Dead Rising 3 (Xbox One) Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 11.28.2013
Capcom Vancouver releases the first zombie game for the Xbox One in Dead Rising 3! But does the latest entry in the satirical survival horror franchise deliver a next-generation winner? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
Game: Dead Rising 3
Genre: Survival Horror
Players: 1 (with Online Co-Op)
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Format: Xbox One
Rated: Mature (Blood & Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol)
There are few subgenres as prevalent within video gaming as that of zombies. Zombies are everywhere and have been for years, whether you are talking survival horror (Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead), MMORPGs (the Forsaken in World of Warcraft), first person shooters (Call of Duty's zombie packs), tower defense (Plants vs. Zombies), open world (Dead Island, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare) and of course Telltale's graphic adventure take on The Walking Dead. You almost cannot play video games without running across a shambling corpse these days. One of the kings of the genre has been Dead Rising of course, the third-person action franchise which has steadily grown, game by game. With the launch of the Xbox One Capcom Vancouver has gone ambitious, taking the series' satirical view of the zombie genre into an ever-more expansive environment to serve as one of the potential highlights for the next-generation system's launch.
Dead Rising 3 takes place about ten years after the saga of Chuck Greene and Fortune City, Nevada and is set within the city of Los Perdidos, California. (We're now fifteen years after Frank West and the original Dead Rising, for those keeping score.) In the wake of Fortune City's fall, the ZDC (Zombie Defense and Control), a government agency to deal with the zombie plague, has instituted a policy "encouraging" (i.e. requiring) all infected individuals to be implanted with a chip which tracks them via GPS and contains the anti-zombie drug Zombrex. Those who do not get chipped are in violation of the law and considered "illegals." In the city of Los Perdidos, a massive zombie outbreak begins and within seventy-two hours the entire city is infested with the undead. Survivors are trapped inside the city and have not only the whole of the zombie horde to deal with--and make no mistake, the horde is unspeakably large--but also the oh-so-minor concern that in a matter of a few days the military is going to wipe out the city and its inhabitants via an aerial strike.
In Los Perditions, the residents call this a "minor zombie horde."
The game focuses on Nick Ramos, a mechanic who pulls himself off the side of the road around that seventy-two hour mark. He quickly realizes how dire of a situation that he's in and soon finds himself with a group of survivors, trying to navigate the thousands of ravenous corpses trying to turn them into dinner. As they attempt to find a way out of the city, Nick runs across everyone from crazy organ harvesters and families in peril to a group of "illegals" trying to uncover the truth. Through all of these adventures, he starts to get a semblance of exactly what's going on and why those chips which the ZDC claims to be the best thing for the zombie apocalypse might just be the worst idea yet. And of course, with the clock ticking, he has to get himself and his newly found friends and allies out of Los Perdidos before they go up in flames along with this industrial-sized zombie outbreak.
If you're new to Dead Rising's particular brand of apocalypse, then some of the storyline may come off as a bit odd. Capcom Vancover's narrative for their latest entry is not as overt in its patented brand of zombie parody at first, and it takes a little while for the satire to become obvious. For those who are more familiar, the earlier parody elements may be more obvious. The story takes shots at all the tropes of post-apocalyptic and zombie humor, from Road Warriors-style punks who run roughshod across particular zones and oversexed dominatrix villainesses to the obvious government conspiracy and freedom fighters. And each of these elements is simultaneously treated as serious and yet skewered in their own unmistakable ways. The storyline of the campaign mode is delightfully weird and over-the-top which allows for a few chuckles along with the horror and high-stakes action.
None of that is much of a surprise for fans of the genre; what really makes for a surprise is how well-developed some of the characters are. Nick may be sort of a stock hero at times (of the morally-supercharged Rick Grimes type) but there is a solid amount of progression to his character, while there are hosts of side "survivor" characters who are all fully detailed with voice acting. They're brought to life with both cutscreens and in-game work, and while the cutscenes are not the most beautiful that the young console has to offer yet, they are obviously a significant upgrade from the Xbox 360. This isn't perfect work by any stretch; some of the videos encountered rare stuttering during my playthrough and there were a few issues with objects suddenly appearing during gameplay--often while driving, which made it oh-so-fun for them to be crashed into when I didn't know they were there. These are minor video quibbles though, all in all.
