Dead Rising 3
Genre: Action Horror
In the effort to continue covering some series that seem to have fallen by the wayside, the Dead Rising series has been of interest to me. It had a strange journey where when it was popular, it seemed to take a slow and steady slide into obscurity rather than have a sharp drop off in popularity or inexplicably never producing a sequel despite having a foundation worth working from. Dead Rising was a hit and a breath of fresh putrid air to gamers and the second game seemed to have a load of publicity leading up to its release.
Dead Rising 3 didn’t feel the same way. It was advertised and fans of the original two games gave it some word of mouth but I remember feeling like it came out with a whimper considering the success of Dead Rising 2. Even with less time between the release of the third after the second- there were four years between Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2, but three years before we would see Dead Rising 3 after that- it seemed like Capcom wanted to capitalize on the series’ reputation.
It did take me some time to check out the third entry myself, mostly because it was exclusive to the XBox One, a console that I didn’t have, and the PC after a year. I wasn’t much of a PC gamer in 2014, though, so it was only recently that I had the ability to continue the madcap zombie adventure the series had set expectations for. Playing through it again for the sake of analysis, though, I wanted to see how the game would stack up without years of anticipation behind it.
It’s been ten years since the outbreak in Fortune City that placed motocross champion, Chuck Greene, as the cause of the catastrophe that struck the city. With the first case in Willamette now fifteen years behind the world, the government has had time to handle the situation. At the very least, zombies have been contained and those infected with the virus have had chips with Zombrex, the preventative drug, implanted into them. Those who haven’t are considered criminals against their country, despite their protests that the chip also tracks their every movement through GPS.
In the city of Los Perdidos, California lives Nick Ramos, a mechanic who is just trying to get by in his life, despite his daily need for Zombrex. During an average trip across the city for his job, he finds himself in a perilous situation. The chips that were meant to keep people medicated and safe have malfunctioned, effectively turning anyone with the zombification virus into exactly the thing they were trying to prevent in the first place.
With his city becoming the latest outbreak epicenter, Nick, along with his coworkers, Rhonda and Dick, and Annie, a young woman who is part of a group of “Illegals” trying to survive, are desperate to find a way out of the city. With news of a military firebomb in a few days, time is of the essence and pieces of Nick’s past- a mysterious one that even he isn’t totally sure of- will start to arise as events unfold.
Anyone familiar to the Dead Rising franchise will find themselves right at home with Dead Rising 3, as it still plays in a similar fashion. Navigating the streets of Los Perdidos, the player will take on the role of Nick (in multiplayer, the second person will play as his co-mechanic, Dick) as he works against the clock to find an escape within five days in-game. By picking up just about anything they can lift, Nick will run, jump, and climb his way across every inch of the city, leveling up and becoming stronger as he accomplishes goals and destroys the undead.
Nick can still combine weapons to form wacky combinations that will better dispatch the dead and result in more Prestige Points. In an improvement on the system from Dead Rising 2, Nick can create these combinations anywhere, so long as he has the items on hand. Since the major point of traveling through Los Perdidos also involves traveling from place to place by car, our trusty mechanic can also stand between two viable vehicles and, with the right blueprints, rig together one souped-up and most likely more dangerous ride. So long as he isn’t interrupted by an attack, Nick can do this as often as the player likes.
What is Dead Rising without side missions and survivors, though? Nick will have his share of people to save as the game plays out. Some of them will be people who just need zombies cleared away from them so they can escape to safety. Others, though, will be so thankful to Nick that they will join up with him in a new “Posse” mechanic. As Nick levels up, it will be possible to tow along up to six other characters to help carve a path through the streets. Like survivors from the past, though, if they take too much damage, they will die without safeguards in place, so bringing a group with Nick has its benefits and risks.
The Good, The Bad, And…
Despite its flaws, Dead Rising 3 feels like it improved on everything and Los Perdidos is a fantastic locale because of it. It’s nice to see that the protagonist isn’t the only one willing to fight and making some of the survivors effectively recruitable party members was a great touch. The city feels open despite being a finite space, the countdown times don’t feel as claustrophobic as in past entries, and Nick is probably the most likable main character in the series.
Of course, in the usual Capcom and Dead Rising fashion, there are stereotypes all over the place in Los Perdidos. While the series is not known for its sensitive portrayals, the first two games felt like the audience was in on the joke and they weren’t every other mission. Even in the Dead Rising tone, it feels like the “joke-y” characters and situations are laid on a bit too thick and more to be laughed at because of who they are rather than the situation. It’s not even insulting so much as it just gets tired after a while. By and large, Dead Rising 3 felt like it had the worst survivor and psychopath pool overall with only a few exceptions.
The game handles everything else really well, though. Movement and action is generally fluid and fun. It’s nice that the leveling system is more dependant on where the player wants to focus their growth rather than random stat upgrades and adding blueprints as collectibles rather than unmarked points in the environment is a great quality of life improvement- even if the collectibles can be really tough to get to at times. The attention to plot and quality of life improvements is evident, and it makes this third game feel like the best in the series.
Dead Rising 3 looks great with Los Perdidos feeling like a darker and grittier backdrop than the flashing lights of Fortune City or the bright colors of the Willamette Mall. Loads of zombies appear on the screen at once, and the detail put into each neighborhood is well rendered. With memories of the PC version, there were some issues with the graphics in the port, but the console version looks solid, even at its most over-the-top.
Listening to the game is all right. The relatively unknown (save for Andrew Lawrence who voices Nick and is more well known as working alongside his brothers on the screen) voice cast holds their own and is enjoyable to listen to. The sound effects can turn into a cacophony really quickly, but that’s all part of the mayhem and hearing every explosion, chainsaw, and gunshot lends weight to the action. It was nice to see an effort from the sound team to add some tracks that sounded like radio-ready music for times that Nick finds himself inside or at an impromptu pop concert as well as featuring a number of artists’ work. There are some little touches that add to the experience, but nothing that stands out as extraordinary.
It connects with a couple of bumps in the road, but Dead Rising 3 is easily the best constructed of the series, duct tape and all. It’s as close to an open-world zombie experience I’ve experienced on a console, it lasts about 10-12 hours so it won’t prey on your backlog time for long, and most importantly- it’s fun without being unjustly challenging.
If you were a fan of the series but were waiting to see more about this entry because it didn’t have the hype its two older brothers had, I can safely say that Dead Rising 3 is worth the price of admission. It’s available on the XBox One and through PC gaming platforms, and it also offered up some support for the Kinect and the now-defunct SmartGlass, so it’s not impossible to find or toy around with. Given its positive reviews when it released and how well it’s held up over the past few years, it’s safe to say that Dead Rising 3 is a worthy title for fans of the genre.