I’ll admit it. I’ve got a soft spot for zombies … usually right at the base of their skulls. All kidding aside, I’ve got fond memories when it comes to the Dead Rising franchise. When the Microsoft held its Zero Hour event for the launch of Xbox 360, I was there. And the first game I played on Microsoft’s next-gen console? The original Dead Rising. So, it’s almost karmic that the first game I played on the official launch of Microsoft’s latest “next-gen” is the Day One Edition of Dead Rising 3. So is Capcom’s third entry in this over-the-top undead franchise enough to pave the way for Microsoft’s transition to a new generation? It’s time to pick up the nearest power tool, stock up on some duct tape, and dive headfirst into the zombie apocalypse to find out.
Set a decade after the events of the previous game, Dead Rising 3 introduces a world where the zombie plague is rampant, but seemingly controlled. Those infected are required to be surgically implanted with a special chip that automatically dishes out doses of the infection delaying drug Zombrex every 24 hours, while also allowing them to be tracked via an imbedded GPS. Dead Rising 3 picks up three days into an outbreak in the city of Los Perdidos. Nick Ramos, a local mechanic, is part of a small group of survivors looking for a way out of the citywide quarantine, when he learns that the government is planning to firebomb the city in six days. With all evacuation checkpoints overrun by zombies and a government sanctioned annihilation on the way, it’s up to Nick to figure out a way to get himself and other survivors out of the city before time runs out.
One of the things the Dead Rising franchise has always been known for has been its over the top creativity and absurdity. Any game can have the hero bash in a zombie’s skull … but it’s only in the Dead Rising games that you can expect to rush into danger wearing a pink tutu and dropping a servbot head onto an unsuspecting zombie before slashing it to bits with a laser sword. Dead Rising 2 upped the stakes with the addition of that staple of Mythbusters and MacGuyvers all over the world: duct tape. Grab a few items, slap ‘em together, and suddenly you’ve turned a kayak paddle into a death machine with two chainsaws strapped to the ends. Dead Rising 3 takes this absurdity to a whole new level, as Nick can apparently use his skills as a mechanic to instantly piece together entire vehicles. What’s that? You’ve got a steamroller and a motorcycle in the same vicinity? Well, give Nick just a few seconds with his trusty blowtorch and into a fire-breathing, steamrolling death machine that would make Mad Max feel inadequate.
A motorbike crossed with a steamroller and armed with flamethrowers? Sure, why not?
Despite the masses of zombies and the crazed psychopaths that populate the Dead Rising games, they’ve never been the biggest enemy players faced. That honor belongs to the ever ticking clock, counting down to inevitable doom. Whether it was Frank West rushing through Willamette Parkview Mall to rescue key characters before making a mad dash to rescue chopper or Chuck Greene’s speed runs through Fortune City resort to ensure his daughter had her required daily dose of Zombrex, the clock was always running out for our heroes. Dead Rising 3 eases up on those time constraints. Sure, there are still looming deadlines, such as side missions to collect specific items and convince survivors to join your cause. And of course, there’s the big deadline that pesky pending carpet bombing of the city. But by and large, you have the freedom to explore the nooks and crannies of Los Perdidos and take in the scope of the zombie outbreak. And even if you should happen to miss a deadline, you can always restart any previous chapter, instead of restarting the entire game. For the more masochistic Dead Rising fans, there’s still the optional Nightmare mode, which puts the timer back into play and forces players to save at restrooms and porta potties as in the previous Dead Rising games.
Let’s be honest here, Dead Rising 3 isn’t the prettiest game out on the Xbox One at the moment. It’s not a bad looking game by any means, but it’s not got the polish and detail of other “next-gen” titles available. However, what it lacks in quality, it MORE than makes up for in quantity. Ask any zombiephile and he’ll tell you, it’s not the single zombie you’ve got to worry about … it’s the overwhelming horde. Dead Rising 3 exemplifies this right from the start, as crowds of the undead swarm around Nick as he makes his way to the safehouse. Things only get worse from there, thanks to the fact that your weapons and vehicles all have a finite durability. There’s little that’s as terrifying as being get stuck right in the middle of hundreds of zombies all pawing at you for a piece of your tasty living flesh at the exact moment your favorite weapon decides to break.
Of course, fighting your way through the undead masses, rescuing survivors, and taking on other challenges scattered around Los Perdidos earns Nick some valuable experience, or Prestige Points (PP), which can be traded in to boost certain character traits and help Nick survive his experience. Plus, Nick doesn’t have to make a go of it alone. Dead Rising 3 features drop in, drop out cooperative gameplay, allowing friends to jump into each others’ games and lend a helping hand as Dick Baker, another survivor teamed with Nick from the start of the game. Co-op play is a win/win situation, as any items collected, PP earned, and even chapters completed when playing in someone else’s game carry over into your own, making it a great way to boost your own chances for survival.
Despite the fact that Dead Rising 3 isn’t the best looking belle at the next-gen ball, it’s certainly got all the right moves. The most important thing in a game is that it be entertaining. And whether you’re cruising down the Los Perdido streets in a custom built, well-armed clown faced street sweeper or gallivanting around with an electrified sledgehammer while wearing a lucha libre outfit, Dead Rising 3 is nothing if not entertaining. A definite must-have start for Xbox One owners’ budding next-gen library.