Dead Rising 3 Review: This is our city of the dead
Dead Rising was one of the first marquee exclusives for the Xbox 360 platform. Its premise was simple: use anything and everything possible to escape a zombie infested mall in under 72 hours. It delivered an enjoyable, albeit brief and repetitive, experience. That experience has since been expanded on, first in 2010’s Dead Rising 2 and now the Xbox One launch title Dead Rising 3. That expansion has resulted in a bigger game in terms of both scope and narrative. Our sandboxes have grown, the zombie count has risen, and the story has progressed. Still, Dead Rising 3 is an excellent case of bigger not always equaling better.
You are Nick Ramos, a mechanic living in the city of Los Perdidos during a zombie outbreak. As Nick doesn’t wish to be left stranded with hundreds of thousands of zombies, he’s decided to take a permanent vacation with friends and family. As you’ll discover through the game’s story, getting out isn’t exactly easy; there are clichéd plot twists and turns out of left field in your way.
Developer Capcom Vancouver decided to (mostly) throw away the game’s light hearted and campy attitude for something of a more mature and serious nature. The result is a low-end b-rate narrative at best. Given the game’s emphasis on its story, not to mention the way it takes itself so seriously, cut scenes are a chore. They’re filled with empty and shallow characters who come and go far too quickly, making it impossible to develop any type of attachment. While Dead Rising 3 puts this great emphasis on its story from the game’s opening minutes, we thankfully don’t have to. By turning down the audio and proclaiming “Xbox snap Netflix,” a vexing plot becomes virtually non-existent; you’ll still have to manually bypass the cut scenes, but thankfully you’re able to do this.
If I’m harping too much on the game’s story, that’s because it’s a polar opposite of the game. New hardware, more zombies; the on-screen count is, at times, both staggering and intimidating. There’s a sense of despair that often fills tense moments. Sure, you can stop and rescue that stranger from certain death, but what’s the cost? Is it worth it to kill a hundred zombies and risk your own life for experience points? The answer is entirely dependent on the situation: how quickly can zombie reinforcements arrive? What’s your current health? What does your weapon arsenal currently look like? Dead Rising 3 offers many moments throughout its campaign where it’s better to run than to fight.
Thankfully, you won’t be forced to run to find save points. Dead Rising 3 employs a checkpoint system, forgoing the need to find a restroom to save your game’s progress. Combine that with the ability to switch apps on the Xbox One console on the fly and resume progress in the game right where you left off, you have the option for playing Dead Rising 3 as you see fit. Want to marathon through a couple of chapters? Go right ahead. Only have time to kill zombies for about twenty minutes? Be my guest. It makes the game feel more accessible.
Or, well, at least tries to. Yes, you can pick up and jump right in, but you’ll also have to deal with various issues. While some may find the dozen of road blocks through the city a problem, they’re not; the road blocks do their job by forcing the player to travel on route, ensuring the safety of a vehicle. Granted, vehicles aren’t always safe; should they take too much damage, they’ll catch on fire and explode. They may not be safe to ride in, but they do turn into pretty amazing weapons. Drive a burning car into a horde of zombies, jump out, watch the explosion, and smile. What is a problem, however, is the amount of backtracking throughout the city. Later chapters require a lot of back and forth across the game’s freeway and it does tend to drag the game on. Travelling between destinations honestly felt like it added an hour to the game time. Seeing as the campaign clocked in at anywhere between 10-15 hours, wholly dependent on how many of the ample side quests you complete, it’s padding that wasn’t needed.
The biggest issue, however, is the game’s odd difficulty spikes. Zombies fare exactly as you’d expect them to: troublesome in large numbers but manageable in controlled situations. Human enemies, however, are far more difficult. Not only are they packing assault riffles, they can also eat an entire clip’s worth of ammunition. It won’t take forty bullets to take them out, thankfully; just ten or so melee hits that they’ll often dodge beyond belief. This presents a strange difficulty curve to the point where, at times, I was left frustrated performing these types of missions.
What isn’t frustrating, thankfully, is the game’s “frame rate issues.” There was a bit of an over-reaction when the internet found out that the game doesn’t run at a steady 30 frames per second. The truth is that while this may be the case, it never caused any technical problems or gameplay issues. Heck, I never even noticed it, regardless of the amount of on-screen action. It’s just a shame that the visuals aren’t exactly the most “next-gen” thing in the world. In order to create the city of Los Perdidos and populate it with zombies, sacrifices were clearly made. Yet thanks to these sacrifices, I can explore the world without any loading screens.
Thank goodness, because it’s world worth exploring. There are collectibles to be found everywhere: stat increases, blueprints for new weapon customizations (and even vehicle combinations, too), and side quests aplenty. Sadly, some of the side quests fall prey to the same issues that the main quests do in terms of back and forth exploring. In addition, keeping track of the quests is a bit of a mess through the in-game menu. It’s often confusing to figure out where your objective is compared to the objectives of other quests.
Dead Rising 3 is a schizophrenic game. The story is absolutely mess and the difficulty has a tendency to spike every now and then, yet the gameplay is beyond enjoyable and it’s a blast to explore the game’s sandbox. Questing itself is a chore, but collecting is enjoyable. The amount of zombies on screen is impressive, the visuals are not. Yet at the end of the day, there’s always the option to snap Netflix, mash buttons, and kill zombies. That’s a lot of fun, so that counts for something, right?