Developed by Capcom Vancouver. Published by Microsoft Game Studios. Released November 22, 2013. Xbox One only.
Yep, zombies. Lately gamers just can't seem to get enough of testing themselves against the shambling undead. All manner of zombie games have been created in recent years, from top down strategy games like Atom Zombie Smasher, adventure titles like The Walking Dead and more straightforward shooters like the Left 4 Dead series. Dead Rising sought to differentiate itself from the bunch by focusing more on the numerical horde of zombies, and by applying irreverent humor to an otherwise grisly zombie apocalypse. Dead Rising 3 is the latest release in the series, and stands to be an important launch title for the Xbox One, a console it's been exclusively developed for. Largely, Dead Rising 3 sticks with its working formula, improving weapon combination mechanics and greatly expanding in size and scope, though this does come at the expense of the tone shifting back a notch towards gritty realism.
For Dead Rising 3 you'll be playing as Nick Ramos, a mechanic in the midst of a zombie outbreak in Los Perdidos, aka Not-Los Angeles. Whereas Frank and Chuck from the prior games had their own agendas and goals, Nick is simply thrust into the situation and attempts to deal with it as best he can. The military is going to bomb the city in a few days, so Nick and a crew of side characters are desperately trying to survive and search for a means out. He's not quite as interesting a protagonist as the previous two, but he does serve as a decent enough everyman. Unsurprisingly, along the way you'll begin to uncover that there is more going on than just a simple outbreak.
Dead Rising 3 takes the opportunity to expand on the series, now 10 years after the events of Dead Rising 2, even getting a little political commentary into the mix concerning illegal immigration and government monitoring. It's really just a backdrop for the gameplay though, and never particularly makes itself more than a reason to explore a new area.
Luckily exploration is easily one of the best aspects of Dead Rising 3 and you have a whole city to mess around in. There's a giant map to explore and it's littered with collectibles, side-missions and weapon combination blueprints. Just trying to track them all down while contending with the hordes of zombies is a challenging and rewarding use of your time. With the increased map size, reportedly larger than the previous two games combined, comes a bigger emphasis on vehicles in order to get around, and there's just something oh-so satisfying about the subtle crunch as you hit-and-run a group of the undead, or how your car will get slowed down when trying to pass through a particularly dense cluster and they'll start hanging on to the sides - to say nothing of when you start driving around some of the combination vehicles. A steamroller motorcycle hybrid with flamethrowers is one of the first ones you unlock, and it's one of the few things that will induce a bit of chugging to the Xbox One as the movement, particle effects, and legions of undead prove to be a little too much for the system to handle.
You can tell otherwise though that Dead Rising 3 takes advantage of pooling its resources by being developed exclusively for the Xbox One. The game is able to render a staggering number of detailed zombies on screen, and even more pushed out in the distance with less involved animations. Dead Rising 2 could put a decent amount on screen, but nowhere near the level that 3 can, and it can animate a much larger number of them as they all swarm to attack you. Few games can really capture the feeling of the zombie horde like Dead Rising 3. There's also no load times while you're just running around the map, a common gripe the the last outings.
Dead Rising 3 does run into some annoying issues, mostly pertaining to the Kinect integration. When grappled by zombies, you'll be required to either press a corresponding button to shake them off or waggle the controller. The motion required to successfully throw them off with the controller is particularly frustrating, and seems to require way more motion than is necessary. You'll practically be flaying the controller up and down to do so. There's also additional Kinect integration with various voice commands throughout the game. These can largely be ignored - I never found much need to gather a posse of voice-commanded survivors, though vocally taunting bosses is more necessary. Nothing spells fun like yelling "You're crazy" 20-30 times at your TV. You can disable some of these functions through the menu if they prove too annoying.
Nick's biggest claim to fame is his mechanical adaptability, jury rigging together all manner of zombie slaying weapons, and perhaps the biggest improvement is the emphasis on these weapons by allowing you to combine them anywhere. No longer do you need to schlep everything back to the workbench, and often the best times in the game are when you're heading towards an objective and see a weapon blueprint on the minimap. Sidetracking is often rewarded with a new weapon combination, and these blueprints are conveniently left next to exactly what you need to create them.
This leads to these fun little moments of discovery and reward, and your prize just happens to be the combination of a sledgehammer and a car battery. The combo weapons vary from the mundane to the truly outlandish and silly, and they really are the stars of the game. Combining a sawed-off shotgun and a machete seems like a practical weapon against zombies, but putting together a leaf blower and long purple "massager" makes a launcher that's fun to use against the undead for other reasons. The one thing I wish for is the freedom to simply combine items in the immediate vicinity, or to combine items with your existing inventory as you pick them up. What often happens instead is you'll have to play a tedious menu-shuffling game of dropping stuff, picking up the new items, combining them and then picking up whatever was dropped.
In addition to the story mode, there's also co-op and nightmare mode. Co-op is what it sounds like - you can jump into the game with another person and run through the story together. Any unlocks you achieve will be transferred over to your save as well. There's even a clever selection process as you enter to try and pair you with a like minded partner, so you don't get mismatched with one person trying to breeze through the story while the other wants to hunt down all the collectibles. It does quite bafflingly drop you into their world with none of your weapons, leading to some awkward downtime as you craft a few from the immediate surroundings and hope they can handle the undead in the vicinity.
Nightmare mode is a conceit to fans of the original two games, giving you less time to complete the game and restricting saving to safe houses and porta-potties. I'd recommend it if you're looking for a bit more of a challenge. The regular story mode isn't particularly difficult, and the only time I've manged to die was when I entered a co-op game that was several levels more advanced than where I currently was.
On the whole, Dead Rising 3 is a worthy successor to the series. You're given a massive amount of area to explore and you're properly rewarded for doing so. It's a shame that the tone takes a little bit of a slide back towards gritty realism, but there's still plenty of little Capcom references, and nothing is stopping you from dressing Nick up in a sports mascot uniform and throwing machine-gun-wielding robotic teddy bears at the zombies.
Bottom Line: Dead Rising 3 will likely go down as one of the quintessentially "good" launch titles seen when a new console releases. It's an exclusive title with a big open world and tons of zombies that demonstrates the power of the next gen console well.
Recommendation: Few games can really capture the feeling of the zombie horde like Dead Rising 3.