NOTE: While our review focuses on the original Xbox One version of Dead Rising 3, we’ve updated it with an additional section before the final verdict, to give our impressions of the belated PC version, Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse Edition!
You’ve never seen so many zombies!
That seems to be one of the key design hooks of Dead Rising 3, one of the more high-profile launch titles for the Xbox One. Despite the preceding Dead Rising 2 going multiplatform, Dead Rising 3 has gone back to the series’ roots as a proud Xbox exclusive, this time published by Microsoft themselves, and coming to us from the since-rebranded Capcom Vancouver, formerly known as Blue Castle Games when they developed Dead Rising 2.
Fully embracing the leap to a next-gen console, Dead Rising 3 dwarfs its predecessors by pulling out every stop to be the largest game in the series yet. It successfully renders upwards of a hundred zombies on screen at once, while eliminating load times completely as well, and spans an entire city this time around, in this case the fictional California-based, Los Perdidos.
The well-received mechanics of Dead Rising 2 have also been expanded and refined, with a multi-layered weapon-crafting system that can now be used on the fly, the ability to combine vehicles into custom death rides, and the opportunity to recruit a posse of survivors to fight with you as you explore the city and proceed the story. Also like Dead Rising 2, Dead Rising 3 features two-player online co-op, with the entirety of the gameplay able to be experienced with an Xbox Live buddy, or even an assortment of random strangers.
Dead Rising 3 is undeniably huge, but more importantly, it’s a hell of a lot of fun!
Thanks to a more forgiving and laid-back main Story Mode, with the option to play in Nightmare Mode for hardcore fans who like the tension of multi-tasking under the series’ trademark time limit, Dead Rising 3 lowers the barrier of entry significantly for newcomers and people who previously had trouble getting into the series, without alienating the original audience. It’s not only the best Dead Rising game to date, but also one of the best launch exclusives that the Xbox One has to offer, and a highly recommended day-one purchase for those investing in Microsoft’s new console!
Dead Rising 3 makes par for what one would expect from the graphics of a high-profile Xbox One launch exclusive, but it doesn’t necessarily impress when viewed as a next-gen graphical showcase. It looks fine, yes, but many of the character models and environments aren’t anything leaps and bounds above what the Xbox 360 could render when it was pushed. This is especially true with the sometimes aggressive rate of pop-in that occurs when you’re speeding through environments with no load times or interruptions.
You’ll be satisfied, but you won’t be floored in other words.
With that said, Dead Rising 3 finds other ways to impress with its visuals beyond trying to be aggressively gorgeous all-around like Forza Motorsport 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome. It instead flexes the muscle of the Xbox One from a more deeply-rooted technical standpoint, wanting to show off how the console can make an experience smooth and seamless, while still pulling off technical feats that wouldn’t be possible on the Xbox 360.
As mentioned, this is mainly due to the sheer count of zombies it can render on screen at once. In the later parts of the game and during night time sections especially, your characters and vehicles will literally be swimming in the undead, which contain many diverse models and never fail to animate smoothly, even when flooding Los Perdidos in massive mobs. It truly is impressive to behold in motion, not to mention immensely satisfying when you can create weapons and vehicles that can eventually slaughter legions of these zombies by the hundreds!
There are some slight framerate drops when you move between sections of the city at times, especially if you’ve just loaded up your save file, but the rate that Dead Rising 3 makes such a busy zombie outbreak while barely even breaking a sweat is still a very exceptional use of the Xbox One’s added power. Occasionally, cutscenes will naturally take place at various points of the story, but if you’re just exploring around, hunting collectibles and playing side missions, the game never stops. It never stops to load, it never stops to play a pre-rendered sequence, and it never gets in the way of the player’s dynamic fun. It’s a game that truly feels alive, and this will effortlessly suck players into the experience for long gameplay stretches of many hours at a time.
Of course, to have this load-free experience during actual gameplay, Dead Rising 3 does have lengthy pre-loads, sometimes spanning around thirty seconds or more, whenever you load your save file or die and have to reload a checkpoint. That might annoy some, but it’s a small price to pay to play around in Los Perdidos without interruption.
When you do scrutinize the models and environments, they do have lots of nice added details, even subtle ones. There’s graffiti and blood smears on walls, houses that have decaying boards teetering off of them, a diverse selection of fictional restaurants, hobbyist stores, gyms and even sex shops that you can run through and pilfer with hordes of zombies on your tail, and some very impressive lighting displays both indoors and outdoors, which is essential for a good horror game. Living character models sometimes look a little disproportionate and stiffly-animated, but they still have their own distinct details and expressions that make the cast of Dead Rising 3 feel diverse and memorable, in terms of both its heroes and its villains.
