Zombies are the ideal enemy. They are completely mindless, so the player can mow them down without the hindrance of complex moral questions. The Dead Rising series knows this, and it has always been well focused on what makes zombies both an actual threat, and potentially fun: numbers. Individual zombies are not a great concern. But a pack of zombies, that’s where things get interesting.
Nick Ramos is a young mechanic from the fictional Southern California town of Los Perdidos. Set 10 years after the last game, the world portrayed in Dead Rising 3 has changed a little due to previous zombie outbreaks, and Nick and the other survivors must escape the doomed town before a military strike wipes the slate.
As a mechanic, Nick is more capable than previous protagonists in the field of weapons manufacture. It’s a convenient conceit, as unlike Chuck and Frank, he doesn’t need to stop at a workbench to get makeshift weapons upgrades happening, and is capable of doing it in the field. Additionally, there are many more levels of weapon creation available, each more powerful than the previous. Nick can even combine up to five different items to create super weapons that create carnage.
Some of the makeshift weapons shown at the Tokyo Games Show were devastatingly effective. The Ultimate Powershout, for example, combines traffic cones with various air compressors and electrical items to create a massive blastwave that destroys groups of zombies. The Ultimate Grim Reaper combines a katana, a scythe, a skull and fire to create a staff that destroys all it touches while also launching bouncing, exploding, flaming skulls.
The fan favourite Freedom Bear, once an essentially static turret has now been upgraded to make it mobile by mounting it on a wheelchair or shopping cart – and can be equipped with a boombox to draw in zombies.
Possibly the most entertaining is the simple accretion of all of the heavy explosives in the game into a big duct-taped ball. Called simply the Massive Bomb, it was shown with Smart Glass to call a large flare in, which grouped the zombies. The massive explosive took out nearly 500 zombies (apparently a personal best) in a blast so powerful and devastating that it left the player character walking away wearing nothing but underpants. Classic stuff.
Dead Rising 3 is coming as a launch title for the Xbox One, and as a result, it’s a huge step up in a range of ways. Gone are the tight shopping mall environments of the earlier games. Dead Rising 3 is an open world sandbox, a large, sprawling city with no loading. There are also many more zombies, making for a significant increase in carnage.
With a larger city to explore, vehicles will also play a bigger role in this title. These include fast – but not especially safe – motorbikes, cars, vans and even a steamroller, whose impact on the zombie hordes is both predictable and hilarious. As a mechanic, Nick can modify those vehicles as well. Placing them side by side, Nick can upgrade a van to an armoured zombie defense van, or even convert the motorbike and steamroller into the “Roller-hog”, a fast, spike augmented ender of the undead.
The game is intended to be either a semi-serious survival horror, or as a fun romp, and the presence of costumes such as a mankini and the outlandish weapons suggest a definite lean towards the latter.
Multiplayer has been significantly enhanced since the previous title. Rather than the arenas of Dead Rising 2, the game is fully playable as a cooperative experience. There is nothing linking the players, no rubber banding or tethering, so each player is free to wander off on their own adventure, or to stay close for some bro-op action. With features such as gun turrets or passenger seats, some vehicles in the game are tuned to this as well.
Dead Rising 3 is one of the more appealing launch titles on Xbox One. It has pedigree, but it also makes great use of the new hardware to deliver an experience that wouldn’t have been possible on Xbox 360.
Dead Rising 3 will be available at the launch of the Xbox One from November 22.