I was never a fan of the Dead Rising franchise, despite the original instalment being the fuel behind my desire of owning an Xbox 360 console several years ago. I'd originally watched a television commercial for Dead Rising and nearly fell out of my chair with excitement. Upon playing it, however, I found the controls to be clunky, the gameplay tedious and the overall experience difficult to swallow. To this day, I've never completed more than 15% (give or take) of the campaign.
Subsequently, I was understandably sceptical when details of the pending sequel began surfacing on the Internet. I wanted to be on Capcom's side with their virtual experience of a zombie apocalypse, but I just couldn't do it. Upon launch of Dead Rising 2, I distracted myself with other games until preowned copies began stocking the shelves at my local GameStop. I got through maybe 25% or 30% of the campaign before losing interest due to a difficult psychopath battle between the protagonist and two femme fatales.
Years later, I was late to the proverbial party once again with not only picking up an Xbox One, but researching the newest instalment in the Dead Rising franchise. After playing Tomb Raider all day, I decided to try the demo to Dead Rising 3 and when it was finished, I realised that I was so close to the edge of my seat that I nearly fell off.
I knew that this is the instalment that would officially captivate me and I was ultimately correct, thank God. I wasn't prepared to deal with another disappointment, but Dead Rising 3 is the furthest from it.
Dead Rising 3 is an outstanding adventure that puts players in the shoes of a young protagonist named Nick Ramos, who worked as a mechanic in Los Perdidos, California prior to the outbreak of the infected. Nick and his two main companions, Rhonda and Dick, fight their way through hordes of zombies to uncover the source of the outbreak and find a way to true safety.
The story within Dead Rising 3's glorious hack-and-slash of the undead isn't a particularly innovative one, but it is completely on point for the situation in hand. It's a narrative marvel about survival and doing what one must in order to secure one's own safety and this is touched on when Nick, the protagonist, takes a human life for the first time - similar to Lara Croft in the latest instalment in the Tomb Raider franchise.
It's a much needed improvement compared to my experiences with the game's predecessors; there's no countdown in the corner of the screen to show the pending expiration of a mission and there's no hunt for Zombrex every - what feels like - five minutes. It's just you versus the horde. Though, for the sake of the narrative, you are encouraged to put some pep in your step if you idle around massacring zombies for too long. After all, it's a zombie story and there's, of course, a pending city-wide sanitation.
The acting is solid and believable, even with minor characters. Each companion tends to have their own side-quest fetch job for you to do, because what's an open world game without a 'go here, do this and return' complex? It usually varies between tracking down lost items or escorting them to a location, but surprisingly, it isn't daunting. You'd be amazed at what you stumble upon on the way to picking up a Englishman's lost tarot cards. Each companion has some colourful commentary and their dialogue offers great context and personality. There's a lot of them and they're all fully voice-acted and with all of this combined, there's always a slight sting when they're permanently killed.
However, unlike the previous games, you needn't babysit them; give them a weapon and they can take care of themselves as much as you can, until of course they get understandably overwhelmed by a horde. I, personally, prefer to play alone; I'm not too much fond of having someone else there with me because I find myself worrying more about them than my own character...and rightfully so. Often times, companions will get in your way, block doors and get in the way of the zombie you're trying to obliterate. Fortunately, they won't turn on you if you accidentally hit them too many times like Dead Rising 2's companions.
Visually, Dead Rising 3 is nothing to throw your panties at. It runs at an upscaled 720p resolution and the textures aren't exactly ground-breaking outside of cinematics and there's the occasional framerate sutter. It definitely isn't what we've come to expect from the newest generation of gaming, but for a launch title, it isn't bad at all.
Instead of The Last of Us-esque visuals, the game is big on quantity; I've never imagined the possibility of having so many zombies on screen at once. Up close, there's enough models to ensure that you don't feel like you're killing the same one over and over again. Furthermore, they're animated deliciously; you can chop them in half, both horizontally and vertically, blow off limbs, heads or chunks of the body. I proper hate the word 'chunks' but it works here. They're easy to kill and doing so builds up experience, but you have to know when it's time to quit, because the horde does not and at night, they're even more vicious.
Combat is a wonderfully simple system of light and heavy attacks, but the over-the-top animations and effects of the countless weapons is what keeps the experience going throughout the course of the game. As usual, weapons degrade and break over time, so you never really have time to get sick of one weapon because their detrimental factors urge you to mix it up a little every now and then.
Dead Rising 3's open-world is full of interesting and detailed locations to explore, including tonnes of shops, houses, restaurants and miscellaneous venues. In certain moments, it truly feels like the city was hit with a sudden outbreak, but the problem is that the open world isn't as large as I'd expect, but it's also not overwhelming. You can get anywhere by foot or vehicle, but sometimes it feels like it's taking forever and other times it feels like the other side of the city was across the street. The issue of size is masked by lots of roadblocks everywhere in order to lengthen your route. Annoyingly, the map is often either wrong about whether a route can be taken or just difficult to read. There's no line on the map guiding you to your destination, so you pretty much have to rely on your navigational skills to arrive at that arrow on the other side of town.
Coming from someone who didn't much care for the Dead Rising franchise until now, I find it to be a complete and utter blessing that I'm able to properly enjoy the series I've chanced time and again. With a delicious zombi-rific slaughterfest for gameplay, an interesting and precise story on zombie survival and a gloriously attractive protagonist, Dead Rising 3 is a launch title for the Xbox One that delivers again and again.