Before I turn the page on this console generation, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that have happened in console gaming over the past seven or so years. We’re also approaching the release of Dead Rising 3, the latest entry in one of my favorite series, so I’ve been thinking a lot about it, too. I can’t think of another franchise that embodies this current generation – for better and for worse. Read along, and I’ll do my best to convince you.

PC gamers: You will notice that the vast majority of these features have been available on PC for a laughably long time. Be gentle on us. We have a lot of catching up to do.

Downloadable demos
Playing online wasn’t anything new when the Xbox 360 launched, but its deeper integration with Xbox Live opened up a variety of new possibilities to the mainstream. One of them was the free availability of game demos. Before, your options were limited. Some magazines included demo discs each month, or you could visit your local game store and see if a kiosk had what you were looking for on display. When the 360 launched, I was thrilled to see that I could sample anything on Xbox Live before committing any cash – something I’d been doing on my PC for years. That’s how I first got my hands on Dead Rising. Capcom released a downloadable demo for the game that essentially put you in the Williamette Mall with 10 minutes on the clock and let you run wild. That demo alone moved it from something I was interested in to a game that I knew was an absolute day-one purchase.

HD visuals are the norm
The Xbox and PlayStation 2 both had a handful of games that supported HD resolutions, but they were exceptions to the overall SD rule. This new generation of hardware made the bold assumption that if you didn’t have an HD-capable set now, you were probably going to be upgrading soon. Players who did were treated with visuals that were clearly superior to what they had experienced on earlier consoles. And those who didn’t? Well, Dead Rising was a great example of what could happen. Subtitles and some HUD elements were virtually impossible to decipher on older displays. I was on the fence about upgrading anyway (my 27” Trinitron was on its last 4,000 pound legs), and Dead Rising was among the titles that pushed me over.

More powerful hardware
Even if you couldn’t make out the text, it was impossible not to notice how much activity that Capcom had squeezed into Dead Rising. Xbox and PlayStation 2 games just didn’t feature crowds of that magnitude, with such fidelity. I was impressed by games like Call of Duty 2 and Kameo (don’t judge), but Dead Rising was the first game that simply couldn’t have existed on less-powerful hardware. 

Big downloads
Capcom paved the way for Dead Rising 2 with a downloadable game, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero. In addition to allowing downloadable demos for games, this console generation fully opened the gates for full-fledged downloadable games. At first, these games were simple arcade-style diversions, like Super Rub ‘a’ Dub and ports of Ms. Pac-Man. As hardware matured and broadband-penetration rates increased, the games became more ambitious. Instead of being limited to producing tiny games with 50 MB size caps, studios could create fully realized experiences like Case Zero, which introduced players to the sequel’s new protagonist, Chuck Greene. Later still, players could even purchase and download entire retail games on their consoles – including Dead Rising 2.

Easy online multiplayer
Xbox Live ushered in a new era of online console gaming, allowing players to ditch their LAN-party setups if they wanted to play some quick multiplayer. This infrastructure further matured with our current-gen hardware. Both Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network let players easily create and manage lists of online friends. That made it a cinch to play through Dead Rising 2’s online multiplayer with a buddy, or via matchmaking. 

So many collector’s editions
When Dead Rising 2 launched on Sept. 2010, you had options. You could pick up the standard edition, which was the ordinary game + case + manual combo that players have buying for decades. Or, you could spring for the Zombrex edition, which included the game and tchotchkes like a syringe-shaped pen. Really dedicated fans could buy the High Stakes Edition from Capcom’s store, which included a poker set with Fortune City-themed cards and chips, a visitor map, and the game. Special editions didn’t originate with this generation, but they’ve turned from something that was once reserved for big names like Diablo II and The Legend of Zelda to a predictable part of any moderately anticipated release.

Zombies have been a mainstay of console gaming since Resident Evil, but Dead Rising was part of the undead renaissance. Either you’re sick of them by now, or you’re eager for more. With Dead Rising 3 and the Walking Dead: Season 2 on the horizon, there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. Plan accordingly.

What’s next?
Looking ahead, Dead Rising 3 is embracing Microsoft’s SmartGlass technology, which is the trademarked way of saying “Connecting your console to a supported iOS, Windows, or Android device.” Players can use those devices as second screens, pushing information like maps and inventory off the main display. With Dead Rising 3, players will be able to call in air strikes and communicate with survivors using a virtual phone interface. All three console manufacturers are pushing in this direction, so it’s little surprise to me to see Dead Rising shuffling along comfortably with the pack.