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Dead Rising 3

Zombies And Bugs Run Amok In Capcom’s Ambitious Sandbox

In a new generation of hardware with several multi-platform, cross-generation launch titles, many gamers are struggling to point out exactly how the new hardware unlocks new possibilities — Dead Rising 3 stands as a clear example. The winding city streets are packed sidewalk to sidewalk with more zombies than you could count, and turning the asphalt red with their blood is as fun as ever. However, the technical leap in the undead population comes with its share of distracting bugs.

Dead Rising 3 expands the scale of its open world while making everything easier – from weapon crafting to exploration. Story Mode extends the constantly ticking doomsday clock so players have plenty of time to complete sidequests and hunt for weapon combinations. Nightmare Mode keeps the series’ traditional speedier clock in place for those who want a more tense experience. Four city sections of Los Perdidos (a Los Angeles doppelganger) are connected by ruinous highways congested with the shambling dead. Using the minimap to spot collectibles, set waypoints, and hunt down your next objective is so easy and fun that I found myself playing for hours before activating the next story mission.

Speaking of distractions, I routinely dropped everything to hack my way through throngs of enemies. Weapon combinations return with a host of outlandish new concoctions ranging from hilarious to bad-ass. For instance, combine a dragon mask and umbrella to turn yourself into a gliding, head-butting dragon man. Adding gasoline or a katana adds fire breath or bladed claws, respectively. Combining the katana and a scythe produces my favorite weapon, the Grim Reaper. Light and heavy attacks are now conveniently mapped to separate buttons, giving players more options in the fray.

Clearing away 300 or more zombies in one spree isn’t uncommon, and the chained kills result in massive experience point boosts. The sting of using up all your gear (durability returns) is softened by weapons lockers that let you instantly retrieve any item you’ve collected in the game, even combo weapons. If you’ve got the constituent parts on you, you can craft any weapon on the fly, no bench necessary. These improvements make thinning out the gargantuan zombie presence more satisfying than ever.

Vehicle combos enter the mix this time, with cathartic results. They can be built in the garage or on the streets by simply parking two vehicles next to each other. The steamroller/motorcycle combination is my favorite; turning zombies into clouds of red mist and activating the flamethrowers clears a path through the undead like hot water through snow. I didn’t notice a single stutter in the framerate when trucking full bore into throngs of foes. A co-op partner can hop on any vehicle and often join in the fun with a secondary weapon, like chucking dynamite or manning a turret.

Players can unlock extra missions and features with the mobile SmartGlass app

The drop-in, drop-out co-op is as simple and stress free as it was in Dead Rising 2. After a brief prologue, players can enter other games with no restrictions. Every weapon combo and experience point carries over to your own game. Co-op features two unique heroes with their own personalities. Seeing how the kindly mechanic Nick and salty trucker Dick react to situations differently is part of the joy of playing with a friend.

In previous entries, players had no control over which new abilities and stat boosts they earned with each level up. Dead Rising 3 finally lets players spend points to improve the skills they value most. Being able to control whether you want to increase your life, inventory size, sprint speed, or crafting prowess is a welcome change.

Dead Rising 3 marks the most fun I’ve had with the franchise, but the impressive technical accomplishment comes with its share of problems. Items dropped onto the ground sometimes fall through the world, becoming unobtainable. Crowds of zombies can suddenly fade away, leaving you swinging at the air. Equipped weapons occasionally disappear from your hands. Despite the impressive draw distance, objects can pop-up out of nowhere. The optional Kinect options, like yelling “over here” to attract groups of zombies was cool when it worked – about one out of five times. These annoyances never stalled my overall progress or dramatically impacted the sheer joy of wasting untold numbers of zombies, but they’re enough to make me wish the developers could have spent more time ironing them out.

Capcom Vancouver’s latest entry in the Dead Rising saga is an impressive display of big, dumb fun, and a must-play for fans of the series. It’s also a great demonstration of the outstanding capabilities of next-gen hardware right out of the gate. Thinning out the undead of Los Perdidos is worth your time, but the bugs infesting the sandbox are an unwelcome scourge. 

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