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Review: Dead Rising 3 is infectious fun but wears off quickly

By Matt Sakuraoka-Gilman on Monday 18th Nov 2013 at 2:00 PM UTC

During the opening stages of a new console's life cycle, when games try new things, we're inclined to go along with the ambition at their hearts as we await steadier, more experienced hands to smooth over the occasional cracks.

In some ways, then, Dead Rising 3 is a typical launch game. It's got more than its fair share of problems, but at its core is an idea filled with so much potential for zombie eviscerating enjoyment that we'll go along with it anyway.

Frustratingly, Dead Rising 3 carries the same niggling issues that dampened the first two zombie slaughtering games. This time, however, those issues are joined by several more less forgivable problems.

One thing Capcom Vancouver's latest title does do very well is take you straight to the action. From the outset, our cursed hero Nick Ramos must run through a motorway strip of shuffling zombies while a commercial plane crashes into the road ahead. The sheer number of zombies filling every street, alley, rooftop and storefront is the first and greatest indication that you're playing a next-gen game.

"You never know what pleasing madness lies around the corner"

The narrative offers nothing new. It's 72 hours since the zombie outbreak, and Ramos has joined a small group of survivors still reeling from the horrors of the past three days. As a character, he's a blank slate; neither the reluctant hardness of Chuck Greene nor the cocksure attitude of Frank West. He bounces off other characters in the world, helping their bizarre personalities stand out all the more through the lack of his own. Once the town is locked down by shady government types it's the classic zombie trope of getting to the plane in a bid to escape, with the added sprinkling of an unknown dodgy past catching up to you.

Zoom

The game is split across Story and Nightmare modes, and the first allows for players to enjoy the game at their leisure. Side missions and boss fights will still need to be encountered within a certain time frame (which is alerted by a countdown clock), and will irreversibly disappear if you're not punctual. But these gauges deplete very slowly, so rarely does the player need to sacrifice one encounter in order to activate another.

You'll have plenty of time to see almost everything the game has to offer in Story mode, yet purists will be glad to hear that Nightmare mode is the exact opposite. The countdowns diminish at an alarming rate and, right from the outset, you're forced to make tough choices. Do you head across the map to tackle that boss? If you do, will you make it back in time to rescue that survivor? At the heart of all of this is the constant countdown to the city's destruction. It's an intense experience, which sits perfectly within the grab, bag and tag crafting system.

Los Perdidos a much more open city space than previous instalments of the series, and players are rewarded for keeping their eyes open in the world. Looking around, finding blueprints and crafting weapons on the fly (no more workbenches) ensures you never know what pleasing madness lies around the corner. With such a vast array of potentially hilarious weaponry on offer, you'll never find yourself sticking to a tried and tested favourite either.

In one telling moment during our game, Ramos was perched atop a truck armed with only a fistful of fireworks, some household cleaning agent and a much used fire axe. It was night, which means, as series vets will no doubt know, zombies are stronger, hungrier and superior in number. We needed to get across to the other side of the thoroughfare, where we could see a motorcycle capable of getting us the rest of the way to our destination.

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What followed was a harmonious zenlike dance through the horde, wherein we planted the firework on one zombie's head, drawing the attention away from ourselves, then lobbed our axe into a beehive-headed mutation, which exploded to take out several other nearby zombies.

During our victorious dash towards the bike, we spotted a steamroller which - just as the rest of the horde began to regroup - we turned into a flame-spewing RollerHawg that flattened every remaining adversary for good measure. These kinds of moments of quick thinking and improvisation demonstrate the open-world genre at its best, and Dead Rising 3 provides many such encounters.

"Dead Rising 3 is not the game you will use to show off the capabilities of the Xbox One."

The same level of satisfaction can't be said of the vehicles, which handle like they're made of Lego and turn a trip across the city into a 20 minute test of your patience. It is also a shame that the world and its denizens are so grim to look at.

It is understandable that concessions have to be made to allow for such a vast number of zombies to appear on screen, but any character in the game (even Ramos) is an ugly blur up close. Characters' eyes glaze inhumanly, while skin looks plastic and unreal. Like a pox-ridden blanket wrapping the whole visual package, the dull tertiary palette is oppressive and at odds with the barmy tone of the rest of game.

Unwelcome bugs surface as well. Some harmless, such as items randomly floating, but at least one during our playthrough was a game-breaker. It forced us, after 15 hours of play, to restart the whole game over again. With these factors in mind, Dead Rising 3 is not the game you will use to show off the capabilities of the Xbox One.

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Some of the new Xbox-centric features introduced don't really float either, such as the limited Kinect functionality. Psycho bosses can be taunted by shouting set phrases like "calm down" or "go away" at them at certain times. Aside from making us incredibly popular in the otherwise fairly quiet office, there was little other benefit to doing so. It's hard to imagine anyone so riled up and excitable that they'll have fun actively shouting set phrases at their telly during a boss fight.

Kinect can also be used to access some, not all, menus and to pause the game. At one point we paused to put the controller down and make a cup of tea. We watched as the game erroneously unpaused, putting Ramos in peril, because Kinect had somehow picked up the word 'back' from somewhere. This happened more than once. It's worrying to say the least.

The SmartGlass functionality is more considered. This is an entirely optional second-screen element which allows you to answer calls from in-game characters using your smartphone or tablet. It's kooky but unobtrusive.

In some ways Dead Rising 3 doesn't feel like a sequel at all. It's a sloppy, loose and ugly looking game, lacking the finely tuned foundations of most games in their third iterations. Its problems, though many, are somewhat saved by all of the effortless fun had dicing up zombies with bizarre weaponry. Capcom hasn't managed to clean the blood off this flawed diamond. In some ways it may even have tarnished it further. But a diamond it remains.

The verdict

It may suffer both visually and technically next to its fellow launch titles, but there's no denying there's still some madcap brand of fun to be had in Los Perdidos.

  • Refined and balanced weapon crafting
  • Open world brings broader scope
  • Vehicles handle terribly
  • Crowbarred Kinect functionality
7
Format
Xbox One
Developer
Capcom
Publisher
Capcom
Genre
Action