Platform: Xbox One
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Dead Rising 3 is no looker. Forget the cries of "720p!" and "30FPS!" because we don't need jargon to describe this hot mess. There are moments of beauty, but it's hard to notice them when shop signs and road markings take an age to pop into existence, animations are clunky across the board and waxy-faced NPCs frequently look less human than the zombie hordes. As such, it won't be the first game you install on your new Xbox One to show off the system.
However, this madcap slaughter sandbox deserves to be the second disc you pop into the drive... where it will likely remain for some considerable time. Dead Rising 3 is nothing less than the best next-gen console exclsuive on either system and succeeds for one simple reason. Instead of concentrating on graphics, Capcom Vancouver decided to translate the Xbox One's horsepower directly into FUN.
And zombies. Ruddy hundreds of the procedurally-generated shamblers, all of whom can be dispatched in a wonderful cornucopia of profoundly silly ways.
The Dead Rising framework remains largely unchanged. As everyman mechanic Nick Ramos, players are tasked with escaping a zombie-infested city destined to be consumed by a thermobaric fireball after six days and nights. To do so, we'll scamper around the sprawling town armed with whatever we can find, from household items to insane homemade weapons, running desperately between story events to secure an escape route and learn more about the truth behind the outbreak. Hundreds upon hundreds of zombies crowd the streets and shops, pushing the Xbox One's hardware to render an obscene sea of procedurally-designed horrors on a single screen, acting both as a terrifying threat and an obstacle to be circumvented by any means necessary, using brains and brawn.
At least, that's the plan, but as always we'll usually end up sidetracked by all manner of ridiculous side missions and emergent slaughter-fuelled gameplay. Sure, the story is serviceable enough, but wouldn't you rather spend twenty minutes blasting legions of undead with an electricity-spewing Blanka mask while wearing a shark costume and daisy dukes? Of course you would!
Dead Rising 3 takes everything we loved about the original games and ramps it up to insane levels, making it better and bigger in almost every respect. Los Perditos isn't Los Santos, but the massive town shoehorns an enormous amount of weapons, secrets and entertaining diversions into its four quadrants, linked together by a highway so packed with zombies that you'll need a vehicle to smash past them. It's a dense and rewarding fun factory with new weapons and awaiting on every corner and around every rooftop. Whether you're chasing down the story missions or hunting a pack of depraved psychopaths, tracking down skill challenges or ramping up epic killcounts by splattering entire undead legions with a steamroller, there's always something fantastically fun to do - all while persistently improving Ramos' stats and skills for future playthroughs.
Making your way past or through the breathtakingly vast zombie hordes requires agility, cunning and smarts... or alternatively an obscene level of brute force. Ramos proves to be a handy melee combatant with a range of unarmed attacks and throws, but Dead Rising 2's combo system has been taken to its illogical conclusion here. Dozens upon dozens of outrageous combo weapons can be effortlessly crafted on-the-fly, not limited to talking axes, pairs of foam mitts that crush zombie heads in a deadly applause and a shock-blasting traffic light. Vehicles, too, can be modified: from a flame-gouting steamroller-motorbike (YEAH!) to a leering street sweeping burger van that munches zombies up and spits them out.
Much of the fun of Dead Rising 3 stems from finding all of the blueprints squirrelled around the city, then using the results in several minutes of unadulterated cathartic slaughter. It never, never, gets old - especially when "Xbox, record that!" is on hand to document your shenanigans for posterity. One moment you're in control, large and in charge with a robotic LMG-equipped teddy bear watching your back, the next you're desperately fleeing for your life as the hordes threaten to overwhelm your dwindling supplies. A plate? A telly? A pizza? Anything will do in a pinch.
If you were worried about Dead Rising 3 losing its personality, you've got nothing to worry about here. In fact, the slightly grittier setting acts to make the insane combo weapons, inappropriate outfits and silly shenanigans even more zany in contrast. Cards on the table: this is where the fun is on next-gen consoles at launch.
The fun factor is magnified twofold when played cooperatively. The matchmaking system allows us to team up with a like-minded ally, taking to the streets in an orgy of unabashed ultraviolence, all while earning new combo blueprints and experience to take back to your own campaign. Even solo, a newly-retooled companion system lets us take a posse of survivors into battle, all of whom fight by your side and even man vehicle weaponry when possible. What's enjoyable alone is superb together.
Dead Rising 3 makes an effort to be more inclusive by relaxing the traditional tight time limit and save restrictions in its default mode, allowing most players to experience the campaign in their first run. It's a nice touch, but in this pundit's opinion, it's absolutely the wrong way to play. Instead, the tense and hectic nightmare mode proves to be far more rewarding, challenging you to make tough decisions about how and where to spend your valuable time, constantly on the back foot. Rather than trying to beat the game first-time, it's more fun to continually replay each attempt in completely different ways and getting distracted by new combo weapons, eventually becoming powerful enough to reach Overtime Mode and the end credits in a final glorious speedrun. A little extra work makes for a vastly increased payoff.
Kinect and Smartglass both make an appearance in subtle yet entertaining ways. Voice commands make for easy menu browsing and aggro generation when playing cooperatively, while the Smartglass app breaks the fourth wall by sending phone calls directly to your phone or tablet. If Kinect can see your controller, you'll occasionally have to shake it to deal with zombie grapples, but it's usually more convenient to mash the appropriate button.
Dead Rising 3 makes a case for being the strongest game in the series, barring a handful of new issues and a couple of irritating holdovers. Let's deal with the legacy problems first: once again, the controls make a meal of fast-moving boss fights, making certain sections much more arduous and miserable than they ever needed to be, while selecting a specific item in a cluttered room can be a ballache (after long deliberation, that really is the word for it). These flaws are as annoying as they ever were.
We also can't overlook the shocking degree of texture and detail pop-in, along with long initial load times (though the world is pleasingly contiguous). Gameplay may be infinitely more important than graphics, but we should rightfully demand better from games that have to be installed to the hard drive in their entirety. Going forward, we need to see games earning their disc space in practical, noticeable ways.
The enlarged play space also comes with a set of new drawbacks. Roughly the same number of story and side missions have been scattered across a much larger area, leading to long periods of travel time between them, especially since many streets are barricaded and impassable. Finding a specific weapon or item can be an absolute swine since the map doesn't list specific shops (admittedly mitigated by new safehouse weapon lockers) , and more annoyingly, porta-potty save points aren't listed. I've lost count of the times I've died in Nightmare Mode while desperately seeking a place to save.
But, when all is said and done, Dead Rising 3 is a cut above practically any new console launch title in videogame history. Rather than a shiny showcase, it's a great big sandbox perfect for countless hours of fun both solo and online; a rampageous, ridiculous time sink that's never less than thoroughly entertaining. Bravo, Capcom Vancouver. Bravo.
- Insane emergent fun, either solo or cooperatively
- Continuous, dense and enormous play area rammed with a spectacular number of zombies
- Addictive and cathartic combo weapons and vehicles
- Silly, unabashed, unapologetic recursive entertainment over numerous hours
- Underwhelming visual impact; rife texture pop-in and lengthy game loading screens
- Controls prove fiddly in arduous boss encounters
- Long inconvenient travel times between objectives and side missions
The Short Version: Dead Rising 3 is the essential Xbox One launch title: a rampant, ridiculous and riotous sandbox that delivers countless hours of unapologetic unrestrained fun. Rather than a pristine graphical showcase, it's a bountiful content-rich slaughter smorgasbord that encourages us to get our hands dirty in obscenely silly ways.
Despite a handful of annoyances, Dead Rising 3 absolutely brings the fun to the new console generation. "Xbox, record that!"