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Dead Rising 3 review

Solid
AT A GLANCE
  • Killing zombies is uncomplicated fun
  • Fixes so many of Dead Rising's problems
  • Feels next-gen in scope
  • Way too many fetch quests
  • Characters more gross than endearing
  • Lacking in personality

Some recent zombie games have successfully told stories with emotional weight. The Walking Dead and The Last of Us come immediately to mind. But as I crafted my electrified garden rake for tearing apart shambling corpses, I knew Dead Rising 3 wouldn’t ever bring a tear to my eye, even in its regrettable moments of seriousness. What I did sense is that, much like preceding installments in Capcom's zombie-slasher, this Xbox One exclusive would supply me thousands upon thousands of zombies to massacre in entertaining ways, giving me enjoyment via quantity, with less emphasis on quality.

Dead Rising 3’s Nick Ramos is a nice enough guy to be stuck with in another zombie apocalypse. He’s the type of agreeable gaming protagonist that will commit to countless fetch quests, all in the name of saving whoever isn’t yet a zombie in the California town of Los Perdidos. Like previous DR heroes, Nick just wants to help who he can, kill who he must, and outlast a weird conspiracy. Nick’s story--as well as the cast of nutcases he has to deal with--works for Dead Rising’s oddball mix of comedy, social commentary, and outright gore, but it never really gels into something deeper than your average B-movie plot.

For better and worse, Dead Rising 3's story sticks to the franchise’s goofy roots, but this game does finally ditch many of the series’ biggest faults. Previous entries often felt like they were punishing you for wanting to have fun with their interesting setups. Sure, you may be stuck in a large room with dozens of items that could split open a zombie’s head, but first you had to answer your constantly ringing Walkie-talkie.

Dead Rising 3 throws out all that shit. While there’s a ticking clock for the entire campaign, the story gives you more than enough time to catch your breath and/or decapitate an undead football team. The side missions are still timed, but you otherwise set your own schedule, and the game doesn’t give you a massive guilt trip for having fun in the time allotted. And loading--once the bane of DR’s pacing--is virtually gone.

The crafting system also lost some of its more masochistic features. Nick can combine household items to create duct tape-infused zombie maulers that are much more efficient than your average baseball bat or machine gun. And unlike his predecessors, Nick can build stuff anywhere at any time, so long as he has the items on hand. This streamlining of Dead Rising’s more grueling aspects allows players to get on with the fun of bashing zombies to a bloody pulp. It all makes for a great first few hours of a game that takes around 15 hours to truly beat.

Next-gen? Yes and no

As a showpiece for brand-new hardware, Dead Rising isn't all that flashy, occasionally featuring visuals that look like 360 graphics with a new coat of HD paint. But when you take in the sheer volume of stuff on screen at all times with so little loading and technical hiccups, the actual next-gen power of Dead Rising 3 is more obvious. And the zombies have a surprising amount of detail when their organs are exposed.

That said, after your 3,000th exploded undead skull, you start asking yourself if there’s more to Dead Rising 3. And once you’ve killed your 10,000th zombie, you know the answer: no, not really. You’ll likely spend a good while marveling at the number of zombies on screen and savoring the many tools you have for killing them, but eventually the walking dead will become increasingly annoying obstacles on the many, many fetch quests Nick undertakes. It’s rare when the story doesn’t have Nick running from one side of town to the other for someone else’s benefit.

And the sheer volume of exasperating fetch quests is made worse by Dead Rising 3’s setting. Los Perdidos is certainly big for an open-world game filled with countless items and monsters, but the large amount of real estate means you spend too much time driving from one end to the other and back again to complete the many mission goals. I’m no longer shouting at my TV in anger for missing a plot point by mere minutes, but I am shouting to the heavens because (for the fourth time in row) I have to drive to the other side of town to complete the newest assignment.

Continually driving through the streets of Los Perdidos gave me time to take in its blandness. Previous settings of malls and casinos were vibrant and full of personality, even if they were much smaller than Dead Rising 3’s city. Los Perdidos has pockets of charm in the occasional adult bookstore or fireworks warehouse, but much of the town is just grey, bombed out, and on fire, so travelling its streets increasingly becomes a slog.

The same lack of personality goes for the many people you’ll meet in Los Perdidos. Both the bosses you fight and the bystanders you help show shades of personality, but most feel like their humor was lost along the way from conception to execution. The pornographer planning an all-zombie adult film might've seemed funny at some point, but the reality is wincingly unfunny. The Psychos suffer the worst, as the once-ridiculous bosses are simply vile instead of entertainingly gross, though Dead Rising 3 does have one of the most disgusting (but not enjoyable) boss fights I’ve ever played.