Dead Rising 3 may not be the most good-looking launch title in the Xbox One selection, even if it still looks quite solid, but it effectively reminds us that sheer graphical power isn’t, nor should it be, the sole focus of a next-gen console’s power upgrade. Performance is just as important, if not moreso than graphics, and Dead Rising 3 flexes the processing muscle of the Xbox One in ways that virtually no other game on the console has done at this point!
Dead Rising 3 has a very diverse selection of action-packed and harrowing tracks, with a terrifying tune most often kicking up when you’re swarmed by zombies. This also makes it extra satisfying when you massacre hordes of them amidst the intense music, perhaps barely escaping with your skin intact.
Other key cutscenes and encounters have their own music tracks, which contain elements of rock, synth, electronica and other video game-friendly genres beyond the full epic orchestra that many other blockbuster games see fit to have behind them these days, though not this one. Dead Rising 3 wisely sticks to a soundtrack that is very video game-friendly, not trying to be more serious than it is, and just trying to create a soundtrack that is fun to nod and exclaim along with as you carry out your zombie-killing frenzy.
Where the soundtrack is at its best is during the inevitable psychopath battles too, another hallmark of Dead Rising gameplay. Each of the varied selections of bosses comes with their own unique track, some of which are even cheekily lyrical, and all of them are a unique mix of catchy, terrifying and highly entertaining. Most of them incorporate heavy percussion and dubstep, and they’re some of the best recent boss battle themes in any modern game to date!
Dead Rising 3 also packs in a huge variety of brutal and grisly sound effects, while making everything else sound very authentic and powerful. The crunching, ripping and chopping sounds you’ll hear as you hack your way through zombies are disgustingly satisfying and brutal, and the roar of a new custom vehicle’s engine will have you eager to speed through Los Perdidos with your new zombie-crushing ride. Likewise, when you’re on foot and running out of weapons, the ravenous and inhuman roars and cries of both zombies and survivors will constantly create a feeling of dread, effectively capitalizing on the constant realization that you’ll never destroy every zombie, no matter how much you want to.
The only disappointing weak link in the otherwise superb sound effects are the guns, which often sound rather lightweight, even when you fuse them into combo weapons. Still, the sounds of your targets exploding, burning and being blasted apart helps to compensate for this.
In a game so full of character, it’s also important that the voice acting be great, and thankfully, Dead Rising 3 doesn’t disappoint here. While the psychopaths and other villains are pretty over-the-top, naturally, lead protagonist, Nick Ramos and his fellow survivors are often voiced in a more grounded and straight way. Of course, if you like the over-the-top hijinx, it’s still funny to see so many cutscenes with the survivors played so straight and serious, while Nick is dressed up in a gimp outfit or womens’ clothing, and no one ever seems to say anything about it.
All in all however, the performances are all exceptional, in the case of heroes and villains alike, effectively complementing the game’s frightening, but also comically overblown tone. The audio of Dead Rising 3 is excellent overall in fact, particularly in how well it captures so many myriad ways to destroy the zombie legions with your ridiculously ornate weaponry and custom transportation!
Dead Rising 3 offers a few changes in its main Story Mode from prior entries, but all of them are for the better, especially in regards to making the series more approachable to the uninitiated.
Of course, if you are a hardcore fan who craves the heightened challenge of a time-sensitive zombie outbreak, you do have the option of playing in Nightmare Mode, which better preserves the overwhelming, intense challenge of the previous Dead Rising games, right down to having to find bathrooms and port-a-potties to save your game in. The time limit is extended to five in-game days instead of three like before, even in Nightmare Mode, but that’s likely just because the world is bigger and offers even more to do.
If you’ve previously been intimidated by the series’ gameplay however, or perhaps couldn’t figure it out, Dead Rising 3’s main Story Mode offers the very welcome addition of reeling back the five-day time limit and allowing you to save anywhere, giving you all the time you need to accomplish every side mission, hunt down every collectible and, naturally, see the story through to its end. As before, there are multiple potential endings that players can earn, though these are now based on player decisions late in the game, and not on time like they were in the series’ previous offerings.
Say you’ve never played a Dead Rising game and are completely unfamiliar with this series however. What exactly do you do in Dead Rising 3, you may ask?
