Dead Rising 3 – E3 Preview
Though zombies have become as stale and cliché as the Nazis once were, there was a time when they seemed remarkably more interesting and unexploited, and that time was roughly around the beginning of the current console generation. In fact, what spurned fellow GamingLives writer Richie to hunker down and buy an Xbox 360 was a certain Capcom-developed zombie smasher by the name of Dead Rising; a loving recreation of Romero’s seminal Dawn of the Dead with an unlockable Megaman costume and the ability to knock the stuffing out of the undead with a giant cuddly teddy bear. When he saw just how many zombies they could fit on-screen at once and the litany of ways you could send them packing, it started a years-long affair with the system and achievements that’s seen him since go on to attempt to max absolutely bloody everything, even at a cost to his own sanity and that of others around him.
Fast-forward to 2013; a new console generation is on the horizon and Capcom are once again unleashing the zombie hordes, but this time it’s an Xbox One exclusive for Dead Rising 3, a title that garnered some ire during its announcement in the Microsoft conference for looking like a grittier and way less madcap adventure, including from yours truly. Convinced that there was more than met the eye, I found myself determined to give the upcoming zombie-’em-up another look, and found myself pleasantly surprised and bite-free.
Taking place ten years after the events of Dead Rising 2, this third instalment stars Nick Ramos, a mechanic working in the fictional city of Los Perdidos, California, when the city is overrun by the never-ending hordes of the undead, and must team up with other survivors to find a way to escape the city before it’s destroyed by the military. Lacking the time-limit restriction of its predecessors and with a city larger than both Willamette and Fortune City combined, Dead Rising 3 takes far more of an open-world slant on the survival-horror aspect of the series. Those who preferred the time-limit restriction of the previous titles will be in luck, as the final release will come with what they’re dubbing as “Nightmare mode”, which will restore the ever-ticking clock.
Since the timer – an integral part of the first two in the series – is now optional, it’d be fair to wonder if other aspects have been left to the wayside, but any changes I saw weren’t a case of abandonment but of iteration; saving isn’t just limited to bathrooms any more -but in the spirit of the more open-world dynamic can be done anywhere – and vehicles are now a vital part of the gameplay and critical to exploration around Los Perdidos. While movement from point A to B is more than possible on foot, to move greater distances you’ll almost certainly need to steal a car if you want to make it to the other end alive, and the handling of vehicles has been given an overhaul as a result. Now, cars will start to feel different depending on how many zombies are clambouring over it, and the undead can now break through your windows and grab you while you’re driving in an attempt to chow down, prompting a quick button-mashing to throw them off and regain control of the wheel.
Considered one of the greatest features of Dead Rising 2, crafting new weapons makes a much bigger return this time around, with tons of combinations available to take out the enemy swarms – from a flash-light on a pistol to a what was lovingly dubbed ‘the sledgesaw’ – without having to rely on a workbench to create them. Craftable weapons can now be formed at any time as long as you have the prerequisite blueprints and the items needed to make it, saving you from having to backtrack elsewhere in order to bolster your arsenal. Using combined and makeshift weapons will also grant you a greater amount of prestige points, and these will be increased even further by performing combos and wiping out as many of the walking dead as possible without being attacked or taking too long between kills, which will add a multiplier to the points you’ve accrued until the frenzy is over. Once you’ve collected enough prestige points, you’ll then be given an attribute point that can be used to level up Ramos in a way that’s more suited to your playing style, and with plenty of choice on offer you won’t necessarily be railroaded into progressing your version of Nick in a way that doesn’t match the way you play.
Stamping out the undead plague won’t be as easy as it used to be, as now the AI has been refined in order to give the brain-chomping shamblers a horde mentality, so getting stuck in may become a lot more difficult as you become increasingly surrounded. Attracting the hordes is easier than you’d think, as they’re now attracted to bright lights and loud noises, though these can be used to distract them and divert their attention away from you if you know what you’re doing, though I wouldn’t make it too clear to the Kinect if you don’t want to be discovered. In a feature that may throw off more than a few unaware players, making too much noise in real life will attract the hordes of Los Perdidos, though the level of volume will be set at a threshold that means it won’t be set off by regular conversation.
Kinect won’t be the only new tech that Dead Rising 3 will make use of, as SmartGlass can also be used in a big way, should the player choose to. While it could just be used to give you a map of the surrounding area, show potentially important locations and set way-points markers that will show up in during gameplay to guide you to your destination, there will also be occasions where you can use it to bring in the big guns and level the playing field a bit more effectively. As we discovered, having SmartGlass will unlock access to special missions that – once completed – will allow the player to call in some drones, release some flares or fire off an air-strike, the latter of which was used to end the demo in a rather explosive fashion.
However, before that happened we were given a wider look as to how exploration in Los Perdidos would play out if Nick is forced on foot, and this is another aspect where things will get more challenging. Taking advantage of the open-world gameplay, there are more than a few paths to many of your potential destinations, and on the journey to find a gun or two it was suggested that taking the back paths and alleyways was a much smarter alternative to taking to the streets, as the former were less heavily populated by the flesh-eating nightmares, though one path taken caused Nick to be accosted by a group of one of the many special variants of zombies present in Dead Rising 3 – firemen. Carrying axes and wearing fireproof vests, these formidable foes were too strong and resilient to take down without a more powerful arsenal, and Nick was forced to beat a hasty retreat before he ended up as an impromptu meal.
Despite the fact that players can now save anywhere, there are plenty of designated safe zones that Nick Ramos can hole up in for the time being, though some of these may have to be cleansed of the undead before they can be used, as the demo proved when our hero was interrupted from showing off some of the features of the locations by a zombie that had somehow survived the onslaught. Everything is a weapon in the Dead Rising series, but an unfortunate problem I had in the past was that once an awesome weapon was destroyed, it was difficult to get it back again, and in some cases was gone forever. In Dead Rising 3, everything you pick up and use as part of your arsenal against the undead will be remembered, and when examining the lockers all the player will have to do is look through the different categories of weapons and select it in order to retrieve a brand new one and put it in their current inventory. Likewise, any outfits and costumes the player picks up and uses will be memorised and stored in your safe room, and it was there that the demo sought to calm fears that this instalment in the series would be entirely gritty and po-faced by showing off two of Nick’s potential costumes – a pretty dress and a giant shark costume, jokingly dubbed “Sharkie”.
It may have assuaged my fears that Dead Rising 3 was going to be as relentlessly bleak and brown as Microsoft’s E3 conference let on, but I can’t help but admit that an unfortunate side-effect of it was that it served more as a minor juxtaposition to the main core of the gameplay than it did feel an integral part of what made it so fun to play. While the previous Dead Rising titles managed to seamlessly combine challenging gameplay with zany madcap adventures, from what I saw of Dead Rising 3 those moments of levity feel more like an afterthought than the driving core of the action. I’m not left unconvinced by Dead Rising 3 – the action on display shows a lot of promise and interesting ideas and iterations on past mechanics – but at the moment this Xbox One exclusive feels more like that crazy friend of yours grew up and got a business degree instead of keeping the party going at all costs.
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