Dead Rising 3 is a Third Person Action game that has us take on the role of newcomer to the series, Nick Ramos, as he fights to survive in the city of Los Perdidos. Right from the start, we end up in quite the sticky situation and already near death as we are taught the basics of the game as well as its new features. One of the first being that we now have a light and heavy attack instead of a single button as in the prior titles, making combat feel far more fluid than ever before. The most immediate change one will quickly notice is the sheer jump in graphical fidelity with both environments and zombies having a ton more detail. This newly found leap in visual quality does not sacrifice the amount of zombies you’d see at once that the franchise is known for, in fact, there are more undead than ever to slay.
As you pick up a wrench, an axe, or whatever you can find in that opening area to defend yourself with, you will soon find out just how much more satisfying it is to bash, slash and slice apart due to the dynamic physics. The angle at which you chop a zombie at is now taken into account, and it is quite impressive to see the zombies insides or simply them flying across the room when you hit them with a sledgehammer. There are many other factors Dead Rising 3 takes little time in showing off in its leap onto next-gen consoles with the PC version having many graphical options to take it further. Unfortunately, it is locked at 30fps and even though the framerate can be unlocked via a small tweak, having a computer that can pump out over 60fps will completely break the game in strange ways. Having Vsync on is necessary in that case, and minor glitches will still occur for unlocking it.
Perhaps the biggest and most welcome change is in the game world itself which is no longer divided into areas that require a loading screen. The whole city of Los Perdidos can be traveled about with no interruptions though it is spread across four islands connected via highways. This city while a bit on the small side is packed to the brim with tons of little details, collectibles and unique things to see. There are plenty of indoors environments you can seamlessly walk into during your travels, and they too have small touches to them such as music and items appropriate to the location. Zombies won’t just kindly stand outside either, they will tear town fences, windows or anything they can to shamble inside and swarm you. It is just so much fun to explore every nook and cranny, getting yourself into dangerous situations and leaping from rooftop to rooftop to get yourself out of it.
With its verticality opening up a new layer of areas to scrounge about, we also have far more vehicles scattered about to navigate long distances. Our protagonist Nick is a mechanic, and while he cannot fix any cars, he sure can meld them together to create many wacky vehicles to ride around town in and terrorize the undead. Zombies sure don’t stand around waiting to get run over anymore, this time around they will leap and stick onto your car, smashing away at it with their fists. Having a ton of them clinging to your ride and mashing away at its exterior is bad enough, but if one is near the driver’s seat, they will force you into a quick time even unless you get them off. Yeah, doesn’t sound all too threatening until you realize you still have to drive and all you can see is the zombie gnashing its teeth towards your arm. The only way to get them off of your car is to make sharp and sudden movements or try to scrape them off with another object you drive past.
Driving could have easily been great fun though a single aspect will annoy you to the point of rather being on foot. There are so many needless roadblocks everywhere, and it makes navigating the city feel like going through a poorly designed maze. Rarely can one drive more than a couple of seconds in one direction and trying to actually reach a destination will have you pulling up a map an absurd amount of times. It is probably designed this way to give the illusion that the world is bigger than it is but it is done in an extremely poor manner. At the very least time will no longer be something we have to race against as we have more than enough to complete everything in one go with plenty to spare. And survivors no longer need to be escorted back to a safe place which are both bad things for fans of the series.
There are two types of survivors. The kind that randomly spawn in and you need to clear the zombies around them for experience points or the ones with an actual mission. The first pop up so frequently that they quickly lose any meaning while the latter is severely flawed at times. In exchange for the escort quest of old, now we have a bunch of pointless filler, more fitting for an MMO. The sheer amount of times that some random survivor tells you to gather five of an arbitrary object is staggering and just as tedious as it sounds. Not all survivor missions are fetch quests though the majority are and others don’t require any items but need you to do a certain action five times such as in killing a zombie in a sacrifice circle during a graveyard mission. One did come out of left field however and had you escorting a terminally ill cancer patient around town to relive her memories of the 50’s which did pull at the heartstrings though that was the exception.
Your reward for completing survivor quests are experience points, and at times they may even join you. Survivors that join you can be dismissed and recruited again in a safe house. How many you can have with you is depends on you apply your attribute points that you receive when you level up. It is a neat feature to have a small army at your back, and the AI is much improved from previous titles, making them able to keep up with you. They are not the best fighters but small touches like giving them a food item no longer causes them to drop their weapons makes it easy to micromanage them. Finishing the story with them alive no longer grants you any extra experience so feel free to risk their lives to scour the area for collectibles such as the Frank West statutes.
I never found myself needing any type of help nor did I ever come close to dying since this entry into the series is much easier than past titles. This is in large part due to the liberal placement of items both around the city and in psychopath battles. You no longer need to have any preparations in place and make decisions as to how many melee & ranged weapons to take, as well as the amount of health items you can afford to fill your limited inventory with. One can literally walk into a psychopath battle with nothing but their bare hands and still come out the victor since every one of their arenas will have health items and weapons scattered about. Not to mention that it is now extremely clear which missions have a psycho to fight, effectively killing those moments where you walk into something you are in no way prepared for.
A large portion of the psychopaths we will face don’t feel like actual people that have lost their minds. Yes, the series has had its fair share of ridiculous fights such as Adam, the obese clown that can jump a dozen feet in the air and can deflect gunshots with his chainsaws. The actual fights have always been outlandish, but the point they completely missed is that the psychos typically had some sort of motive or reason for their downfall. In Dead Rising 3 they just feel like a hamfisted way to get a message across such as the fat American or lazy rich people. Some are decent, but for the most part, this aspect of the game has taken a turn for the worse. The main story doesn’t escape from having bad characters either. Most of the people you meet are both unbearable jerks and angsty, all too content on having a field day and taking advantage of our character Nick who never stands up for himself.
