Review: Dead Rising 3 Brings the Franchise Back From the Dead
What number of zombies do you think constitutes a horde? 20?30?50? Dead Rising 3 disregards your pitiful numerical notions by being able to produce literally hundreds of flesh-eaters onscreen at any given moment. Most people (me included) were curious to see how Dead Rising 3 manages to breathe life into a otherwise rotten corpse of a franchise.
In the world of Dead Rising, zombies are just a way of life. After the outbreaks of at the Willamette Mall (Dead Rising) and Fortune City (Dead Rising 2) the nation has done what they can in order to control the zombie pandemic. Infected persons are required by law to be implanted with Zombrex chips that tracks their location and gives them a daily doze of Zombrex to keep them from turning into decomposing people eaters.
Fast-forward ten years and another outbreak has ravaged the city Los Peridos. You play super nice-guy mechanic Nick Ramos. He and a group of survivors have seven days to escape the city before the government wipes Los Peridos off the face of the map via a huge bomb. Nick has to fight psychos, find supplies and also find out what caused the outbreak. Dead Rising 3 is mostly campy and retains the humor while having surprisingly dark tone that often falls a little flat.
Dead Rising 3 feels like a campy zombie movie littered with gore and over the top villains. The voice acting is well done while delivery insanely cheesy dialogue and each character you come across–including the psychopath bosses–all are surprisingly charming. What doesn’t work is when the game tries to dip its toe into any semblance of drama. The later half of the campaign is when the campaign really comes together and the surprise reveals towards the end should make Dead Rising fans happy.
The biggest improvement overall is the ability to have Nick combine two normal everyday items into bombastic super-weapons on the fly. This allows you to try every weapon combination at least once than having to trek back all the way to work bench like in the previous iteration. Throughout the city there over 100 blueprints for weapons that are usually more ridiculous then the next.
An early favorite of mine was Roaring Thunder which is the combination of a Blanka Mask and a car battery. The result is having electric attacks reminiscent of Blanka’s special moves from Street Fighter 2. I also appreciated the fact that every new blueprint has all the components you need in order to make that weapon right in the same room you’re standing in.
I think it’s safe to say that Nick lacks in the coordination department. Fashioning super weapons with crazy fire and lighting effects tend to over shadow rather clunky fighting and movement controls. You’ll hit partners almost all the time when swinging larger weapons. The targeting reticule is slow to aim and firing from the hip has this this weird auto-targeting that doesn’t always shoot the closest enemy. You won’t notice the bad controls since you’ll be fighting slow zombies for most of the game. It’s when you fight humans, who dodge and roll out of the way of attacks, that make you realize something isn’t right.
Los Peridos is a huge city that comprised four neighborhoods that are connected by highways and tunnels. Trying to get across on foot isn’t recommended especially at night when zombies before stronger and more aggressive. Thankfully Nick is a top notch mechanic who can also combine vehicles into even more awesome vehicles. If you don’t believe me, I dare you to not enjoy flattening zombies with your motorcycle with a steam roller front wheel.
While Nick’s mechanical skills border on godlike, his driving skills are by far the worst ever. The vehicles controls are way too loose which makes navigating turns, zombies and general debris a driving hell. Early on, cars can’t take much abuse and careless driving will leave you stranded on the highway trying to bob-and-weave past hundreds of zombies.
When you’re cruising around Los Peridos in your car that fires acid missiles you may come across other survivors who may need your help. You could be a jerk and ignore them but Nick isn’t that kind of guy. Assisting survivors will mostly net you experience points and if you’re lucky certain survivors will join your cause. Survivor partners are useful for the most part and all have different individual stats. They also don’t seem to die as easily as previous Dead Risings. It helps that you can equip them with most weapons to improve their survival rate.
The staple of every Dead Rising game is the idea of working against the clock. You have seven days in order to “beat” the game or least get enough of the campaign done in order to get one of the good endings. Theoretically you could just wander around like a crazy person and wait for the bomb to drop. That just seems like a pretty grim way to play the game.
The one thing you’ll notice is you can, more or less, get everything you want done before the seven-day deadline on normal mode. Even with the bigger world, there are only a handful missions you physically can not get due to their time expiring. The sense of urgency isn’t there in normal mode.
These sides missions award huge chunks of experience, the locations of secret weapon and/or health stashes. For instance, one mission you get from Chef Jorge Ruiz ends with him crafting you the “Master Dog” for escorting him to a working kitchen. Overall, there’s a lot of charming side-missions that are easily missed by some of the mediocre “go get this thing” quests that pollute the mission pool.
Another huge improvement for Dead Rising 3 are the new Safe Rooms. There are about half a dozen Safe Rooms sprinkled throughout the city. Safe Rooms contain a clothes locker that will change outfits in case fighting zombies in a tutu and knight’s helm is more your speed. The weapon lockers are a welcome addition in my book as any item that you pick up in the world appears in your locker. The survivor board also allows you to manage your survivors to come help you out. You never feel unprepared knowing that a Safe Room is close by.
Drop in and drop out Co-op is back and better than ever. A buddy can join in via Xbox Live and having that extra person really helps with a lot of the tedious side missions. A co-op partner of mine jumped on top of my hybrid forklift-van with a turret that shot fireworks. In the hour that he or she joined me we killed over 2,000 zombies and took down three psychopaths with relative ease. We were also dressed like cops. It was neat.
Psychopaths are the highlight encounters you’ll come across in the world. Some are triggered by time or story progression while others are sparked by completing certain side missions. Psychopaths are unique boss fights featuring crazies following the seven deadly sins theme. Sadly the boss fights themselves are almost just dodging a special move and getting behind them. There’s also taunts you can shout at your Kinect to throw them off balance. The disturbing intro and gruesome end of every psychopath are worth seeking out.
Dead Rising 3 is the game Dead Rising 1 and 2 was supposed to be. When you see hundreds of uniquely rendered zombies in a world with no load screens, it shows you something that couldn’t be done in the last generation. Things like the frustrating save and checkpoint system that has always plagued the franchise are improved.
The game’s scope, over-the-top weapons and surprisingly enjoyable story all trump the tedious mission slogs and sluggish controls. The idea of charging headfirst into a slow marching horde of 300 zombies with a flaming sword is still ridiculous and satisfying.