Dead Rising 3 excels at what it does best, which is mainly killing zombies in deeper ways as your undead-slaying skills grow over the game. And it’s smoother than ever to maximize that quality time of chainsawing a zombie in half. Yet the lack of combat annoyances only amplify the flaws of the writing and the lack of mission variety. Dead Rising is closer than ever to realizing its full potential, but its many mistakes make it clear that it isn’t quite there yet.

More Info

Release date: Sep 05 2014 - PC
Nov 22 2013 - Xbox One (US)
Available Platforms: PC, Xbox One
Genre: Survival Horror
Franchise: Dead Rising
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol, Sexual Content

Dead Rising 3 has made its brand of zombie-slaying as much fun as possible, but it needs to fix a lot more than that before it becomes the king of the undead.

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16 comments

  • Shigeruken - November 18, 2013 10:18 p.m.

    I'm disappointed they went for another generic 'somewhere in America' setting. Imagine how interesting a game set in one of the less developed districts of Tokyo would be? Imagine all the tourist trap weapons you would have access to! Imagine the neon!
  • Vonter - January 14, 2014 6:37 p.m.

    At least is not the generic "somewhere in Europe". Capcom has shown it is gramatically challenged.
  • Redeater - November 18, 2013 1:39 p.m.

    No "Ryse" review yet huh? No surprises there. On the plus side I'm glad the launch is looking slightly better than the PS4. I'm still glad I went with the PS4 but I'll look forward to buying all of these games for $20 sometime next year. :D
  • BladedFalcon - November 18, 2013 2:23 p.m.

    Microsoft put the embargo for Ryse to be lifted on Wednesday. Seems they want to play that card as close to their chest as possible. Either they have a lot of faith in it... Or they want to hide it as close as launch as they can so people won't have enough time to cancel pre-orders if their faith was deposited in Ryse mainly :P Either way though, I agree that even without Ryse, the launch lineup for the Xbone does look better for now, question will be whether they'll be able to keep it up, as the 360 had the same thing, strong support for the first 2-3 years, and later on only a handful of exclusives but still with a robust third party support.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - November 19, 2013 8:33 a.m.

    Thursday*
  • BladedFalcon - November 19, 2013 9:45 a.m.

    Oh dear, so they REALLY are playing it extremely close to their chest... That feel very fishy, doesn't it? >>
  • Redeater - November 19, 2013 12:40 p.m.

    The most polarizing game is pretty much the only game under embargo. Yeah, it's a stinker alright. Also, the only game my one friend is buying with his XB1.....unbelievably. Call me crazy but Microsoft should have included this game with the XB1. It might have lost them some money but they can afford it. I'm really enjoying this free month of PS+ for my PS4 and the games it is giving me. Sony gave me like 4 free games while MS is giving you a free shitty version of Killer Instinct. Ridiculous.
  • Redeater - November 19, 2013 1:07 p.m.

    Oh yeah, forgot about the $10 Sony gives you online as well. Good job Sony.
  • GOD - November 18, 2013 2:57 p.m.

    For me the true show of which launch line up is better will come when they do their Xbox One livestream. I feel like the PS4 was more helpful to me than the reviews. Resogun looked extremely fun, Killzone beautiful, and Contrast just ok. Dead Rising looks to be more repetitive, Lococycle sounds painful to play, and so that leaves Killer Instinct which sounds like the consoles best game but if you're not a fan of the genre I'm not sure how that helps, and Crimson Dragon which I'm still speculative about until I can see some gameplay during the stream. Ryse seems like it'll be pretty without enough depth to actually make it fun, like a next gen tech demo.
  • GOD - November 18, 2013 2:58 p.m.

    I meant to say the PS4 stream was more helpful to me than the reviews.
  • g1rldraco7 - November 18, 2013 10:11 a.m.

    I liked how Capcom made this one gritty since if if was like the previous two, sure it would have sold well. The downside is that people whine about oh the series is stuck in the same ways, no matter what as long as you enjoy the game, that's all that matters.
  • Christopia86 - November 18, 2013 9:36 a.m.

    7 isn't bad, I'll most likely give it a go when I get an XBox One in a year or two.
  • shawksta - November 18, 2013 8:04 a.m.

    Neat, but i personally dont like Dead Rising, i just cant get into it.
  • winner2 - November 18, 2013 6:50 a.m.

    Not surprised
  • TokenGamesRadarFurry - November 18, 2013 6:29 a.m.

    Wow, no quite as grewat as I thought it was going to be.

Showing 1-16 of 16 comments

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