Dead Rising 3 review: dead end

Like any AAA sequel, Dead Rising 3 is a bigger game: the world is more expansive, the weapons hit harder, and the zombies more plentiful than ever. Unfortunately, bigger isn't always better, as Dead Rising 3 is crushed by the weight of its ambitions, making it inferior to the other games in the series.


Dead Rising 3 builds upon the series' greatest strength: building over-the-top weapons. Blueprints are scattered throughout the world and they'll often be surrounded by the required ingredients, meaning you'll no longer have to worry about finding a workbench to show off your crafting prowess. Combo weapons can be devastating instruments, like the combination grenade/sledgehammer and lawn rake/car battery, or they can be delightfully destructive novelties, like a teddy bear/light machine gun that can be used as a sentry turret. Because the zombie numbers are increased so much more this time around, Playing with combo weapons is especially satisfying given how large the zombie hordes are.

In addition, Dead Rising 3 now allows for combo vehicles, quickly (and unbelievably) mixing two vehicles into a weaponized monstrosity. While this is a fun idea, many of the customizable cars are locked away behind the character leveling system, requiring attribute points to gain access. Sacrificing valuable resources for a cooler ride doesn't seem worth it, especially when the one combo vehicle you get as part of the story is more than sufficient.

Combo weapons and vehicles have cleverly been built around the new open-world premise, as they can be accessed through weapons lockers and garages scattered throughout the city. While this is a great way to freshen up on inventory, there also aren't very many locations where you can take advantage of this. Each sector of the city will feature safe house locations that can be cleared out to grant new weapon lockers, but their scarcity means you may not find yourself with much opportunity to take advantage of them.

The story picks up with a whole new zombie outbreak in the city of Los Perdidos, where a mechanic named Nick Ramos and his party must escape the quarantined city before it gets wiped off the map with a bomb. Unfortunately, the size of the world often works to the game's detriment. Many times, you'll try to trigger the next story-based mission or a specific side mission only to find that the next objective takes you to a sector on the opposite side of the map. This means you'll spend more time driving across town than actually engaging in anything meaningful, while popping up the map every five seconds in hopes that you don't get lost. And because of the nature of the story, many of the roads are barricaded, meaning that you'll drive down one path only to find it closed off, either requiring you to run through hundreds of zombies or turn around to drive down an alternate path. Either way, it's an incredibly time-consuming and tedious idea that becomes an increasingly integral part of the game. You'll often get calls for side missions, which involve fetch quests or psycho boss battles, but will rarely want to take part in them because they're so far away. The end game scenario, in particular, overuses the idea of driving from opposite sector to opposite sector so much that the game starts to feel like it's dragging out its conclusion with nothing of substance.

And because traversing through the giant world is a requirement, expect to see a lot of quick-time events once zombies inevitably get their undead hands on you. Dealing with an occasional "X" or "B" button prompt is fine, but Dead Rising 3 also takes advantage of one of the Xbox One controller's new features: the gyroscope. Unfortunately, it's one of the game's most unwelcome new ideas, as one specific QTE will require you to shake the controller when prompted. It's aggravating to have to shake your controller so many times and that's without mentioning that the gesture won't register some of the time. It becomes much worse when the QTE pops up while driving, as you'll wind up slamming into a wall while trying to escape the zombie horde.

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The size of the world also helps somewhat compromise the original Dead Rising story structure. Whereas before you were racing against time in a shopping mall or in the streets of Fortune City, the massive size of Los Perdidos doesn't really lend itself to a timed mission. For that reason, Dead Rising 3's Story Mode removes the countdown clock to allow for the narrative to play out entirely, which somewhat removes a lot of the tension that the originals offered. A Nightmare Mode option allows players to play with the original Dead Rising countdown clock rules intact, but because of the many roadblocks (both figurative and literal) involved in traversing the city, trying to finish in a timely manner is more stressful than fun. Capcom tries to throw an olive branch to two types of players, those wanting the story and those wanting the tension of the first two games, and falls short trying to appease them both.

Ultimately, Dead Rising 3 lives up to certain aspects of the series. Going MacGuyver on weapons and vehicles remains as fun as it's ever been and there's still satisfaction in finding new and creative ways to dispatch the undead. It even tosses in some keen Kinect voice functionality, as I could call over zombies or change back into my default outfit on command. Unfortunately, the novelty of the much-larger Los Perdidos quickly wears off, especially if you cruise down a street with a sports car only to watch the framerate chug as it frantically tries to load in hundreds of zombies. Capcom Vancouver shot for a much larger world and, in the end, that idea wound up taking away from the overall experience. In the case of Dead Rising 3, I feel like less would have been more. [6]

This review is based on early downloadable Xbox One code provided by the publisher. Dead Rising 3 will be available on Xbox One at retail and downloadable on Xbox Live for $59.99. The game is rated M.