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Monday, December 2, 2013

Guest Review: 'Dead Rising 3' - You're About to be in... Dead Place

By: Adam Kalina

Let’s be honest. We live in a culture that is completely saturated in zombie apocalypse media. There are countless movies, TV shows, games and books on the subject. Because of this, it’s may easy to pass on another zombie game but doing so would be at your expense, dear gamer. As a fan of the first two games, I looked forward to this new iteration with the new technology and gameplay changes it had brought to the table.

The character you play as is Nick Ramos, a mechanic who gets unwillingly thrown into all kinds of situations. The story is pretty standard ‘Dead Rising’ fare and is ultimately forgettable. It’s just hard for me to take the cutscenes seriously when I’m wearing tennis shoes, pajamas and a sombrero; not to mention I had just killed 100 zombies with a flaming broadsword just after steamrolling over 500 more. Therein lies the genius behind the series: you shouldn’t take it seriously if you want to get the most fun out of it.

The open city of Los Perdidos in Dead Rising 3 is larger than the first 2 games combined. Exploration is encouraged as players can find hidden collectibles and blueprints to craft new weapon and vehicle combinations. Most of the objectives are not time-constrained, meaning you can explore the city and knock out quests on your own time and terms as long as the overall game time limit hasn’t been reached. It also means that you’re not just siting around, waiting for the next event to occur. For the people who prefer the previous games’ gameplay of timed events and restroom save points, you’re in luck! The game has “Nightmare mode” which is essentially Dead Rising 3 with the constrained time and save limits of the first two games. It’s great to have the option to play one way or the other. 

One thing worth mentioning is that while exploring the city, there are no load times whatsoever. The only loading that occurs is right before a cutscene or right when you first start playing the game. The initial loading when you begin playing is pretty horrendous by today’s standards (about 45 seconds).

The game is made up of the main story and side quests. The side quests are optional but reward players with loads of PP (player points) which in turn, gains you levels so you can upgrade your inventory slots, life, agility and more. These side quests range from saving survivors to running errands to killing psychopathic survivors. Gameplay-wise, this entry evolves the familiar series’ formula more than its predecessor. You are in more control over which attributes you want to improve first, you can create combination weapons and vehicles anywhere (you’re not limited to finding a workbench to perform this action like in Dead Rising 2), and you can (finally) pick up items, eat food, and answer incoming calls while running. No longer are you a sitting target while you try to replenish your life by eating a whole pizza in a second. 

The city is quite detailed and you can enter most buildings, each with their own unique items and theme. You can easily tell that a lot of work went into making the city feel authentic. because of the city’s size, expect to spend a lot of your time driving in a vehicle, whether it’s a muscle car or a bulldozer. Building vehicle combinations is as easy and crafting weapon combinations and there are some great things just waiting to be made. Combine a motorcycle and a steamroller to create the “rollerhog,” a true zombie-slaughtering flame-throwing speed demon which will surely up your zombie kill count effortlessly. Combine a katana and a rake to get the “zombie raker” which is basically Freddy Kruger claws attached to a wooden pole. The various combinations range from outlandishly awesome to hilarious novelties. It’s safe to say that the zany, over-the-top antics of the previous two games are well-preserved and built upon here.

The controls are adequate and do the job well. The use of the Xbox One controller’s impulse triggers are implemented nicely. When firing a gun, I can actually feel it on my right index finger. It may be a small touch but it’s very welcome as an added layer of depth. What surprised me the most is how the game integrated Kinect functionality in a way that it doesn’t feel unnatural or tacked on. It feels like an extension of the game and doesn’t take away anything from gameplay. For instance, when a zombie grabs onto you, the game prompts you to lean the controller forward and back again to “shake” them off. You can also shout in your living room to attract zombies to your location. Why would you want to do this? Well, you could get them close enough to set off an explosive right in the middle of them or you could distract them while your co-op partner runs behind, undetected.

Speaking of co-op, it’s handled very well in this game, better than the previous title. The second player controls a guy named Dick and the game doesn’t limit the two players to be at the same spot at the same time. You could literally be on different sides of the city, doing your own thing. Of course, real friends would stick together and work towards the objective at hand. The best part about playing co-op is that even when playing as Dick, the game records all the progress you’ve made, including any blueprints you find and side quests you complete so you’re not just the “other guy” in the first player’s game.

The graphics at the best of times are stunning and really showcase the power of the Xbox One. At other times, they can be mistaken for an Xbox 360 game. It runs at native 720p and 30 frames per second, which by itself doesn’t sound terribly impressive. However, the game sports some nice textures and an incredible amount of zombies on-screen at once without breaking the framerate. The zombies themselves are impressive because each one is completely unique. Gone are the days of Dead Rising 1 and 2 where you’ll see the exact same zombie several times on the same screen. In part 3, the zombies are all generated randomly using various pre-built body parts so no two are exactly the same. The only time I’ve seen the framerate drop below 30 fps is when there are hundreds of zombies on screen at once and you’re plowing into them with a car. Even still, the drop is not distracting enough to ruin the gameplay and it’s not nearly as frequent as it was in the previous two games.

In closing, if you enjoyed the first two Dead Rising games, I suspect you’ll like this one even more. If not, there’s not much else here that’ll pull you in. It really takes the familiar gameplay up a notch (or two). The graphics aren’t perfect but they are good nonetheless. If you can play through the game with a buddy, I can guarantee you will get some laughs and good times in. If you ever wanted to just screw around in an open city infested with zombies, then this is about as close as you’re ever (likely) going to get!

Scores are out of 100 and are meant to be taken very seriously.
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