Dead Rising 3 preview: cult turning mainstream

By Steve Watts, Jun 13, 2013 10:00am PDT

Dead Rising was never a marquee game for Xbox. Sure, it was exclusive, but it was never a top-tier franchise in the vein of Halo or Gears of War. It seemed content as a campy, somewhat flawed cult hit. Dead Rising 3, on the other hand, has higher aspirations. As a headliner for Microsoft's new console, Capcom is polishing the rough edges.

In a hands-off demonstration at E3, Capcom showed off the incredibly large world of Los Perdidos, populated with plenty of zombies. Capcom promises that the world will be seamless, with nary a load in sight.

Crafting has returned, untethered from inconvenient crafting tables. Dead Rising 3's new hero, Nick Ramos, is an auto mechanic, which apparently imbues him with the ability to craft anywhere. Safehouses hold weapons lockers that track all of the weapons you've found so far. Neither touch is particularly realistic, but it makes crafting far more convenient and user-friendly for a game that is primarily about creative zombie-slaying.

A sledgehammer duct-taped to a cement saw is just one example of the many weapons that can be crafted, ranging from gruesome to simply practical. Nick can easily transition between bashing skulls and grinding them open. A flashlight duct-taped to a gun, on the other hand, makes for a "tactical" firearm that is perfect for taking on dark corridors. Yes, in the world of Dead Rising, being a trained mechanic means that you can duct tape things to other things.

The zombies have gotten a bit more aggressive this time around, and react to light and sound more naturally. Since they're a mindless, hungry horde, you can use their easily-distracted braaaains against them. Firing a flare, for example, will keep them all looking the other direction as you sneak around them. If they spot you, though, they'll all start coming after you at once like a pack. Even when driving a car, they'll cling on and their weight will affect the handling.

Capcom is giving players more agency in how to deal with the horde, though. You can customize your levels between a wide variety of categories, including Life, Inventory, Melee, Ranged, Mechanic, Agility, and Smarts. You can also use a SmartGlass app to call down airstrikes or set store way-points (though why these examples couldn't be accomplished without SmartGlass escapes me). Classic fans might want to play the time-based Nightmare Mode, but those who found it too stressful can play in Normal mode without a ticking clock.

Of course, all of this has the camp value that has defined Dead Rising, with the inclusion of outfits like a Hazmat Suit or a Shark mascot costume. Because if you can't dress up like a plush predator when slicing open zombies with your duct-taped tools, what's the point?

These changes makes the game seem much more accessible, fitting for a hopeful system-seller. It seems like a natural path in the evolution of the series, seeing as Dead Rising 2 was more accessible than the first. All the same, each step away from the unique qualities risk taking it further from the charming little cult game with its myriad bugs and unfriendly mechanics. It's grown up into a franchise, and how that strikes you will depend on your affinity for the first.

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