With the next generation of consoles finally here, so begins the hunt for that perfect showcase game – The one that you can pop into your shiny new piece of tech and validate the hundreds of dollars that you just invested into the next decade of gaming. What game will lead the charge on the Xbox One? Dead Rising 3 is not that title. Despite coming from a successful upbringing on the Xbox 360 and providing much of the console’s pre-launch buzz, Dead Rising isn’t going to immediately evoke feelings of hardware superiority. In truth, many aspects of the game just feel loose. So why then, is it so hard to put this game down and wipe the smile off your face?
For those unfamiliar with the Dead Rising series, each game places the player in the role of a survivor, stranded in the middle of a zombie apocalypse with an ever-present time limit staring them in the face. In this iteration you take control of Nick Ramos, a mechanic looking for a way out of the overrun city of Los Perdidos with a group of like-minded survivors. Unlike previous titles in the series, the third outing drops the player into an open-world city setting, giving them a greater sense of freedom as they explore this decaying civilization.
From the greater focus on vehicles to the inclusion of a new mode that removes the stress of the previous games’ time restrictions and implements a quick save option, the developers clearly want the player to explore Los Perdidos however they want. Unlike Willamette Mall and Fortune City from the previous games though, the zombie threat is much heavier in Dead Rising 3. Making use of the Xbox One’s power, the number of zombies on screen at any given time can be truly overwhelming – So much so that at times that Dead Rising 3 can be one of the most claustrophobic gaming experiences, with moaning zombies pressing in on all sides. In this way, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better zombie survival experience. This feeling is only strengthened when jumping into the game’s silky-smooth co-op mode, which allows players to explore all of Los Perdidos online with one other player.
What would hordes of hungry zombies be without the tools to dispatch them though? While you can pick up nearly anything you could imagine littering the post-apocalyptic cityscape, it’s the newly-overhauled combination system that takes the spotlight. As players explore the city, they find schematics that allow them to combine items and vehicles into the most insane weapons imaginable, like a giant mechanical teddy bear wielding an assault rifle and a boom box. With so many different weapons, it’s a relief to see that almost every one feels unique with its own benefits and weaknesses. These schematics also add a sense of pacing to the game’s open world. No matter what you’re doing, it always feels like there’s a newer and crazier weapon combination to be found around the next corner. This feeling of discovery is downright infectious as it keeps pulling you back in with the prospect of a new toy to dismember with.
From the weapons, to the zany costumes you can deck Nick out in, to the aptly-named “psychos” who act as the game’s bosses, there’s no shortage of schlock and humor in Dead Rising 3. Counter to the insanity that the player has available at their fingertips, the story is standard zombie movie fare, complete with heavy-handed acting. Frankly, it’s nothing much to write home about and could deter players looking for a deeply emotional story. It’s when you dress Nick up in a banana-hammock, go-go boots and horse head and watch the overly-serious story play out around this monstrosity that you understand why you’re playing the game. It’s by no means a serious ride. It’s a farce, and a fun one at that. It demands the player’s participation and gives back only what they are willing to put in.
While the weak story may be a sore point for some players, this isn’t the full extent of the game’s flaws. Graphically, Dead Rising 3 doesn’t push the limits of the technology much more than the top-tier games of last generation. It serves its purpose, but is not likely to stand as a showcase of the Xbox One’s power. In addition to this, the series has done little to rectify the loose controls that have plagued its previous iterations. Precise platforming and picking up specific items in the environment while under pressure can be downright frustrating. It’s by no means a perfect game. The core game design has changed little from the first iteration and at times can feel quite clunky, and yet the immense amount of glee that comes from playing with all the game’s weapons and vehicles makes all those frustrations feel trivial.
It’s no surprise that Dead Rising 3 is not a game for everyone. That fact has become synonymous with the series. While it may not push the boundaries of next-gen in the conventional graphical sense, Dead Rising manages to do something special for the Xbox One’s launch lineup. It may not be the hardware showcase that people want but rather, it is that rare gem that, despite all its flaws, remains an immense joy to play. The world feels oppressive and, while the story may not hook you, it’s clear that great care was put into crafting a zombie-killing experience that plays like the perfect blood-soaked sandbox. It’s far from perfect, but there’s no doubt that Dead Rising 3 stands as one of the most fun gaming experiences in the next generation so far.
Dead Rising 3 is available now, exclusively on Xbox One.