Dead Rising 3 : It’s Bigger But Might Not Be Better
The problem with Dead Rising 3 is it has to contend with the two (three if we’re counting Off The Record) games that came before it.
Dead Rising and its sequel were funny games. Zombies were usually found in survival horror games up until that point but the Dead Rising series as the perfect platform for Capcom humour as much as anything else – the Wile E. Coyote weaponry, the gory cartoon-esque deaths, the ridiculous bosses, the coffee creamers and so on. It was a series in which you could create an electrical Blanka mask of death and stick it on a nearby zombie, watching it stumble around and electrocute fellow undead with lightning zaps.
That could well be the biggest stumbling block for Dead Rising 3, which has ditched that humour in favour of a more mature outlook, its world now punctuated with slabs of grey rather than the bright neon lights of Fortune City.
Dead Rising 3 – On Its Own Merits
Taken on its own merits, Dead Rising 3 looks impressive. It’ll flex its next-gen muscles in terms of volume more than it will with Fancy New Graphics. As Capcom Vancouver ran us through what new protagonist Nick Ramos can do, we noticed that there’s a ridiculous amount of zombies shuffling about onscreen, even down to vague outlines of the outdead scraping around in the distance.
You can see as far as the horizon allows you to. You can travel there, too – Capcom Vancouver was keen to stress that you can travel anywhere you want without having to suffer through loading times.
Dead Rising 3 looks like it will mostly take place outdoors as Capcom Vancouver wants to make the most out of the opportunity to have a ‘go anywhere, go anything’ mantra at the core of its design. There are subtle changes to the design to reflect the lack of loading times.
One easy example: if you wanted to get to the rooftops of Dead Rising 2’s Fortune City casinos, you had to climb a ladder and sit through a loading time, because the rooftops would load in as a separate area. Because that’s no longer the case in Dead Rising 3, you can clamber onto the rooftops across car wreckages or nearby structures, making the level design feel far more organic and natural.
It’s also opened up the chance for more vehicle play. You can drive around Dead Rising 3’s city and motorways although zombies can clamber onboard, which we’re told will affect the weight and handling of a vehicle. Zombies can reach through can grab at Ramos, which triggers a QTE to escape their clutches. QTE is a game mechanic with negative connotations in gaming but its inclusion in this instance makes sense.
The move outdoors is a positive, confident step forward. There are still indoors areas to explore and visit – the one seen in the Microsoft conference demonstration had an eerie survival horror feel while we saw a few more in a behind-closed-doors presentation that had Ramos scrabbling around for shotguns, assault rifles and new outfits – but these indoor areas now seem to be home to poking around finding blueprints and books and completing certain objectives, rather than a place where you’ll spend the majority of your time in the game.
Speaking of blueprints and books, everything else here besides the shift to outdoors is a tweak on the Dead Rising formula. Blueprints show you new weapons you can unlock by duct-taping two items together but you can now do this on the fly, rather than having to seek out a workbench to create new tools of destruction. Books continue to serve as perks, much as they did in previous games. You can also level up, increasing your stats and unlocking new moves.
There are special flavours of zombies too. One of the zombie types we saw were firemen, which had head protection thanks to the helmets they wear and also fireaxes as weapons, making them more of a threat than the regular undead.
The one objective we saw was almost reminiscent of previous games in the series. As Ramos was poking around trying to find items to create new weapons with, fireworks were seen in the distance. A voice on the walkie-talkie informed us that this was someone who needed saving and off we go to save them. The survivor is trapped on-top of a carousel with zombies nearby. Clearing out the zombies completes the objective, as the survivor scampers away to safety.
Dead Rising 3 – Dude, Where’s My Humour?
So far, so usual. But there’s one important component that’s missing – humour.
That lightness of touch found in previous series outings is missing from Dead Rising 3. It makes nods to the trademark humour – satirical billboards sit proudly on-top of buildings infested with the undead and you can still complete the entire game in a dress – but they now sit awkwardly in a series that has lost its colour and ditched its bright personality for grittiness and air-strikes. Nick Ramos already wears the look of a protagonist doomed to be dwarfed by the charisma of original hero Frank West.
There are still questions on the actual mechanics of Dead Rising 3. There was no indication on whether time management will play a part in Dead Rising 3 and while safe houses are present, it doesn’t seem like you have to escort survivors there. The one objective we saw had the survivor take off on his own accord once the objective is complete.
The frame-rate is also a big concern. It’s understandable that next-gen code presented this will have a variety of technical hitches and problems but nothing else we saw E3 had the same frame-rate problems Dead Rising 3 did. Dying Light, the closest comparison at the E3 in terms of on-screen activity, didn’t choke on its sheer number of zombies like Dead Rising 3 did.
While a sluggish frame-rate may be a case of optimisaing the code, Capcom Vancouver doesn’t have the same option for a quick fix when it comes to the humour and the tone of Dead Rising 3.
It’ll be hard for Dead Rising 3 to move beyond the shadow cast by the gargantuan charisma and personality of previous games in the series and much of its success will come down to whether Nick Ramos can achieve that or not.
Dead Rising 3 is looking like a good game and a solid exclusive for Xbox One might whether series fans will be able to recalibrate their expectations for the shift in tone remains to be seen.