Well, taking control of another new protagonist, in this case, friendly neighbourhood mechanic, Nick Ramos, you and a crew of survivors are trying to survive in a zombie outbreak that has spread across fictional California burg, Los Perdidos. Early in the game, you learn that the military will be nuking the city in five days to contain the infection, leaving Nick and the other survivors a limited amount of time to scrounge up a means of escape.
Put simply, it’s an open-world survival-horror game with a huge emphasis on cobbling together whatever crude weapons and tools you can find to kill hundreds of zombies choking the city, whether by yourself, with survivors, or with an Xbox Live partner, while devouring any food you find to stay healthy.
As you look for a way out of the city, you’ll be relayed messages by an oddly-relaxed hippie fellow via a walkie-talkie with a broken mic, who will point out potential side missions where you can recruit additional survivors to be stored and assigned to your ‘posse’, finally giving the survivors a purpose beyond just being led by the nose to a safe zone like in previous games. This same fellow will also point you towards ‘Psycho Missions’, where you’ll take on psychopath bosses for achievements and PP, or Prestige Points, once again making their return in Dead Rising 3.
PP is essentially the equivalent of EXP, and once again, it’s vital to your success, awarded to you for every zombie kill, every survivor rescued (even if you just bail them out of trouble on the side of the road and they run off), every psychopath killed, every collectible found (which come in the form of Limited Edition Frank West statues and Tragic End Corpses), and every side task completed. Dead Rising 3 could be looked at as a zombie-themed action-RPG as well then, if you fancy that, since you gain levels as you accrue PP, and can customize the mechanical know-how and stats of Nick to gradually make him stronger and more proficient at being a survivor as you proceed through the game, as well as control which survivors may or may not be in your party, or posse in this case.
Nick being a mechanic also means that Dead Rising 3 places more emphasis on crafting than ever, but makes this a bit of an easier process than it was in Dead Rising 2. Now, once you find one of about a hundred Blueprints, you can craft various combo weapons simply by holding the right bumper to pull up your inventory, and pressing the A Button when highlighting a weapon you can combine with another weapon. You can even create ‘Super Combo Weapons’ by combining previously-combined weapons into especially potent tools of death. Best of all, unlike Dead Rising 2, where you could only do this at designated work benches, Dead Rising 3 lets you craft weapons anywhere you’d like, even in Nightmare Mode.
The same is true of the all-new ability to create custom vehicles, which can more easily plow through zombies than regular cars, motorcycles and vans.
The only drawback with the crafting this time is that Nick can no longer combine weapons before he has the Blueprints for them, which feels a tad arbitrary and limiting. With that said, any weapon you create can be withdrawn from a storage locker present in any safe house, even if it breaks, and so long as you don’t drain the gradually-replenishing supply meter in your locker that prevents you from abusing this system. You can also gradually unlock new combinations for weapons that you’ve found Blueprints for, giving you more than way to craft certain combo weapons. Likewise, you can retrieve any vehicle from a garage you’ve secured, even if it’s destroyed, with the same replenishing supply meter.
Some of the stuff that you can create is truly outrageous as well! You can craft spiked steamroller/motorcycle hybrids and killer fireworks-shooting ram rigs as examples of custom vehicles, and the weapons get even crazier! Combining otherwise mundane items, you can create a lightsaber flashlight, a flaming grim reaper scythe, a wise-cracking electronic axe, and even a dildo-launching gatling cannon, among many other things. The sheer amount of murderous creativity allowed in Dead Rising 3’s crafting selection is truly staggering, and highly amusing!
Much of Dead Rising 3 then is simply about having fun killing zombies, and gradually finding new ways to do it as you improve Nick’s skillset. It’s the same founding principle of Dead Rising’s gameplay as a whole, only on a larger scale, giving you a bigger world and more customization capability than ever before.
The gameplay also feels much more streamlined than before, and this is most evident during the psychopath battles. The psychopaths of Dead Rising 3 are easier than the previous games, no doubt, but they’re also more fun and less frustrating, which is a positive improvement. The later mandatory bosses will test your skills a little more in more thrilling battles, but Nick should always have the upper hand as long as you’ve brought a healthy arsenal of combo weaponry, and you haven’t gotten lazy with leveling him up and boosting his stats.