Fine, so near everyone is someone you wouldn’t mind drop kicking down a flight of stairs. The other issue is that the missions are mostly fetch quests or completely drab. Its story certainly isn’t going to save it either. As an example, one of the most surprising moments I’ve had is when Nick said “You were the closest thing I’ve had to family” to a character who we were never even hinted at that he knew before the outbreak, turning what was meant as an emotional moment into pure confusion. I did like how it handled the progression of time with the old characters that show up later on even though it desperately made me want to play as one of them instead of Nick who is the Dead Rising equivalent to Shaggy from Scooby Doo. The guy is constantly shown as clumsy and is practically afraid of his own shadow, making the contrast between effortlessly mowing down thousands of undead and cowering to some overweight guy in a Hawaiian shirt a bit much.
His cowardliness seeps into the gameplay itself whenever a zombie is alerted to his presence causing Nick to say “Oh no!” for the thousandth time while dramatic music builds up. They were trying to turn him into a relatable, vulnerable character but that never occurs since can pull out a weapon like gas propelled boxing gloves and Shoryuken them straight to oblivion. It makes it more of an annoyance every time the music kicks up, and Nick says something out of place before seeing how many zombies he can kill with his bare hands. I can spend more time bashing on the characters and the dry, soulless missions but let’s just end it with saying that those are not the reasons you’ll want to keep playing this game. Your main motivation will be in exploration and the insane amounts of ways you can put the undead down for good.
Much like Chuck from the previous game, Nick can craft two weapons together to create an insane new combo. This is the type of game where strapping grenades to the edge of a sledgehammer seems like a good idea and man, is it glorious. There are over 100 new crazy combo weapons to create, and Nick doesn’t need a workbench to create them. Simply have two ordinary weapons in your inventory, and you can duct tape them together into a wonderful abomination on the spot. Blueprints for outlandish creations are scattered all throughout the city, making exploring that much more rewarding. Zombie killing has never been so much fun, and you can even bring a friend along for the ride via online coop as you cause chaos in the city. Each player can complete side quest on their own but both need to be present to progress on a main mission. The fetch quests are less annoying with a mate to help, but it is certainly still not fun.
One of the new additions I had mixed feelings about were the different zombie variants including the damage sponge fireman and the cops or soldiers that can shoot you. The undead capable of shooting you does so in a fashion that doesn’t feel cheap or like fighting human opponents, making them blend rather well with regular zombies. Fireman on the other hand while cool to look at simply take too much damage to bring down. You can simply run past them so it’s no big deal and the rest of the zombie variants do go down with a reasonable amount of damage. Like much of the world that they stuffed little details into, the location zombies spawn receives an equal amount of care. Drive past a wrecked prison bus and you are likely to see some prisoners then walk past a school and you’ll likely have zombies with football gear on charging towards you. The small things like this really add up and keep every location feeling unique. Just driving down a street, you’ll find a ton of cool stuff and quirks that make any area instantly recognizable.
I’m a big fan of this style of open world, in where the map is small but jammed with details and personality instead of a giant, empty world. You can’t explore in every house however, there are certain places you can only get into after you complete a survivor mission. Found throughout the map are numerous safe-houses you can clear out to change your clothes into any that you’ve found across your travels, call forth a survivor to back you up if you have any and mind-boggling enough a weapons locker that lets you spawn in any weapon you want. That last one is taking the casualization of the franchise one step too far in my opinion and is available straight from the beginning. Just build or find a weapon then you can spawn in as many as you want without anything in exchange. No longer do you have to hunt for parts, and it extinguished the last bit of depth this game had aside from wanton zombie slaughter. It makes an already easy game into a joke and the psychos even less of a threat.
There is a Nightmare mode where you can only save in safehouses and portable toilets instead of anywhere you want, things take and receive more damage, and time flowing far faster. This is an attempt to make it feel more like a Dead Rising title though it does not work all too well, particularly with the time aspect. The game wasn’t designed to be played in such a manner and merely making time pass by four times as fast doesn’t make collecting five random objects anymore enjoyable or engaging. When you get tired of playing as Nick, you can jump into the DLCs from the main menu and play as a new character. They are completely story based, and each new protagonist can all do whatever Nick can such as combining cars and weapons. Any experience you gain playing as him will carry over to him as well so playing them does grant benefits.
Only one DLC character called Kane was even slightly interesting, the rest were what you’d expect from this title. There are four DLC episodes to play through, and while some are better than others, they are worth checking out. Killing zombies, completing missions and finding collectibles will be your primary sources of gaining more experience points or as it’s called in here “PP”. Leveling up has taken an interesting turn in that you can now choose where you place your points in. You can put them towards giving you more health, having more ammo on ranged weapons and building combo weapons with any similar components to name a few. Its a really good change that makes you eagerly await the next time you level up and to keep on exploring and experimenting. Like nearly all good things in Dead Rising 3, this one has a downside as well. There is only one save slot, so if you want to start a fresh game at level one to play with a friend new to the game, you’ll have to delete the one you’ve been building up.
Dead Rising 3 is without a doubt heavily flawed and a mixed bag. It is stuck between trying the please the fans and attempting to get newcomers to give it a chance. It, unfortunately, leans far more towards the latter and loses quite a bit of what made the original titles appealing. At the same time, it offers the best zombie-slaying experience that the franchise has to offer and a world just as interesting to explore. What it comes down to is what exactly you liked about the originals because if it was dressing up in weird outfits and finding new creative ways to torment the undead, this has that in spades. It may look dark and gloomy, but it is actually the silliest entry yet despite the obnoxious characters. If you are simply looking for a sandbox this will definitely fit the bill and is one you’ll easily lose many hours to, especially with a friend on board.