Originally released as an Xbox One launch exclusive (a version we weren't very fond of), Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse Edition infects the PC with its undead mayhem. The Apocalypse Edition has it all: suped up with high resolution graphics, all four Untold Stories of Los Perdidos DLC packs, and all the zombie slaughtering action you can handle.
This time around, there's a massive zombie outbreak in the city of Los Perdidos; even though the zombie condition is supposed to be under control through a national microchipping program that automatically administers Zombrex to the infected. So, it's up to you, a mechanic named Nick Ramos, to wade through buckets of gore and find a way out of a city that's in complete lockdown. Along the way, you'll encounter a variety of crazy characters, some of whom will fight at your side if you manage to save them from themselves. The trick is, like in previous games, there's a time limit to the fun. Players have seven days to complete the main plot and any side missions they can manage. After that, a giant incendiary bomb is due to wipe out the city. Players will also need to keep an eye on what time of the day it is, since zombies gain extra strength and endurance during the nighttime hours.
Gearing up for the slaughter
However, the heart of the Dead Rising series isn't necessarily in its absurd story or characters. Even though there's plenty of side missions marked with humor to keep players exploring the large open world, the draw of Dead Rising is using outrageous gadgets for the wholesale slaughter of zombies. Hundreds of items can be picked up and used either as or part of a weapon, and there's a substantial list of gear designed to chop, crush, electrocute, burn, and blow up the undead--but I should add that the unarmed moves aren't half bad either.
To this end, Dead Rising 3 makes its most important gameplay innovation. Instead of having to visit a Maintenance Room to construct weapons of mass destruction (as you do in Dead Rising 2), Nick can build everything on the spot. All he needs are the right blueprints, parts, and a quiet corner to quickly put together a weapon combo like a fiery katana scythe. Or Nick can combine two vehicles into a super car, perfect for plowing through the zombie horde. There is a tremendous amount of creativity that goes into some of these inventions, including a giant teddy bear turret that fires explosives, and trying out new recipes is a big part of the fun. Also, the game also lets players save the game from the options menu, instead of having to make a run for the nearest toilet. All of this means that players can stick to playing and exploring without having to do a lot of back and forth.
Although the game is designed for a controller, the keyboard and mouse aren't too shabby. In fact, I frequently found myself switching between them, especially when driving a vehicle with a turret gun on it. I find that the mouse and keyboard is the best way to move the vehicle while aiming and shooting the gun at the same time. That being said, the controls aren't built for subtlety. One of the most infuriating parts of the game is when I had to walk a narrow beam in order to reach a set of blueprints, but Nick kept falling off whenever he got too close to the edge.
Some of the boss battles are another great way to get your blood pressure up. Between the single save slot and the time limit, it can be difficult to tell when you're ready to face a particular boss. If you're not, the autosave system forces you to either soldier through it or restart the chapter. One particularly frustrating battle comes after you lose all your equipment, and it includes robotic arms with very long reach, a lot of zombies, and a fire that quickly threatens to consume everything. Fortunately, character progression is independent of the story. So, you can replay chapters without losing experience points, abilities, or unlocked blueprints.
Smart zombies, dumb companions
Graphics aren't the only things to get a big upgrade. The undead's mob mentality is very impressive. Zombies will notice you as you stand at the edge of a rooftop and look out onto the street. Then a few will come shambling in your direction. A few seconds later, and you'll be staring out a street packed with the undead, all looking up and reaching out at you. The sea of zombies grows with each passing day, and even after playing the game for hours, turning a corner and seeing a street filled from end to end with them is still enough to give pause.
Fortunately, you can recruit survivors to fight alongside you by completing side missions. Although some of the characters can be annoying, you can arm them with most weapons, and they're pretty effective with them. Best of all, you never have to worry about them running out of ammunition. Having a complete posse of five characters, all armed with powerful weaponry, means that you can clear out even the most densely packed streets in relatively short time. However, you can only issue a small handful of commands to them, and none of them include "get out of my way," "stay here," or "hold your fire."
Companions are always blocking doorways, which means you'll have to spend a couple seconds shoving your way through. They'll also blow up nearby cars to get at zombies, which can sometimes make obtaining a vehicle very challenging. Trying to interact with objects with your posse crowding close around you can be a huge chore. It would be nice if some of these companions had a bit more personality, but they're pretty much limited to telling you off every time you stand around for a second too long or when you shove past them.
Multiplayer makes the game considerably easier, since nothing mows down zombies as efficiently as two players carrying an array of zombie thrashing gear, especially when there are also AI companions present. However, even though the matchmaking is more thought out compared to Dead Rising 2 - players can set it to match them up with players that have similar play styles, like casual or completionist - it still isn't very developed. Without much in the way of communication, players drop into your game and the two of you just end up doing your own thing until a plot event requires you both to be at the same location.
So, even though having another player around can make Dead Rising 3 go faster (perfect for speed runs), it doesn't necessarily make the game more exciting or fun. It isn't as though there are any special cooperative moves or items that produce a combined effect, other than the almost accidental freezing and shattering of zombies.
Dead Rising 3 is a technologically sophisticated game with a very straightforward concept. Here are a bunch of toys for you to use to lay waste to the zombie horde. Go out, explore, and have at it. Although it often feels like the time limit (present in all Dead Rising games) conflicts with the idea of running around a big open world, it doesn't take away from the satisfaction of zombie bashing. The zombie herd behavior is an amazing thing to behold, and the game retains a bit of its challenge even as the player achieves higher levels. Hours, even entire days can be spent on tracking down blueprints for all the whacky weapon combos, and that doesn't even include the DLC content, which extends the game even further.
After cutting loose with a pair of chainsaw swords, or giving zombies a devastating Street Fighter "Shoryuken" Dragon Punch, you can wash the blood and gore off your boots with the knowledge that it was all time well spent.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
This review is based on a downloadable Steam PC code provided by the publisher. Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse Edition will be available digitally on September 5 for $49.99. The game is rated M.