Welcome to the beautiful city of Los Perdidos! Now strip down to your underpants and smack some zombies in the face with a traffic cone.
Survival may not be always be pretty in Dead Rising 3, but it’s fun to roam around in this LA-inspired setting for Capcom’s latest take on a zombie apocalypse. You’ll be able to hop in a car and traverse from one end of this city to the other in about five minutes, but the thrill is in the journey rather than the destination. And if you happen to be making the trek on a RollerHawg, a combination of a steamroller and motorcycle, that journey will cheerily mulch a couple of hundred zombies into paste.
The original Dead Rising took place in a shopping mall and contrasted its zombie outbreak with the everyday sights of clothes shops, food courts, and pharmacies. Its sequel ratcheted its lens of consumerism up to Fortune City, its gaudy casino complex freshly built upon the smouldering wreckage of Las Vegas. Dead Rising 3 now takes aim at an entire city, but the themes are the same as before, even though its colour palette is certainly duller. Everything in Los Perdidos is a shop, and you are here to consume.
One of my only Dead Rising 3 screenshots where Nick Ramos looks normal.
Dead Rising 3 takes to the the west coast in an environment large enough to need splitting across the districts of Ingleton, Sunset Hills, South Almuda, and Central City. But Los Perdidos is built to be a playground rather than a world, and its shop windows are tantalisingly stuffed with countless opportunities to bludgeon, slice, and splatter the undead hordes roaming the streets in their thousands. Few games offer such breadth in their potential weaponry or number of potential targets, and dismembering the undead with hub caps, pogo sticks, and coat hangers still feels both novel and hugely entertaining.
The outlandish outfits and versatile weapons clash with Dead Rising 3’s ceaselessly dangerous environment, with more and more undead pumped into the streets of Los Perdidos as the game’s five-day narrative progresses.
It’s all well and good attempting to take out a zombie with a handbag while wearing a summery dress and medieval helmet, but at Dead Rising 3’s core the game takes the idea of combo weapons, introduced in its predecessor, and runs amok. New hero Nick Ramos is no longer constrained to stitching together his weapons of mass distraction at a wayward workbench, with the recipes for these 100-odd combinations found in blueprints scattered around the city.
This is the first of Dead Rising 3’s many efforts to smooth some of the series’ harsh edges, and is ultimately a positive change that further highlights Dead Rising 3’s huge focus on crafting, giving players the freedom to build new weapons as soon as they become available. The game justifies this contextually by making Nick a mechanic, one who is ultimately looking to escape the Los Perdidos by cobbling together a plane, but his character arc and mysterious tattoo are largely ignored until the latter chapters of the game, with Capcom instead focusing on the arsenal and body count.
Hammer + Battery = Mjölnir
The opportunities for raucous carnage are immense, though many of the combo weapons return from Dead Rising 2, and there’s a giddy pleasure obtained from running around in a comedy costume (vintage tennis get-up, anyone?) and playing around with your new toys. Grab the corresponding blueprint and then mix some chemicals with a lead pipe to get the Pukes O’ Hazard, a vomit-inducing club. The chest beam, made by combining microwave and a motorcycle engine, shoots out thick, meaty blasts of energy that can atomise a nearby crowd, and Street Fighter fans will eagerly unite an engine with some boxing gloves and shoryuken into the nearest zombie with the rocket gloves. Or, if you fancy introducing an element of randomised chaos, there’s always the sentry cat.
New to Dead Rising 3 are super combo weapons, themselves made from taping together two or more constructed weapons. The results are usually devastating. The Fire Reaper, for instance, first requires you to make a Grim Reaper (scythe and katana, very good at clearing at groups) and then further combine that with a gasoline tank. Vehicles, now central to navigating the bridges and tunnels which connect Los Perdidos’ districts, can also be fused together. These homebrew constructions, such as the forklift-meets-fireworks display Forkwork, are able to withstand and deal more damage, and quickly prove to be as invaluable as a good electric crusher, defiler, boomer axe, or freedom bear.
The outlandish outfits and versatile weapons clash with Dead Rising 3’s ceaselessly dangerous environment, with more and more undead pumped into the streets of Los Perdidos as the game’s five-day narrative progresses. Nick’s swings are sluggish and imprecise, his movement heavy, and his mix of light and heavy attacks is designed for hacking away at a pack of enemies rather than individuals, which is fine until you need to take on a straggler or boss. Fighting is more about crowd control than outright aggression, and evasion is usually the best option despite having an inventory stuffed with kooky items.
He really doesn’t want you disturbing the garden.
Weapons and vehicles degrade and eventually break, and the game is all too happy to dish out a fatal punishment to players who venture unprepared into the middle of a horde. Zombies line every corner, constantly swarm out of vents, and Dead Rising 3 is also very much the kind of game where the walking dead will also quite happily fall from the skies, or at least off the top of a nearby building.
I can still remember the route to Colombian Roastmasters in the first Dead Rising, and jumping off the edge of the coffee shop to land on the balcony with the katana. I couldn’t tell you much at all about Los Perdidos.
