It kinda makes me laugh that, in the years since we rediscovered our love of brutally difficult games that require you to replay bits over and over again to proceed (Dark Souls, I’m looking at you), the Dead Rising series has become significantly easier and more accessible. The first Dead Rising was an Xbox 360 exclusive waaaay back in 2006, and despite being advertised as a fun game where you could beat zombies to re-death with basically everything you could conceivably find in a shopping mall, it was hard.
Really hard. You did not have enough time to do every sidequest unless you’d carefully planned out your route through the game; a 100% completionist run had to be very, very carefully thought out, and required intricate knowledge of the game. You would have to restart the game more than once both to give yourself enough time to do the core route, and to level up (as your “level” was kept on each restart). And with time being of the essence, even something as rudimentary as saving your game had to be factored into your plans, because going to an out-of-the-way save point might result in you losing too much time to do something else you wanted to.
In fairness, some of the player anguish might’ve been saved (no pun intended) if Capcom had made it a bit more clear that you were expected to die and restart from the beginning, because that design decision appeared to mystify a lot of people who expected to be able to go through the game in a single playthrough. I didn’t, and – awful survivor AI aside – I really liked the game. Worth noting that this was before every single game on the planet had zombies, too.
The reason I explain this is because Dead Rising 3 is nothing like that. At all. Despite the fact that many of us now rediscovered our love for brutal, stupidly hard games that cause genuine anguish whenever our protagonist dies, Dead Rising 3 is easily the most accessible of the series.
Dead Rising 3 puts you in the shoes of Nick Ramos, a mechanic in the city of Los Perdidos, which definitely isn’t a fictional version of Los Angeles, honest. 10 years after the events of Dead Rising 2, Los Perdidos has been rocked by a zombie outbreak and quarantined by the military, and Nick – along with the few straggling survivors with whom he’s holed up – are trying to find their way out.
And that’s basically the entire plot for the first two-thirds of the game: a series of fetch quests as Nick tries to ready a plan to escape the city. Later on it starts linking into the usual Dead Rising tropes of evil conspiracies and naughty military operations, but for the most part you’re just roaming a city, looking for things to aid your eventual escape before the military drops a bomb and levels the place.
The sad thing about this is that the city doesn’t have half the character of the Willamette Mall from Dead Rising, or Fortune City from Dead Rising 2. Those were bright, colourful, and very carefully designed with little bits and pieces hidden everywhere, and I know them inside and out. This is grey, murky, and open, and I’d have difficulty telling you about any specific routes I took. There are certainly things hidden everywhere – the city has been deluged with combo weapon recipes, “tragic endings”, ZDC speakers to destroy, and Frank West statues to find – but it doesn’t feel as tight, as focused, or as interesting as either of the locations from the past games.
Thankfully, this isn’t a problem that extends to anything else. The zombie-crushing is as entertaining as ever, and is buoyed by the new combo weapons, combo vehicles, and the way you can now combine items anywhere. Calling Nick a mechanic is sort of like calling Rambo a soldier: while accurate, it’s missing the point by a galactic scale. This is a man who can turn a toy teddy bear into a weapon of mass destruction – give him a forklift and a fireworks truck and you’re going to see a weaponised vehicle as spectacular as it is improbable.
Personal favourite goes to the sentry cat, because a robot cat armed with a sawblade – which meows and springs around as it dices up zombies – makes me laugh far too much. Maybe not the most useful combo weapon you can find, but goddamn if it’s not innovative.
That, right there, is the core of the game. Dead Rising 3 is about killing zombies in entertaining ways, and everything else – the main story, rescuing survivors, dealing with psychopaths – is just there to give flavour to the zombie-mashing. Hit them with a wrench, or shoot them with a gun made out of a shotgun and an assault rifle, or drive over them in a forklift truck, or hurl an American football covered in knives. Use a flaming scythe to hack through six at once! Use a rake with blades for forks to skewer them! And because zombies pretty much fall apart depending on where you hack at them, it’s all very… uh… well, okay, “pretty” isn’t the right word unless you get aroused by gore, in which case please do not tell me in the comments, but you get the point.
And as mentioned above, for better or worse, this isn’t a game that’s going to stump you too hard. Unlike previous Dead Rising titles, the normal Story Mode offers you more than enough time to complete every side-quest and level up with ease. You can save wherever you like. Combo weapons can be assembled anywhere, not just at workbenches, and weapon lockers in each of the safehouses located around the city let you instantly get your hands on any weapon you’ve previously crafted. The game doesn’t want to get in the way of the game – which, in some ways, makes this the Dead Rising game that a lot of people wanted.
For those of us who loved the original’s player-hating sadism, though? Well, we have Nightmare Mode, which is unlocked from the start. This speeds up the progression of time in the game, makes the daytime shorter and the (far more dangerous) night last longer, makes zombies and psychopaths a lot tougher, and disables all saves but for manual saving at the sporadically-placed toilets. You’ve still got the advantages of the weapon lockers and the build-anywhere crafting, although said lockers offer you far less items at any given time. It’s a lot more dangerous, a lot more hectic, and you have far less in the way of easily-accessed resources, so making your way around the city carefully and cleverly plays a much more important role.
Whichever way you choose to play, Dead Rising 3 is a loooong game. I clocked about 16 hours going through the Story Mode, and then more time playing around in Nightmare Mode. As if that’s not enough, there are also four DLC missions included – Untold Tales of Los Perdidos – each of which let you play as another character around the time of the main game’s events. You can see what the ZDC were up to while Nick was roaming around, or how the Illegals operated. Individually they don’t offer too much, but the four of them add up to yet more playtime, and they give interesting new takes on the game’s events. As a free bonus, it’s not bad at all.
There’s one elephant in the room that needs to be addressed, though, which is the PC port. Dead Rising 3 was originally an Xbox One “exclusive”, so this isn’t a game designed ground-up for the PC. I addressed most of the port in a previous article, and what I said largely remains true, although I have a few points to add.
For one, yes, this game is resource-hungry. You will need a powerful PC to run it properly. For another, I did experience a few crashes during my playtime, usually when accessing the survivor board in the safehouses. Not a big issue as long as I remembered to save before accessing that board (there are always toilets in the safehouses, so that’s okay) but painful if I forgot. And, finally, the 30FPS cap.
It’s not officially supported, but there is a .ini tweak available that lets you remove the 30FPS cap. This requires yet more grunt from your PC, but if you have a PC capable of doing it, I strongly recommend it. I experienced no extra problems when playing Dead Rising 3 with an uncapped framerate, and it’s worth dropping the visual fidelity a bit to get it running smoothly at a higher framerate. Dead Rising is traditionally a somewhat sluggish series and that’s still true even with the cap removed, but it feels a lot more slick and responsive. Which, for a game about hacking up the living dead in amusing ways, is a big bonus.
As you might guess from my recommendation of uncapping the frame rate: yes, I do recommend Dead Rising 3. It’s not necessarily the Dead Rising that the more masochistic fans of the series have been wanting (although Nightmare Mode goes some way to alleviating that disappointment) and Los Perdidos is easily the dullest environment yet, but maiming zombies with improbable weapons is as enjoyable as ever and Dead Rising 3 provides yet more ways to do it.