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Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse Edition

They say you only get one chance to make a first impression, and that’s somewhat unfortunate for Capcom Vancouver’s Dead Rising 3. The game begins somberly, with the player controlling everyman Nick Ramos – a mechanic and one of the last survivors of a zombie outbreak. In the first 15 minutes, you are funneled through drab indoor environments, subjected to various zombie tropes and limited to a smattering of mundane weapons (lead pipes, wooden planks) for use against the zombie horde. On top of this, Nick moves around the game in a floaty, cumbersome way that is made more annoying by unwieldy and loose traversal mechanics. As dire as this all sounds, when the game finally opens up after the introductory sequences, Dead Rising 3 proves to be a fairly entertaining open world playground, despite its flaws.

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So, how does the game experience change after the first 30 minutes or so? First of all, Dead Rising 3 isn’t nearly as serious as the opening moments make it out to be. Before long, Nick will more or less cease to exist, replaced by an avatar that mirrors whatever deadpan, chipper, wacky or crossdressing mood the player is in at any given moment. 70s afros, handlebar mustaches, Street Fighter costumes, low cut dresses, banana hammocks – if you can think of it, it’s probably in the game. This is made even more hilarious by that fact that the outfits stay visible during cutscenes, turning any quasi-serious story moments into pure comedy. It’s a shame that Capcom Vancouver didn’t go the distance and make the main storyline a full on Benny Hill style zombie satire, as that would have been a gloriously unique take on the increasingly tired zombie formula.

“…the entire weight of the game’s worth is loaded onto the shoulders of the open world, zombie-smashing hijinks.”The game’s early moments also fail to highlight the impressive variety of weapons available. Like previous entries in the series, players will eventually be able to take mundane items scattered about the environment and duct tape them together to create ludicrous weapons for use against the zombie horde. A teddy bear and machine gun become the Freedom Bear, for example, a stuffed, mechanized turret that dual wields heavy machine guns and can cut down hundreds of zombies in seconds. Find a grenade and a football? Combine them together to create the Hail Mary, a projectile which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “going for a long bomb.” The sheer number and creativity of the combo weapons is impressive, and new ones are unlocked at a steady clip through the course of the campaign.

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Acquiring and utilizing the various combo weapons and vehicles almost single-handedly keeps the game worth playing, which is both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, using crazy implements of destruction to mow down copious numbers of undead is just plain fun, especially considering the number of zombies the game manages to render on-screen at one time. The bad? The story never really takes off and the entire weight of the game’s worth is loaded onto the shoulders of the open world, zombie-smashing hijinks. If you come to Dead Rising 3 looking for an interesting yarn, you’ll likely be turned off by the middling story and massive amount of collecting, backtracking, side questing and other filler common to open world games. If you came to smash gooey heads with large, oversized mallets, then you’ll feel right at home.

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As with any open world game, the potential for fun is only as good as the environment and what the player is able to do within the constraints given. Thankfully, Dead Rising 3 mostly succeeds in this area, with nearly all buildings fully explorable and very few painted-on doors or arbitrarily blocked off areas. Many buildings also have multiple stories and a roof that can be accessed, with each space absolutely filled with unique items to be used within the game’s combo weapon system. Meld these detailed, item-laden areas with Nick’s basic traversal abilities and you have a recipe for some good old fashioned open world time-wasting fun. Things aren’t quite as rosy when driving around outside, however, as longer trips across the city can be unnecessarily grating, due to an overabundance of obstructions and the need to use the freeway to get from one side of the map to the other. Some kind of fast travel system would have been appreciated, especially considering the game’s less than strict implementation of the series’ infamous time limit.

“If you came to smash gooey heads with large, oversized mallets, then you’ll feel right at home.”Visually, Dead Rising 3 is mostly excellent, with hundreds of zombies visible on-screen with minimal impact to performance. The city of Los Perdidos looks sufficiently razed, with overturned vehicles, looted shops and blood-splattered streets rendered as good or better than in any open world zombie game to date. Characters are animated nicely, for the most part, and look great up close, though cutscene close ups of certain people can impact the framerate negatively, possibly due to the way hair is being rendered. It should be noted that that the game features a solid suite of PC-centric options, though those on upper-mid range to lower end systems may find themselves settling for a locked 30fps, instead of the 60fps they’re used to getting.

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All in all, Dead Rising 3 is a fun, open world zombie-splattering experience that is notably let down by a weak narrative, derivative boss fights and too much emphasis on using crazy weapons to obliterate scores of undead. If all you are looking for is an opportunity to run around zombie-infested environments, hunt collectables and smash undead into jelly, then this game will more than satisfy. Just be aware that the loop of a) find new weapon and b) use new weapon on zombies, does wear thin over time, and there really isn’t much else to keep your interest when that happens.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in May 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @Joshua_Luke.

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