News, Views, and Reviews
After all the anticipation, and after all the hype, the next-gen consoles are here! I waited for months since each were announced, I waited in lines at midnight releases, and I waited for my pre-ordered consoles to arrive – and it was all worth it. Ryse and Killzone Shadowfall were my most anticipated games, and they were good, well made, fun games. But nothing prepared me for how much fun I had playing Dead Rising 3. It’s gory, it’s silly, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it might not be perfect, but its one of the best reasons to own an Xbox One.
Imagine an open world, sandbox game, and populate that game with hundreds, no, thousands of zombies. No, I mean THOUSANDS of zombies. Now, imagine that nearly everything in that world reacts to physics and can be picked up or thrown or assembled with other objects and used as weapons. One hundred and forty-seven weapons. Light posts, traffic lights, hangers, purses, dynamite, bowling balls, LCD screens, pistols, flash lights, sledgehammers, the list goes on and on. Oh, and don’t forget, you can hop into a vehicle and barrel through zombie hordes. Or better yet, you can combine vehicles into combo-vehicles, like a truck with an acid cannon on its top, or a motorcycle with a spiked bulldozer wheel and flamethrowers on the front. The story is simple but effective, the characters are sometimes goofy or sometimes deranged, and the graphics are a little dated to compensate for that interactive sandbox full of zombies. It’s crazy, it’s addicting, and always fun. It also improves on the first two Dead Rising games in nearly every way, and features an effortless drop in, drop out co-op mode for the entire game.
Graphics: Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. For months, nay-sayers have been criticizing the Xbox One and its perceived shortcomings in the power department. Several PS4 games, including exclusives and multi-platform, are boasting 1080p native resolutions and steady 60 frames per second. The Xbox One is playing catch up with only a few titles that can match the 1080p native displays, and everything else is being “upscaled” to 1080p. Poke fun if you like, but Dead Rising 3 is such a title, with only a 720p native display, and an adequate 30 frames per second. Earlier, hands-on previews raised concerns that it wasn’t even keeping the 30 fps steady, with some bad drops in frame rate some of the time, and some really bad frame rate drops when lots of things were on screen at once.
Well, forget those concerns. Even with hundreds of zombies on my screen, with fires and explosions and other effects, I almost never saw a drop in frame rate. I don’t know what Capcom did, but Dead Rising 3 works almost flawlessly. The cut-scenes all use in-game graphics, and when the characters are up close and talking, that is when the graphics appear the most dated. This is not going to win in any comparisons with games like Crysis 3, Battlefield 4, or Ryse. But I gladly trade that graphics fidelity for having such an amazing sandbox world to play in. The city doesn’t only look like a real place, with real buildings, streets, traffic lights, yards, cars, and so on, all of that can be interacted with. Windows can be broken and shortcuts can be taken through abandoned homes. Burning cars and houses can be climbed on, and leaping from car to car, or from roof to roof, is a great way to escape hordes of zombies. Smash your way through a wooden fence, and then pick up a piece of that broken fence, and use it as a weapon. This is the fictional city of Los Perdidos, and it’s amazing.
Controls: Clearly, fighting hordes of zombies would be tedious and annoying if the controls were not up to that challenge. Fortunately, DR3 has solid, responsive controls. Most of the time. The moment to moment movement and combat are very satisfying, and as you gain experience points and level up, you can become a very efficient zombie destroyer. The only issues occur when too much is happening in a little space, like trying to pick up a certain weapon that’s in a pile of objects, or getting through a doorway that is occupied by your faithful followers. This isn’t an issue of responsiveness, though, it’s just a matter of rotating the camera around until the desired object is highlighted and then picking it up, or commanding your minions to “attack” or “scavenge” and get out of your way. I was pleased to find that the main character is much quicker and stronger than the characters in the first two games, which immediately translates into more satisfying combat, impressive escapes, and vehicular carnage.
Driving vehicles is also intuitive and responsive, and although the driving physics are very forgiving, there are noticeable differences between a motorcycle and a sports car, or between a bulldozer and a forklift. The weapons and vehicles take damage and eventually break, and zombies will try to jump on your vehicles and pull you out of the windows. When a zombie finally grabs you, a “quick time event” or button prompt will appear on screen. Successfully hitting the button will shake free from the zombie and lessen the damage they could have done to you. If you are driving, the directional control is taken away from you during one of these “QTE” button prompts, which could lead you to crash into something.
Game Play: As a mechanic, Nick can craft his combo weapons, and combo vehicles, where and when ever he likes. This keeps combat quick and fun, since you don’t have to hunt for crafting benches or garages, and allows more fun and experimenting with the countless objects scattered everywhere. He has to find a “blueprint” before making a weapon or vehicle combo, but once its learned, its always available. Some of the combos can be further modified into super combos, like the humorous and effective “mecha dragon” combo turning into an “ultimate mecha dragon” if the appropriate parts are combined. When a blueprint is first found, the correct items are usually nearby, and later on, if you happen to find one of those items by chance, it’s also likely that the other item or items will be nearby.