The Seven Deadly Sins motif across this latest batch of optional psychopaths is also very inspired and memorable, even if one is mandatory and fought in a story mission. Again, they’re easier than the psychopaths of prior games, but still fun to battle on sheer comic terror and exaggerated character alone. The more clever ones include the Sloth battle, where the whole fight is simply finding a layabout who is too lazy to actually attack you, simply sending killer R.C. helicopters after you as you try to disable his security system, and the Greed battle, the one mandatory encounter, where you have to deduce the real psychopath as he harvests organs from victims that are made to look like him.
All in all, the boss design in Dead Rising 3 is great, and is quite a lot of fun. Even if they’re optional, you’ll likely want to seek out every psychopath encounter over the other side missions most of all, which are mostly just fetch and escort quests that aren’t all that interesting, even if they do award easy PP and allies. Players will love looking forward to the next deranged design for a psychopath that Capcom Vancouver has put together though, even if you can easily dispatch most of them as long as you just have enough tools in your arsenal and don’t get careless.
Given that the series is making an early upgrade to Xbox One, you can imagine that it makes an effort to take advantage of some of the console’s more noteworthy new features as well. The game makes extensive use of Kinect voice commands for example, with players able to call out to zombies to attract their attention, provoke the attention of psychopaths by saying pre-determined phrases, and even navigate menus simply by speaking the options aloud. You can also shake the controller to push zombies off of Nick when they grab on to him, which is a clever use of the Kinect’s motion-sensing capability, and one that slyly gets around the Xbox One controller not having built-in motion sensors like competing PlayStation and Nintendo controllers.
Xbox SmartGlass is also incorporated via a ZDC companion app on mobile devices, which offers unique benefits, but is hardly essential to the experience. As you proceed the story, you can unlock new missions by finding special ZDC app collectibles in the game and activating them with a mobile device. With this, your real-world smartphone or tablet can be used to call in drones to assist you, and even summon air strikes to get rid of large concentrations of zombies!
Again, it’s quite easy to play through the entirety of Dead Rising 3 without ever using the ZDC app, but if you’re a fan of Xbox SmartGlass features, this game offers some inspired ways to take advantage of it, without compromising the gameplay nor absolutely demanding that players buy a mobile device if they don’t already own one. It’s especially commendable when you consider that Dead Rising 3 is mainly a single-player game.
Of course, if you wish, you can set parameters for random Xbox Live players to join your game in drop-in/drop-out co-op, or simply invite a friend on your Xbox Live friends list to join you, if they also own Dead Rising 3. Like the Xbox SmartGlass benefits, playing in co-op isn’t at all necessary, but it does enhance the game, and provides twice the zombie-killing thrills when you can enjoy the entirety of the experience with a buddy, taking control of fellow survivor, Dick, a confrontational trucker that is still seen in cutscenes at times, even when you play alone.
Players in a co-op session can operate independently on opposite ends of Los Perdidos if they wish, or stick together. The only time that players are forced together is during story missions, but that’s fine. The best applications of the co-op play are to find collectibles twice as fast (they count for both players when found in a co-op session), and to have more intelligent back-up during the more challenging missions and boss fights. It’s also extra satisfying to create custom vehicle rigs with one player driving, while the other mans a turret and cuts apart hordes of zombies in the driver’s way.
It’s the fact that Dead Rising 3 just trims the fat and just lets players loose on a lost, undead city that makes the gameplay so fun and addictive though. Sure, Los Perdidos doesn’t have quite the same continually colourful and striking flavour as Willamette Mall, and especially Fortune City, but it’s still a large environment with plenty of entertainment and rewards to be had.
You’ll be kept busy for a while too, as this is a truly huge game, with a reasonably thorough story playthrough easily spanning thirty hours, and probably even more if you want to find every collectible and accomplish every optional task. Even for a full $60, early Xbox One adopters will really get their moneys’ worth here, especially when they likely won’t ever want to leave Los Perdidos any time soon, even after completing the story!
Dead Rising 3 takes place ten years after the conclusion of Dead Rising 2, giving it the opportunity to create another entirely new zombie scenario, with an entirely new cast of characters. In contrast to tough and grizzled former leads, Frank West and Chuck Greene, new player character, Nick Ramos is much friendlier and more down-to-earth, which makes him more likeable, even if less macho.
As players proceed the game, they’ll gradually learn the circumstances behind the Los Perdidos outbreak, and, while Dead Rising 3 initially appears to be mostly disconnected to the prior two games, it will eventually call back to the outbreaks at Willamette Mall and Fortune City in the latter parts of the game.
