Publisher: Microsoft Studios, Capcom
Available: Xbox One
Released: November 2013
Another day, another zombie outbreak in the Dead Rising universe, and it’s time for a new protagonist to step up and realise his destiny as a psychopath killing, zombie slaying, conspiracy uncovering badass of awesome. It’s a bit of a shame then, that Nick Ramos is somewhat of a charisma vacuum in comparison to Frank West and Chuck Greene, but that’s not the only shame here. We’ll get to that.
Taking place in the fictional city of Los Perdidos, you step into the shoes of mechanic Nick Ramos, 3 days into the latest zombie outbreak. Initially only concerned with just surviving, a news report reveals that the army plan to firebomb the city in a few days. With his fellow survivors, Nick must find a way to escape this hellhole, all the while meeting a cast of characters and uncovering that SHADY THINGS ARE AFOOT, as is always the way with Dead Rising. So far, so good then, but there is big glaring issue for Dead Rising purists: it’s too easy, especially when compared to the rest of the series.
Attaining the maximum level, level 50, usually required multiple playthroughs in previous titles, but here, all you need is a big enough weapon that rains EXP (or PP, as it’s called here), and a crowd of a few hundred zombies, and you’re gaining levels quicker than you can say “this is an easy grind”. The addition of combo multipliers, which give you additional PP bonuses depending on how big your kill streak is, only serves to expedite the proceedings.
Here is the core formula at the root of the problem: previous Dead Rising games, specifically Dead Rising 2 which saw the introduction of combo weapons, struck a good balance between zombies on screen, PP gained and the PP required to reach the next level up, leading to an ample level up speed. Dead Rising 3, I believe, offers the same amount of PP per kill, maybe even a little bit more due to the multipliers, and the same boundaries between level ups, but the amount of zombies on screen has increased dramatically, offsetting the balance.
Of course, I thought my prayers for a higher difficulty would be answered by the introduction of Nightmare mode, a mode designed around the gameplay mechanics seen in the first two games. Unfortunately, once you reach level 50, Nightmare mode is more like “Happy Sunshine Dream Mode”. My only hindrance to progress was an Xbox hard crash after an hour without saving. Zombies, soldiers and psychopaths offered me no problem at all. Time conservation is another feature, but once you reach the Godly tier of level 50, that also becomes a non-issue, as Nick Ramos cuts a bloody swathe through the entire game. This, of course, is in direct contrast to the rest of the series, where one wrong move could see you zombie chow, or left with no time to pursue vital quest-lines even if you were Level 50.
It’s not just the Level 50 issue either. If you find a fellow comrade who has a bunch of hidden combo weapons, he can drop them into your world through the weapons locker so you can pick them up, granting you access to them through your locker. One X Buster later, you’ve found the game’s “Cheese Move”, and the rest of the game is trivial. Everyone can pack up their things and go home. Literally, if you’re struggling with a boss, you can go to a safe house and load up on the best weapons in the game. I doubt you’ll be struggling afterwards.
There is a way around this, if you’re looking for some proper difficulty, or at least something to remind of previous games: start immediately on Nightmare Mode, as a level 1 with no weapons. Suddenly, the game has captured the magic which made the previous games such a thrill. Everything becomes an immediate threat, and discretion is sometimes the better part of valour.
That’s not to say that this lack of difficulty results in a bad game. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It does push the Xbox One’s power in order to house thousands of zombies on screen at one time, and there’s something to be said about being able to wade through them wielding a fire breathing dragon head whilst dressed as a Mexican Wrestler. There is nothing quite like Dead Rising when it comes to those levels of absurdity, and it’s one of the reasons why I love this series so much.
At the heart of the series was a little thing called “fun”. It’s fun to batter zombies with umbrellas, toy guns and the occasional explosive. Combo weapons in Dead Rising 2 saw the fun increase, from the functional Spike Bat to the silliness of a double ended Chainsaw Bo Staff. Dead Rising 3 builds even further. You have the aforementioned flaming dragon head, which can be combined to offer a flying attack and martial arts moves. There’s also the Elemental Staff, which can shoot fire, electricity and ice, and it’s the stuff that only dreams are made of. Take one of these to a horde of zombies, and there’ll suddenly be a lack of zombies.
Another area that the game nails is the Psychopaths, boss fights against those who struggle to deal with outbreak, and were probably crazy beforehand anyway. Based on the Seven Deadly Sins, each boss has enough character to be at worst memorable, and at best, your new favourite psychopath. Highlights for me include a shambolic set-to in a Tex-Mex restaurant against the morbidly obese Darlene (Gluttony), who chases you around on a mobility scooter, and a poor imitator who is envious of your skills and abilities.
I think it’s fair to say that after completing Dead Rising 3 twice, once on normal and once on Nightmare, I’m a little bit disappointed with the end result. Like I said before, this isn’t a bad game, and a newcomer to the series would probably be best served starting out here before tackling the much more unforgiving 1 and 2. However, a devout follower such as myself will find this to be lacking by comparison.