The gaze of the undead really escapes no one. Not primetime TV viewers, not webisode lovers, not even early adopters of the Xbox One. When Microsoft announced Dead Rising 3 as an Xbox One-exclusive launch game, fans of the original Dead Rising peed a little at the prospect of a comedic, open-world zombie slasher. If zombies are required to validate a system, well, the Xbox One was validated. But as fun as the game can be at times, our Dead Rising 3 review is summed-up simply by saying it’s not as fulfilling as one might expect. The novelty of killing zombies eventually wears thin, and that’s unfortunately all Dead Rising 3 really offers.
Capcom’s value proposition is the open-world nature of Dead Rising 3, and it delivers that in spades. Gamers play as a seemingly simple mechanic trying to make his way out of the zombie-infested city of Los Perdidos before the government drops a tactical nuke to clean up the mess. Along the way gamers encounter a host of survivors, some of whom offer side missions, some of whom fill a squad-like role in the great zombie-slashing escape, and some of whom are batshit crazy psychos who need to be killed. Good thing our hero is willing to oblige.
No creature, not even a friendly one, is immune to the mindless killing at the core of Dead Rising 3. While the focus of the game is on slashing zombies to (un)death and killing psychos before they kill you, “friendly fire” is a common occurrence, particularly when surrounded by dozens of zombies at once. Just about anything in the world can be picked up and used as a weapon — from construction cones to cardboard boxes to katana blades — and you can pass any item to a “squadmate” to aid in their killing escapades. Doing so helps immensely, since they’re not always the brightest AI bulbs on the chandelier, but their sometimes-poor AI also means they fail to get out of the way when you’re unleashing mass mayhem of your own.
This isn’t so bad when using simple melee weapons, but while exploring the open world of Dead Rising 3 you’ll find hidden blueprints to combine otherwise-unassuming items into super weapons. A katana, decorative dragon head and firecracker, for instance, make for a badass weapon once you find the blueprint. Unfortunately, they’re just as devastating against AI friends as they are against zombies and psychos. Vehicles can also be combined after a time, with different classes and blueprints resulting in cars, trucks and even construction equipment with some devastating special abilities.
The plot in Dead Rising 3 is largely predictable, but this is a zombie game, so what’d you expect? With few exceptions, the story and side missions serve as little more than vehicles to usher in more opportunities to creatively kill the undead. New weapons caches, new boroughs, new blueprints, new cohorts, new mini-bosses, new kill-based challenges … wherever you turn and whatever you do in the big open world, you’ll find yourself slashing through wave after wave of zombies.
Where zombie entertainment is concerned, this is actually a surprising letdown. TV shows like Walking Dead have shown that even minor efforts at a plotline can go a big way. Since Dead Rising 3 released well after AMC’s series established itself, I was hoping to see a bit more than mindless hacking. Technologically the open world teeming with this many zombies is impressive, certainly nothing that could’ve been achieved this well on any earlier hardware generation. But technology itself isn’t fun.
I can appreciate the draw distances, the mass number of animations and the rock-solid framerate when blood and appendages fly in every direction. But after a while the mindless slashing gets old. Creating new weapons and vehicles is novel, but the results are nothing more than new ways to do the same thing over and over. Whether you smack a zombie with a 2×4 or decapitate him with a scythe that also shoots Roman candles, you’re still just killing. You’re still just watching the same basic animation. And you’re still just waiting for the game to jump to another level of sophistication that it never quite attains.
Franchise vets will be pleased to know the game can be saved anywhere, although the higher difficulty settings require you to save at specific port-a-potties. People familiar with previous games’ comic weapon combinations and outfits will delight in seeing even more outrageous options in Dead Rising 3. Those who bemoaned earlier entries’ inability to display too many zombies without choking with revel in the Xbox One’s ability to display hundreds of zombies at any one time without skipping a beat.
But I can’t help thinking that Dead Rising 3 is in that respect a niche title. Rather than entice the millions of new zombie-culture lovers with a nice plot or more robust side missions, Dead Rising 3 just panders to fans of the first two games. There’s nothing meaty here, nothing new, nothing to keep you playing past the first two boroughs other than an innate desire to eviscerate thousands of undead with little effort. Maybe I’ve just “grown up” since the first Dead Rising and thus expected more, but this game didn’t do it for me. Dead Rising 3 is a great game by Dead Rising standards, but not as a game that’s supposed to get people excited about the Xbox One’s potential.
Score: 7 – Braaaaiiins may be what zombies eat, but it’s also what Capcom expects gamers not to use when playing their first next-gen game.
Platform reviewed: Xbox One (exclusive)