I should point out that the main “story mode” is much more forgiving than previous Dead Rising games, allowing these combos to be created anywhere, the game can be saved anywhere, and the time limits of missions and the main story progression is also more forgiving. For the Dead Rising “purists” out there, the “nightmare mode” option maintains the harsher restrictions of the Dead Rising series, which means combos can only be crafted at work benches, game progress can only be saved in bathrooms, and the time limits are more severe. Either way, it seems the city of Los Perdidos has a lot of survivors, and these can be rescued and recruited to follow you around and help you face the zombie hordes. As you level up, you can increase the number of your “posse” to five, even six survivors. This does cause some control issues if they get in your way, but it’s so satisfying to lead a small army of survivors carrying machine guns or laser swords into battle with the undead. Some of the survivors can only be recruited after completing side quests, and some of these side quest contain the oddest or most grotesque situations in the game. Strangely, these side-quest-survivors were so memorable, that I felt more attached to them than some of the main characters.
Of course, the best follower to join your battle is a friend, and it’s impressive how easy it is to set up a co-op session. The “host” player still controls Nick, the main character, and can progress their story as normal. The “guest” player controls one of the story characters, doesn’t progress their story, but still gets credit for finding blueprints and other collectibles, and still earns the valuable experience points needed to level up. In fact, it’s a pretty smart game design that can give players even more freedom to find things and level up in somebody else’s game, without the pressure of running down the clock in their own game.
Sound: It’s easy to get caught up in appreciating the spectacle of thousands of zombies or the satisfying combat, and overlook the sound department. But, the sound has its moments to shine, like the cheesy rock music playing during boss battles, the overwhelming din of zombie moans, or the zany sound effects of “electric shout” or other combo weapons. Setting off chain reactions of dynamite and exploding cars and zombies sounds almost as good as it, well, sounds. Surprisingly, there is a lot of dialogue in the game; most of it happens during cut-scenes, but there is a lot of dialogue even as you’re completing missions or just running around in the city. The voice acting is also very well done, and like the music, often comes across as rather cheesy, but that’s also usually appropriate. Like I said before, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Narrative: Dead Rising 3 takes place about ten years after Dead Rising 2, this time in the fictional city of Los Perdidos. (Playing the previous games isn’t that important, as any connection to those stories is explained when appropriate.) The main character, Nick Ramos, originally attempts to use his mechanical skills to help his friends escape the zombie nightmare, but he soon learns of a deeper conspiracy, and his good nature compels him to save the day. He’s an earnest, likable hero, and he sometimes reacts to the horrors around him as one should react in those situations. Even though DR3 has a slightly more serious tone than its predecessors, it can’t help itself in indulging in some bizarre scenarios; like fighting a horribly overweight person in an all-you-can-eat restaurant, dodging molotovs and motorcycles in combat with an anarchist gang, or rescuing some hostages from a deranged sadist wearing a gimp mask and a flame-thrower strapped to his crotch. Yes, it’s sometimes questionable, and the tone of the game is a little uneven, but at least it’s not entirely “zombie apocalypse” cliche-ridden. With the player ability to find and wear different clothing items, even the more serious scenarios can be “ruined” if your character is wearing a luchador wrestling costume, a mariachi sombrero, or “daisy duke” shorts.
Well, it appears I’ve gotten a little sidetracked, but I think that’s the point. There is a compelling narrative that guides the player through the game, which reminded me of stories that would be appropriate in a Resident Evil game, but it’s easy to get sidetracked and just have fun playing in the sandbox. Still, those that stick to the story – and complete it in a certain way within a certain time limit – can experience a satisfying conclusion or one of three different endings.
Kinect and Smart Glass: Special mention of cool “next gen” features in Dead Rising 3 deserves its own section. With the Kinect turned on, several operations can be performed with voice commands instead of pressing buttons, and “shaking” zombies off when they grab you with hand gestures increases the immersion of the game. You can pause the game by saying “pause game” or navigate through menus with the appropriate commands. In the game itself, you can trick zombies into following the sound of your voice, and you can give “follow,” “attack,” and “scavenge” commands to your survivor followers. During boss battles, you can even distract, taunt, or frustrate the bosses by yelling at them. I enjoyed using the Kinect, and it usually worked; my only problems were getting some of the taunts to register during boss battles. I didn’t play with a smart phone or tablet, but I did notice that there are weapon chests that can only be unlocked by using a smart device, and apparently special missions and weapon/bomb drops can be activated with a smart device. Its these features – cool, but totally optional – that really set DR3 apart as a “next-gen” game and justify Kinect and Smart Glass.
Conclusion: The massive appeal of DR3 is that wonderful tension between risk and reward. You could keep bashing away at hordes of zombies, or you could run away from them to preserve your weapons and ammo for when you really might need them. Or you could try to get as many points as possible for big experience points, get carried away, and lose your weapons or your vehicle might catch fire, and then the panic sets in as you scramble to safety. With a steady stream of main story and side quests to complete, and the combination of satisfying game play and an interesting story, I had a blast playing DR3 for the entire week or so that it took me to complete the game. Even with the story completed, I want to go back and hunt down more blueprints and collectibles and just have fun fighting thousands of zombies! I also appreciate the amount of options for this game: single player or co-op, regular or “nightmare” mode, or maintaining a serious tone or embracing the silliness with crazy outfits and even crazier super weapons. Don’t let mean remarks or concerns about 720p and 30 fps dissuade you, Dead Rising 3 is one of the most fun games I’ve played all year!
Dead Rising 3 is rated ‘M’ for Mature for: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language, and Use of Alcohol, and was released exclusively for Xbox One on November 22nd.