In terms of gameplay, Capcom has kept with what works, with some improvements. The combat and mission system remains similar to that of Dead Rising 2, albeit with an emphasis on two things: freedom and variety. Away from the confines of a mall and within a giant open-world city, missions are not simply side quickies to rescue a survivor and bring them back to the safe house or battle a psychopathic mini-boss. Both of those are present of course, but there is far more variety to that. Some of the survivors need you to accomplish tasks for them, while others want an escort somewhere. These side missions are not integral to the main mission, but some of the survivors will join you on your journeys and they all have their own personalities and even skill sets. It's a big leap forward from the solid but somewhat rudimentary side missions of the previous game, maintaining that style but adding more options.
"More" is a big theme of the overall game, really. There is a more detailed skill development system, more of the combo weapons (and combo vehicles as well), and above all: more zombies. Los Perditions is a far more expansive open world environment than we saw in the previous games and while it may lack the overall digital square footage of some other open world games, it makes up for that with the amount of threat lurking around every corner. It really amps up the tension when you turn around a street corner to see that the area is swarming with tens (if not three digit numbers' worth) of zombies and you're at the last few swings of your weapon.
If side missions aren't your thing and you want a break from the main mission, there are other side things to do as well. Among them are the Survival Challenges, which will earn you points toward leveling Nick and getting more points for the character skills. You can try to take out a certain amount of zombies with combo weapons, for example, or see how many you can mow down with your vehicle of choice in a certain time limit. These add to the game's replay factor, making sure that you always have something to bide your time with.
"How's My Driving? Dial 1-800-ZOMBIE1"
What really sets Dead Rising 3 apart from other zombie games of course, aside from the next-generation platform status, is the game's sense of humor. Those satirical elements infest the game and if that wasn't enough lunacy for you, there are always the equipment and combo weapons. There's nothing like the low-rent humor of combining a leaf blower and a "vibrating massager" to create a sex toy projectile system that send zombies to the ground with a pink squiggling thing poking out of their heads while you're dressed in a suit of medieval armor or a mariachi costume. Capcom Vancouver also decided to give players a break and instead of needing to find a safe house bathroom every time you want to save, you can save your progress at any time. (For players who want to go hardcore, Nightmare Mode institutes a hard time limit and cuts out the "save anywhere" option.)
Not everything is flawless, of course. As one of the first Xbox One games, the Kinect voice commands can be a little temperamental. The game incorporates the system's new capabilities to allow you to vocalize commands for things like dropping your currently-held item or shouting at the zombies to get your attention. You can even inadvertently draw zombies with loud enough noises while you're playing. In theory these are great but they don't always work quite like it appears to have been intended. In addition, the map of Los Perdidos leaves a lot to be desired. Some of the time following the map (which covers multiple levels of the highway among other things) will get you lost or turn you down a dark alley into a horde of hungry death. In addition, zooming is inexplicably inconsistent; some areas only allow you to zoom in so far and others can get very close indeed. These are relatively minor flaws but they do detract, particularly by the seventh time you die because of the map.
"How did we get this out of a steamroller and motorcycle?"
"Stop asking questions and start throwing Molotovs."
- Engaging storyline that gives you the opportunity to roam
- Expansive, open-world environment where danger lurks at every corner
- Solid character skill development system
- Good mix of zombie horror and zombie comedy
- The map will drive you insane and get you killed
- Occasional video stuttering
- Kinect commands are a bit twitchy
Capcom's latest foray into zombies with Dead Rising 3 is a next-generation game that, while not the kind which will test the limits of the new Xbox One's technology, makes a great starting game for the system. The game's open world environment and enjoyable storyline provide a lot of room for exploration and fun while maintaining a tone that slides between horror and comedy quite well. A few minor technical issues keep the game from being perfect but still allow for a hell of a lot of fun. You won't be likely to get bored until your zombie kill count is in the thousands.
The visuals are obviously a marked improvement and while they don't stretch the capability of the system they're quite good, apart from minor technical problems.
Gameplay is simple without being overly easy and allow you to have fun without getting too frustrated.
Voice acting is good throughout and zombie moans quickly become something to be feared.
There's a lot of replay factor thanks to the engaging side missions and survival challenges; you'll always have something to do.
The mix of horror and comedy blend in well for a great open world action game.