While everything in Dead Rising ticks along to its own in-game clock, the game layers together its plot-advancing story missions with dozens of other tasks in which you have to save survivors scattered around Los Perdidos, or dispatch its seven psychotic humans, each based loosely around the seven sins. These include a crazed physician, someone aggressively tending to a Japanese garden, and a man so lazy he’d rather attempt to kill you with automated drones than lift a finger.
Survivors, meanwhile, set Nick another task that needs to be accomplished, which usually involves either fetching something, such as a pack of scattered tarot cards, or ferrying someone to a destination. One surprisingly affecting mission has you guide an elderly woman around the city while she tells of her bygone years, offering a rare glimpse of life in a dead city. The game also randomly encourages you to smash through swathes of zombies in order to clear paths for stranded survivors. While many of these missions lack the eccentricity and charm of previous games–there’s nothing in Dead Rising 3 quite like carrying a hungover showgirl who was sleeping off a zombie outbreak–the main incentive behind these acts of benevolence remains the same: rack up huge amounts of Prestige Points, which levels up Nick and expands his abilities and moveset.
The classic tale of boy meets girl, now with added zombies.
Some survivors eventually join your party, where they can be armed with the game’s less flamboyant weapons to fight alongside you, or can be led back to one of the game’s safe areas and stored for later deployment. Keeping survivors alive was a key part of the first two games, as leading them to safety was how objectives were completed, but Dead Rising 3 considers it more of an optional afterthought. Safe rooms, scattered around each of Los Perdidos’ four districts, also contains recharging lockers that can spawn in any item or combo weapon you’ve previously used. This is a game far more focused on having you slaughtering the undead than continually scavenging for items, though it’s not always a change for the better. Dead Rising 3’s accessibility makes it easier to rack up the kills, but infinitely spawning weaponry ultimately robs the game of the deeper connection I forged with Willamette mall or Fortune City. I can still remember the route to Colombian Roastmasters in the first Dead Rising, and jumping off the edge of the coffee shop to land on the balcony with the katana. I couldn’t tell you much at all about Los Perdidos.
Dead Rising 3 also siphons off the series’ time restraints and limited saving opportunities into its Nightmare mode, which is optionally playable from the start. The game’s Normal mode provides ample time to accomplish everything and allows you to save everywhere, making the game far more accessible in the process. While the series’ use of time limits and save points has always been one of its most divisive qualities, Capcom’s efforts to cater to those who both like and loathe the restrictions will help the game appeal to a wider group of players. Personally I find that Normal mode also robs the game some of its brutal edge, neutering the rising tension and pressure from overcoming its adversities that proved so satisfying when accomplished.
Ultimately this is a tongue-in-cheek game that has enough heart to be endearing.
While Dead Rising 3’s shift in aesthetic and accessibility initially suggest a series looking to reinvent itself, the game quickly picks up from where Dead Rising 2: Case West finished off. By the end of Dead Rising 3 you’ll have been reintroduced to many characters and unanswered narrative threads from previous games. The series’ juvenility also survives the transition, and this is a scruffy game that lacks finesse in both its technical execution and overall direction, with the wayward tone of cutscenes and dialogue often combining with unimaginative mission design, and the tedium of another boring escort mission clashes dramatically with the variety on show in the weapon crafting. Some of the more boisterous dialogue and lingering shots on the female characters also feel awkward and unwanted, but ultimately this is a tongue-in-cheek game that has enough heart to be endearing.
It’s also impossible to avoid the game’s performance issues. Dead Rising 3’s frame rate is extremely choppy, the pop-in eminently noticeable, and I encountered many other occasional bugs such as game audio cutting out, survivors getting stuck on scenery, and one enemy whose mohawk kept popping in and out of existence. Dead Rising 3’s ability to fill its streets with hundreds of zombies at once is certainly impressive, but the game is a poor choice if you’re looking to show off the graphical power of a brand new Xbox One. Still, you’ll probably forget about all that the first time you jump and attack at the same time with a bladed weapon, slicing a zombie vertically in half, and then run around gleefully repeating the move for the next five minutes.
Dead Rising 3 also finds itself saddled with a suite of perfunctory Kinect features. Grabbed by a zombie? Shake the pad to free yourself. In a battle with a boss? Use voice commands to say things like “that’s kinky” or “you’re crazy” to distract them. Need to attract the attention of a zombie, despite it going completely against the grain of the game’s mechanics? Shout at them! The most encouraging thing I can say about these features is that they work. Far more successful is the game’s addition of co-op play, allowing a second player to seamlessly drop into the game and take the role of Nick’s acquaintance Dick. With many of the game’s vehicles working best when a second player is manning the weaponry, hoofing it around Los Perdidos as a duo can be a blast.
Despite a wonky presentation and obvious technical hiccups, Capcom has successfully made Dead Rising 3 a more welcoming experience than its harsh predecessors. It can be an inconsistent experience, but I choose to ignore the game’s peculiarities and play Dead Rising 3 in the spirit that I believe it’s intended: running around in shark outfit shooting zombies with deadly dildos fired from a leaf blower.