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Dead Rising 3 Review: The Future of Zombie-Slaying Today

The term “next-gen” seems to invite a lot of excitement into the minds of many. Yet, many also acknowledge the fact a console’s launch doesn’t always have the strongest library. With this in mind, we stumble into intermediary-titles that are most markedly an improvement graphically, with expanded limitations on how developers can stretch the confines of an engine. But, because of the newness of the technology, developers initially aren’t as sure what those limitations are, launch titles tend to reflect that uncertainty.

 

Such is the case with Dead Rising 3. As an Xbox One launch title, the game competes with other open-world titles such as Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Dead Rising 3 does bring some new tricks to the Xbox One. Players can now leave behind items vehicles without worries: despite the fictional world of Los Perdidos being the largest in the franchise, anything the player interacts with will stay in place, even from the opposite side of the map. There are no loading times as you travel across the city too, which makes traversal a lot better.

The Plot

Set ten years after the events of Dead Rising 2, the public is still at risk for joining the ranks of the undead, despite a decade or so of the existence of Zombrex. People who are infected have become feared, and the US government has taken to the idea of forcing infected citizens to register with the government.  Yet, none of that has curbed the development of the widespread infection in Los Perdidos California. Nick Ramos, former mechanic, survivor, and hero of the tale must find a way out of the city before the military eradicates the town in an attempt to stop the infection. None of this should sound unfamiliar, as the “scorched earth” policy always jumps to the top of the checklist for dealing with infectious diseases.  The story is not something we haven’t seen before, but it’s what is built around the tale that makes it worth sticking around.

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The Basics

Once the game is loaded, feeble Nick is able to traverse across the map, all while battling the infected horde, saving other survivors, and fighting the franchise’s beloved psychopaths along the way. Fortunately for Nick, and maybe even more fortunately for the player, Nick steadily builds his abilities, and won’t be confined to his skillset available at the start. Shortly following the prologue, it becomes quite apparent that Nick’s mechanical know-how extends past vehicles, allowing Nick to craft various tools from his surroundings giving him health, weapons, and stat buffs. In my playthrough, I was able to construct the keg hat, granting Nick health every time he took a swig.

Gone from the previous entries is the absolute need to stock ingredients for crafting recipes, as well as books and clothing choices. Located around the world are various safehouses, many of which are teeming with the undead. Clearing them out allows Nick to access any outfit components, weapons, and non-food craftables provided he’s accessed them before. Many of the survivors found in the game’s side missions can actually be recalled here and used as allies over the course of the campaign. They aren’t invincible though, and permadeath is the name of the game, should they go down.

One of the larger departures is the new save system.  Where players could only save in the restrooms of previous entries, Dead Rising 3 allows you to save anywhere and at any time, bringing Nick to the nearest garage when the game is restarted. Saving in a safehouse restroom will return Nick to that safehouse the next time around.

Los Perdidos is the most ambitious Dead Rising map yet. Instead of taking place within the confines of a mall or casino strip, Los Perdidos allows Nick to travel the entire length of the city. What is more impressive than that is the fact that items Nick has interacted with-inventory items he’s discarded and vehicles he’s driven-stay on the map no matter how far Nick decides to travel from them. The downside to this is that many places on the map lack a strong draw to them. You may visit certain places on the map specifically for the story and side-missions or to access a safehouse, but very few places offer a memorable landmark to draw one’s attention. This can also made it problematic for me after deciding that I wanted to construct a blueprint after leaving the parts behind.

 The Bells and Whistles

Dead Rising 3 is pretty.  No more, no less. It’s graphically a cleaner game than some of the things we’ve seen at the end of the last cycle. Compared to the look of a game such as Ryse, for example, the game admittedly falls a bit short in the looks department for next gen. Much of that effort has gone into the the mechanics, some of which being the Kinect and Smartglass integration..

