Dead Rising 3-1

36, 981. That’s the number of zombies I killed in Dead Rising 3. Some I sliced in half with a flaming sword, some I electrocuted with boxing gloves fused with a car battery, some I exploded with dynamite strapped to a hunk of human flesh, some I impaled with projectile dildos, and some I just pancaked into the ground with a steamroller. The beauty of 36, 981 dead zombies is that I remember almost every insane tool of destruction I used to make that mountain of rotting corpses. Dead Rising 3 may not meet the high demands of ushering in a new generation of home consoles, but taken out of that context, it is wildly entertaining where it counts: killing zombies. 

When it comes to playing Dead Rising 3, you have a decent amount of options. Most settings are self-explanatory, like Speed Run, Casual, and Hardcore. You can also experience the whole game in co-op to double the fun. If you’re a series veteran and enjoy being a masochist, the original Nightmare Mode is still there for your teeth-gnashing pleasure. I personally played it on the ‘Completionist’ setting, because I found the time constraints and limited save-slots of the first and second game to be painfully stressful. Call me a filthy casual if you want, but I preferred to explore the vast wasteland of Los Perdidos and uncover every little secret I could instead of rushing my ass through the entire campaign. I had to deal with some time-sensitive matters during my play-through, but nothing that made me feel that I had saved myself into a corner that would inevitably come back to haunt me.

As you can probably tell, I’m totally not bitter about my C-ending for the original Dead Rising. NOT AT ALL.

The setup is pretty much the same as it was in the first two games, with a few minor differences. You play Nick Ramos, a man who doesn’t have half the personality or charm of Frank West or Chuck Greene. He’s not there to cover wars or protect his daughter and instead spends most of the game whining or giving characters worried looks. He and his rag-tag group of survivors have six days to find a way out of the city before the whole place gets blown up. Sound familiar? The Dead Rising series has always been self-referential, and Dead Rising 3 gives fans plenty of treats to chew on, including a few cameos I won’t spoil. The attention to continuity is actually pretty surprising, given how ridiculous the overall plot of the series is.
As always, you kill zombies and collect PP, which is kind of like the game’s currency. The more PP you earn from killing zombies and completing missions, the more you can upgrade your character with new moves, inventory slots, extra health and so on. By the time you hit level 50, you’re basically a walking, talking tank. Challenge kind of goes out the window, but by that point, I didn’t really care. I was a zombie-killing god who couldn’t be bothered with the burden of mortality. The undead knew my name and feared it.
Having played the previous two Dead Risings, there are two instantly noticeable additions to this next-gen version. Crafting weapons was introduced in the past, but this being a sequel created under the mantra ‘bigger is better,’ crafting vehicles was the next logical step. Not exactly a bold step, but a welcome one all the same. Melding a motorcycle with a steamroller to create a fast, zombie-killing machine that mows down anything in your path—and also shoots fire for some reason because, why not?—is pure video game heaven. Dressing up as a fire-breathing dragon is pretty cool too, but it doesn’t rack up the kill-count quite as quickly.

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The other upgrade comes in the sheer number of zombies Capcom Vancouver has managed to squeeze onto the screen at once. The feeling of turning a corner and being surrounded by literally thousands of zombies screams next-gen. For the first time in the series, I actually felt like a horde could take me down if I wasn’t careful. The graphics aren’t wholly impressive and the frame-rate has a tendency to chug, but still. Thousands of zombies! Think of the possibilities.

Aside from causing general mayhem, there are hours upon hours of side-content to get lost in. It’s easy to get distracted and I often forgot all about whatever fetch quest the main game had assigned me. Whether it’s scouring stores for blueprints to create new combo weapons or completing side-quests to gain new followers, there’s plenty to do in Dead Rising 3. Survival training missions, in which you are tasked with killing as many zombies as possible by a certain means under a ticking clock, were my personal favourite activities. They also offer the coolest feature in the game. The Xbox One automatically records the footage of you completing the challenge and stores it on your hard drive for you to tinker with later. Always wished you could show your friends that time you killed five hundred zombies dressed up as Blanka from Street Fighter? Now you can. Pretty damn cool.  

Unfortunately, all that gleeful insanity completely goes out the window when Dead Rising 3 tries to create a story for the player to care about. The game grinds to a near-halt every time it goes into a cut-scene, as if the writers were dared to pack in as much cheesy melodrama as they could in a three minute window. Maybe some of the writing is tongue-in-cheek, but for the most part, the tone just doesn’t gel properly with the gameplay. It probably didn’t help that I dressed Nick up as a transvestite prostitute for most of the game (seeing him try to act serious during life-or-death scenarios gave me an intense ab work-out), but that kind of absurdity is exactly what the plot could have benefited from.  The only thing that felt more forced than the predictable government conspiracy plot is the stupid, rushed love-story. The uninteresting characters go from sharing lustful looks one minute to risking their lives and everyone else’s for one another within the span of like a day. You say soul-mates in a zombie apocalypse; I say blatant wish-fulfillment. Less talk, more chop.

There are a handful of other niggling issues. Friendly AI has been improved, but still needs to be babysat through tasks that require some semblance of basic thought processes. Boss battles are back in the way of Psychopaths, but outside one or two encounters, they lack creativity and pose no real threat. It’s the simple pleasure of shooting fireworks into a pocket of zombies and watching them fly up in the air and explode in a shower of guts that won me over, not fancy set-pieces or failed attempts at pathos. Remember rule #32 of Zombieland: Enjoy the little things.

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Let’s face it: Zombies have been done to death. Putting down the undead just isn’t what it used to be. Dead Rising 3’s greatest accomplishment is that it makes killing zombies fun again. It’s not the most polished game or evidence for ‘video games as art,’ but as a sandbox for letting the player’s twisted imagination run wild, Dead Rising 3 excels.


Final Score - 8/10

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