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Dead Rising 3 - Review
Just by looking at the promotional material for Dead Rising 3 you can see that it suffers from a severe identity crisis. The drab, washed-out post apocalypse of the title poster calls to mind The Walking Dead and World War Z. On the other hand, this is a game where you can craft a lightsaber out of a flashlight and a gem and go hack up some zombies. Hardly a gritty, end-of-the-world survival moment. And there lies the crux of the problem with Dead Rising 3: it doesn't know whether to be Dawn of the Dead or Shaun of the Dead.
It's clear where the tone should lie, Capcom's latest instalment to its relatively successful zombie-slaughtering franchise has always been about constructing ridiculous weapons and going to town on a boatload of rotting corpses. And in Dead Rising 3 it is a literal boatload. The additional power courtesy of Microsoft's new console has allowed Capcom Vancouver to put a tremendous amount of bodies onscreen at once. The first time you turn a corner and plough headlong into a horde of zombies is admittedly rather intimidating. What's perhaps even more impressive is that Capcom Vancouver manage to achieve this all without any notable frame rate stutter whatsoever.
Set after the events of the previous two games, Dead Rising 3 takes place in the fictional city of Los Perdidos. Where the first two games had you navigating the cramped confines of a shopping mall, this third instalment has newcomer Nick Ramos attempt to make his way across an entire city. The plot itself occupies that awkward middle-ground of not being too serious but at the same time never being particularly funny. Survivors will die, get bitten or turn on Nick and his band of friends but there's never any drama to it. You'd think that the game would instead go for humour but most of the cutscenes merely have characters drum out some boring exposition, or send you off on another quest. In other words, Dead Rising 3 is dull.
This leaves the ingenuity of the gameplay to make up for an indecisive tone and it's also where Dead Rising 3 at least begins to be somewhat funny. Lightsabers, electric hammers, guns that shoot out sex toys (even if, for some reason, the developers opted for the ratings-friendly term "Massager"), there's certainly plenty of fun to be had experimenting with the game's eclectic mix of zombie-bashing tools. Weapons are typically divided into melee and ranged types although some operate more along the lines of a grenade in that they're a one-use only kind of deal.
It's important to understand the different kinds too, because Dead Rising 3 has a surprisingly diverse perk system. After so many points have been accrued you can take off to the menu screen and kit yourself out with some upgrades. Some will increase your inventory slots, whilst others will make you more effective with certain kinds of weapons. Whilst the system itself is not necessarily bad, there's the question of whether or not it's relevant in a game that's key goal is to have as much gory funny as possible splatting zombies. Having to wait until you've reached level 50 simply so you can pick up that final close combat skill seems rather like an artificial barrier in this kind of game.
While killing zombies is reasonably fun, the actual mission designs themselves are incredibly repetitive. Most involve going from one spot to another, usually to pick up a random object wanted by someone, or on occasion you'll be tasked with saving a character who's been captured. The developers also use a sneaky method of padding the game out by usually situating each mission objective on the opposite side of the map to where you acquired the quest, ensuring that as much time as possible is taken up as you make your way over there. It's not helped either by making it a nightmare getting anywhere. While it's understandable that, following a zombie apocalypse, the city would hardly be exploration-friendly, the fact that many areas are blocked off by debris, and have to be reached from a completely different angle, makes for some frustrating moments.
The introduction of vehicles would have appeared to speed travel times up, but typically, cars and motor bikes are incapable of getting past certain spots, as road blocks have been placed strategically across certain areas to ensure that you have to progress across some areas on foot. Whilst this is reasonable to some degree (if they didn't, you could easily get through most of the game running down zombies in a car) it begs the question why the vehicle system was included in the first place.
Side quests also suffer from the same dull copy-and-paste structure. Completing many will reward you with a new A.I. companion who can be called on to help you, but the fact that most of the side missions are essentially the same means that you're unlikely to complete all that many of them. Of course, playing with an A.I. partner isn't the only option in Dead Rising 3, as you can easily pair up with another player online and smash zombies up together. Multiplayer is undeniably a more enjoyable way to experience the game but there's the niggling feeling that all it really does is distract you from the games repetitive combat and bland mission structure.
The decision to offload what are essentially the game's bosses onto side quests was another odd choice, since they're easily some of the most memorable moments that Dead Rising 3 has. Each encounter is built around one of the seven deadly sins, so taking on Sloth involves fighting a rich guy in his mansion who can't be bothered to get up since he's too busy playing video games. They tap into the inventive streak that also runs through the crazy array of weapons at your disposal but, unfortunately, still suffer due to the limp combat system. What's worse, is that despite looking great, they're so dull, with plenty of potential for daft humour, Capcom instead settle for some mediocre gross-out gags and not much else.
As a launch title, Dead Rising 3 probably deserves a little leeway. There's certainly elements to be impressed by and, despite some slightly awkward textures, the game runs smoothly. The problem remains however, that it's a one-trick pony, with many of its flashiest elements looking great in the trailers, but quickly devolving into the same rinse-and-repeat formula once you've been playing for any great length of time. With a more comical, Zombieland-esque tone, Dead Rising 3 could have been a great laugh, and if the combat had held just a little more interest, it may have just made exploring more of the side content a little more worthwhile. As it stands, Dead Rising 3 is less of a great leap into a new generation and more of a zombie-like shuffle.
Dead Rising 3 was released on November 22nd as a launch title for the Xbox One.
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