The Kinect hasn’t quite received an overhaul here that one would expect. Players can command survivors by pointing at the tv and using key phrases such as “scavenge” or “attack,” and the menu can be navigated through kinect commands as well. The Kinect does bear a more interesting appeal when dealing with hostiles. Zombies can be lured in a direction by using the command “over here,” and each psychopath has a particular phrase that causes them to act more erratically. This doesn’t add too much to the game, but doesn’t subtract from the experience, either.

Smartglass, on the other hand, offers a bit more to the experience. The Dead Rising 3 companion app adds additional side missions, skills, and will also allow Nick to unlock weapon caches that have been previously locked around Los Perdidos. The content is by no means necessary, but adds a neat little layer to gameplay.

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The Hits

Multiplayer returns from Dead Rising 2, but is an improvement in many areas. Player number 2 jumps into the body of Dick, a trucker passing through Los Perdidos when the infection hit.  Together, Nick and Dick can travel around Los Perdidos committing all sorts of shenanigans, even creating some vehicles that have been built to support two players. Dick isn’t just some character they made up for co-op; Dick appears in several cutscenes in the single-player campaign. Dick’s appearances are not at all affected by multiplayer though, and it’s a little disappointing that the story doesn’t shift to accommodate Dick when player 2 is present.

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The story’s shortcomings in this department can be remedied by some of the exchanges though. Any blueprints found by one player during co-op is automatically granted to both, and in the event one player gives the other a weapon they’ve yet to craft, they’ll retain access to that weapon at the weapons locker.  You’ll be unable to create it using the ingredients, but hey; the battle is half-over. Perhaps most importantly is how the story is affected by co-op. Progress made during the co-op campaign carries over to single-player.  The experience and levels remain intact, too.

While still not integral, running to a locker and changing up Nick’s clothes can still be pretty fun. In Dead Rising 1 and 2, I had never been as motivated to change up Frank and Chuck’s clothing, but the completionist in me had me grabbing as many articles as possible as I ran through the local shops on the way to the objective.  Giving me access to those clothes whenever I want made me consciously go out of my way to grab that banana hammock. It’s arguably one of the better changes made to the game.

Yup, worth it.

Yup, worth it.

The leveling systems offers more incentives later down the road.  When Nick has reached level 50, he can have life regen, a mobile locker, all books active, respawning allies, and indestructible vehicles, just to name a few. Those choices add longevity, and add more reasons to fight through hordes of zombies instead of just running through.

For the Dead Rising purist, “Nightmare Mode” is made available from the start of the game. This mode imposes the strict save options from the earlier games, shortens day, lengthens night, and even removes checkpoints from the game.

The Misses

Some of the Kinect functionality leaves much to be desired.  When fully enabled, players must shake the controller in order to shake off zombies that have gotten a firm hold on him. The problem is, the game can also pause this way, and one more shake than needed can easily pause the game amidst chaos. I recommend disabling that feature for a better experience.

The map markers don’t depict the best way to get to the destination.  This would be less of an issue, but portions of the map open up with story progression, and some of those sidequests appear but aren’t reachable until the story segments have been completed.

While co-op is a lot of fun, this is given the assumption that both parties are working together. It’s pretty annoying trying to access the weapons menu, only to have player number back me out of it by way of a 2X4 to the face.

Lastly, there are still some glitches that come close to breaking the game.  During my fight against one of the deadly sins, the psychopath became stuck outside while the battle was meant to take place indoors.  In going outside, the game treated me as though I was no longer combating the boss, and wouldn’t let me do damage to her until I went back inside, came back out, and used Kinect commands to taunt her.

The Verdict

Dead Rising 3 is a lot of fun. At the end of the day a game with more entertaining qualities than detractions affects the initial experience as well as replayability.  Dead Rising 3 offers reasons to keep playing.  The innovations over the franchise bring some new and fun things to the table.  It is surprising that the game turned out so well with the absence of series creator, Keiji Inafune, and despite the cliche of a Zombie apocalypse game, the main campaign gives a nice nod to the original Dead Rising.  If you’re looking for an open-world Xbox One title, Dead Rising 3 will make for a great addition to your catalogue.



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