The storyline is perhaps at its most outlandish here, but for a Dead Rising game, it’s a worthy continuation that effectively expands the scope of the series. It’s also rounded out by an enjoyable cast that balances likeable emotion with larger-than-life mayhem, with a few surprising character twists along the way, especially for fans who have played the previous games.
With that said, fans will enjoy a greater resolution given to the events of the first two games, particularly as Nick is revealed to have a connection to the original Willamette Mall outbreak perpetrators, Carlito and Isabella Keyes, with Isabella making yet another return later in the story. No, apparently the woman really doesn’t stay dead.
It’s also revealed later that a key character in the story and Nick’s love interest, Annie, is none other than Katey Ann Greene, the daughter of Dead Rising 2 protagonist, Chuck Greene, who re-appears during the climax to team up with Nick in the final battle against the game’s main villain, General Hemlock. This is the biggest connection that Dead Rising 3 bares with its predecessor, but it’s one that fans are sure to love, especially when Chuck is revealed to be literally invulnerable, and easily the most powerful survivor character in the game.
Dead Rising 3 certainly doesn’t have the best plot in the series, but it gets the job done, and contains more than enough nods to the rest of the canon to please fans, even though it ends pretty definitively with surprisingly little wiggle room for another sequel if players get the best ending, which presumably remains the canonical ending. With that said however, Capcom will probably figure out something for a prospective Dead Rising 4, even with the outbreak issues seemingly solved by the end of Dead Rising 3.
This is especially true when you’ll see a post-credits scene that reveals the outbreak had another actual mastermind outside of the military. Fans may be surprised, but then again, they may not.
Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse Edition commands a $49.99 price on Steam (which is the only avenue to play Dead Rising 3 on your computer), making it cost about the same as its Xbox One predecessor at this point. The PC version of the game is fundamentally identical to the Xbox One version when it comes down to it, with a couple of potential upgrades, and all four of the “Untold Stories from Los Perdidos” DLC expansions packaged with the PC game for free. It lacks the more kooky, arcade-style Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha however. Naturally, it’s missing the Xbox One version’s handful of Kinect functionality too.
Beyond including most of the DLC, Steam achievements/trading cards, and the option to play with a mouse and keyboard as well as an Xbox controller (either option works great), the main upgrade made to Dead Rising 3 on PC is the resolution, which can go to 1920×1080, and far outclasses the 720p-capped Xbox One version in terms of visuals on optimal settings! The system requirements are pretty high to run Dead Rising 3 at all though, and even on PC, the game is capped at 30fps, even if it still just as effectively renders legions of zombies, just like its Xbox One predecessor.
All told, the game is still tons of fun on PC, especially with the enjoyable co-op component intact, and if nothing else, it’s definitely prettier. When it comes down to it, the PC version is the definitive version of Dead Rising 3 at this point, if you’re a dedicated PC gamer that’s capable of running it with its beastly system requirements anyway. It’s just so by a hair though, so if you’d rather stick to playing on Xbox One, you’re really not missing much beyond some free DLC and a small graphical boost.
Dead Rising 3 makes the series more approachable and addictive than ever, while also offering a worthy upgrade in the move to Xbox One. The zombie count has skyrocketed in an environment larger than ever, which contains more challenges and incentives than the series has ever previously delivered. The way that the game uses console-exclusive features like Kinect and Xbox SmartGlass is also very ambitious and clever, also making it a solid showcase for the unique extra features in the Xbox One’s suite of functionality.
If you’re not a fan that’s attracted to Dead Rising 3 on the basis of it being a next-gen sequel however, then there’s never been a better time to give this series a try, even with its previously high learning curve in the first two games. Dead Rising 3 streamlines and simplifies gameplay for newcomers, really playing to the strengths of the series’ core appeal, even if fans will be content to immediately leap into the more punishing and time-sensitive Nightmare Mode for a more old-school Dead Rising experience.
Really, the best thing about Dead Rising 3 is just how incredibly, unapologetically fun it is, for both fans and newcomers alike. It provides a seamless and addictive suite of zombie-massacring gameplay completely free of load times and interruptions, and, while it’s not the most technically impressive Xbox One launch title, it does everything in service to expertly refined, enjoyable and extensive gameplay. That’s really what counts in terms of making an engrossing and highly entertaining video game experience.
If you’re going to drop $60 on any retail launch exclusive to go along with your new Xbox One, Dead Rising 3 deserves your highest consideration!
- Tons of weapon & character customization
- No gameplay interruption
- So. Many. Zombies!
- Long pre-loads
- Banal side missions