I spent the whole time editing this podcast on a yoga ball. So Gabe, I get you.
I’ve had an Xbox One for a little over a week. It’s a launch unit that I purchased at a really fun event. I now associate some very happy memories with this specific console, and even if the Xbox One as a system never reaches its full potential, I’ll always treasure this Xbox One.
It is important that you know this, because were moments in Dead Rising 3 that made me want to put an axe through it. There’s a really great open world game somewhere in here, but what fun there is to be gleaned from duct-taping a microwave and a battery to create a chest laser unfortunately has to share a game with a city that’s too large for its own good and simply atrocious boss fights.
You play the latest unlucky guy to find himself suddenly at the center of a zombie outbreak (here in Los Romeros, which is somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard) and government conspiracy: Nick Ramos. He’s a former mechanic with a mysterious past that even he doesn’t know about. Does it tie into the overall story in some way? Let me put it like this: I figured out the entire plot a third of the way through Dead Rising 3’s 10-odd hour campaign. If you have any knowledge of zombie genre tropes, you should be able to call a lot of this game’s twists and turns.
Which brings me to a small kink in the story: the tone. Specifically, it’s a little hard to tell if Dead Rising 3 wants to be taken seriously. Nick and the survivors you’ll meet are presented as sympathetic, and the game assumes you’ll want to see them all make it. And the game mostly succeeds in this aspect, mostly due to the excellent facial animation and generally quite good character writing. Rhonda in particular is a really fun character, and the other main survivors are well rounded, if a bit cartoonish.
But the big dramatic moments are backed against really obvious Romero-esque synth. There are also ‘Tragic Endings’ you can find, where Nick stumbles upon a body put in a sad position. Inspect it, and some music I’m sure was designed to rip off the infamous Dead Island trailer will play. It’s just so hokey that it becomes impossible to take seriously. And the otherwise serious conspiracy yarn takes place in a world filled to the brim with nonsense.
Yeah, don’t worry folks; the nonsense is back for another installment. The game is being marketed as a grim and realistic Walking Dead-esque game, but that’s not the case. You can still dress up in some Daisy Dukes, grab a laser sword, and go to town on a crazy astronaut. And that’s still great. I kind of wish the map wasn’t so dense with buildings. There are times where I would just grab a Defiler, run into a mob, and go nuts. That just didn’t happen often enough, but when it did, I had a blast.
It’s not even a case of ‘make your own fun’; that good old Dead Rising tone is still intact, even if it’s not always at the forefront. Los Perdidos isn’t quite as colorful as the mall from Dead Rising, or Fortune City from Dead Rising 2. It’s hard to shake the feeling that some character was lost in this transition, but that’s the only real inconsistency the game has with its predecessors.
This game totally plays like a Dead Rising game too, with all the small issues that description entails. You can just make combo weapons in the field, and there is the addition of vehicles and vehicle combos, but the dev team still didn’t find a way to fix that problem where you want to grab something but Nick keeps grabbing the wrong thing. To be fair, in a game where you can theoretically use anything as a weapon, there’s no immediate solution. It’s a realistic problem, but it’s still a problem nonetheless. The timer has also been heavily softened from the last games. Although I wasn’t able to test it, the clock in Dead Rising 3 was slow, almost to the point where I believe you may have around five or so real-world days to complete the game before Los Perdidos is bombed to hell.
There are side missions with their own smaller, harsher timers, but they’re all so dull that I just stopped bothering with them after a while. Unless I missed something, the majority of sidequests just had you grabbing things for survivors and earning PP for it. That’s another system from the previous games I’m happy to see again. Something about plowing through a crew of undead, seeing all those numbers flash on the screen, and then using those numbers to make Nick stronger tickles a certain part of my brain.
There’s also an emphasis on animation priority, which has always been a staple of the series. It’s very rarely a problem when you’re dealing with zombies, but when it’s time to strap in and have a boss battle…well, that’s a whole different story.
All video games have problems; it’s impossible to code or test for every possible outcome. To expect otherwise is simple fantasy. But there are often design aspects that can be easily pointed to as significant flaws. Here, it’s the city and the boss battles.
Los Perdidos is just too large, and getting around just isn’t any fun. You can combine vehicles, but after you get the RollerHawg — a steamroller mixed with a motorcycle that turns your foes into crimson paste — all the other vehicles just seem pointless. There are roadblocks everywhere, forcing you to pause the game and consult the map regularly. You’ll never quite get a feel for where you are; even though there are some landmarks, the city just blends together after a while. And the late game missions have you go from one side of the map to the other just about every time. It’s just such a pain, and there just isn’t enough stuff to do on the way.
And then you’ve got the boss fights. They’re often quite fast, which doesn’t quite gel with Nick’s slower, animation-ridden style of combat. Their attacks can break all of your animations without fail, and you can never seem to break any of theirs. Plus, all sans one of the boss fights I partook in had some of the laziest, grossest writing I’ve seen in years. The one clash without dialogue that made me physically ill was also possibly the worst boss I’ve ever encountered in my life. It was somewhere around this moment that I decided I’d had my fill of Dead Rising 3.
It’s not that I got sick of the game; it’s just that I had enough. I didn’t feel like going from one end of the map to the other yet again, only to be met with either a garbage boss fight or another fetch quest. When Dead Rising 3 sticks to one area and lets you mess around, it’s a blast. It’s a shame that scenario doesn’t happen as often as it should.
As a technical showcase for what the Xbox One can do, on the other hand, Dead Rising 3 shines. The game manages to render an impressive amount of unique-looking zombies without any significant framerate drops. It’s certainly a plus with a fleeting shelf life. As we get used to this new generation and developers become more comfortable with these platforms, technical feats like this will become less and less impressive…but it’s a plus nonetheless. However, the large amount of zombies can be overwhelming at times.
Dead Rising 3 isn’t the betrayal of the franchise everyone was expecting, but most of the quirks attached to this particular brand remain fully intact. Your zeal for ludicrous weaponry, a generally fun sense of humor, and hell of zombies should overshadow your ability to tolerate ridiculously terrible boss fights, an oversized map, a competent yet unexciting combat system, and some gross dialogue if you plan to get anything positive from Dead Rising 3. But hey, what else are you going to play on that shiny new Xbox One?