun, with a 13-16 hour campaign enhanced by replayability due to the sheer amount of ways you can approach your time in Los Perdidos. From the very outset there are different play-styles offered up, including co-op if you fancy it: Capcom Vancouver want this to be your experience, and while it does stutter from time to time, this is a game well worth playing, so long as you can stomach the B-movie acting and gore.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.