In the middle of E3's South Hall, the Capcom stand was overrun with zombies. In a booth designed to resemble a set from the game, a large caged-off area was full of rowdy infected victims, all trying to reach out through a wire fence.
As crowds gathered, harnessed zombies were walked around, with a bulky holder pulling back on the leash to ensure his captive didn't attack anyone. The Dead Rising 3 booth was certainly eye-catching.
After the theatrics, I was ushered into a closed theatre to see the game in action, guided by Jason Lee who is the creative lead on the game. It's immediately clear that Dead Rising 3 heads in a completely different direction than the mall-centric originals. Now players are presented with a massive open-world city in California, where the virus turning people into mindless killers has fully taken hold.
In the middle of this blood-thirsty horde is Nick Ramos, a mechanic with (wait for it) a mysterious past. The outbreak of zombies has taken place just 3 days ago, but already the world is in disarray. Our live demonstration took place in one of four unique districts and we're pleased to say that the free-roaming maps look impressive in both size and detail. For example we saw a fully represented China Town, complete with gardens, statues, and appropriate stores. It was the perfect place to score a katana blade, which was immediately put to good use in hacking up zombies.
The overall gameplay mechanics remain unchanged from Dead Rising 2. It's still a third-person action game where players must not only survive the horde, but also help rescue fellow survivors scattered around the environment. But this follow-up has a completely different dynamic due to the open sandbox world that allows players to go anywhere at anytime.
With Ramos being a mechanic, he's naturally pretty handy at the whole DIY thing. Every item you pick up can be combined with others to create an almost unlimited assortment of weapons and tools. For example you might find a sledge hammer and a cement cutter - which combine beautifully into a sadistic sledgesaw that pummels and slices through zombies effortlessly.
Unlike Frank the photographer, Ramos is a younger, more athletic chap who seems to have less difficulty ploughing through the undead, or sprinting long distances. Which is good because Dead Rising 3 does an incredible job of rendering a ridiculous number of zombies on screen at any one time. Against these odds there are plenty of times where you'll simply need to leg it in order to survive.
This is where vehicles come in handy. Littered around the deserted city you'll find a number of drivable vehicles that will not only take you to far away destinations, but also make quick work of wandering zombies who are unfortunate enough to be in your way. It's important to note though, that you aren't safe inside a car. The sheer number of zombies blocking your path can slow down and affect your driving abilities. Zombies will even latch onto your ride and if you don't shake them off, they'll smash through windows and attempt to chew on your face.
Dead Rising 3 looks to be bigger, badder, and more fun than previous games in the franchise. While I loved the first two games, I was always frustrated by the time constraints and steep learning curve. This third title however looks to take itself a lot less seriously, with more of a focus on the action (rather than time management.) The costume changes, for instance, are even more insane this time around, and even in this early build we saw a full-on shark costume.
It was Capcom's strongest title on show at E3. The only concern I have is regarding how the frame-rate can keep up with so many zombie 'ragdolls' on screen at once. But with the game arriving to Xbox One around November, we'll find out first hand. PlayStation fans should note however, Capcom have teamed up with Microsoft for this one, and it appears that only Xbox owners will see this game. Part of the partnership also includes tablet interaction via Smart Glass, where players can call up a separate GPS map and even change the gameplay via touch-screen interactions.