“Oh great” I thought as a I started Dead Rising 3 (DR3), “another zombie game where I stalk through the dark waiting for the next jump-scare.” I finished the first level and made my way, blinking, into the light of a fully sunlit freeway... WHICH WAS COVERED IN ZOMBIES!
I’m talking literally hundreds of zombies; and all I had was a bit of wood and a pistol.
This is the power of the next-gen console. Each zombie is fully rendered and doing it’s set thing. Zombies that can see or hear you will lurch in your direction; the others just carry on with their dull zombie "lives". This means that, when I climbed up on a police car to escape, the closest zombies started crowding around the car, others saw them and joined in, until I was crowdsurfing zombies that were pushing the car along.
Fighting large numbers of zombies in daylight is super awesome. When they corner you and your weapon breaks, it gets less awesome.
You play DR3 as Nick, a creative savant. He can craft amazing weapons, vehicles, and even food, either after collecting blueprints (scattered around the map) or from various story-driven strokes of genius. Some are simple, like the sledgehammer strapped to a concrete cutter that graces the cover art. Others are more involved, like a mechanical dragon mask added to a parasol to create… a dragon costume. You can even add a katana, to make it more deadly.
In a nice innovation you can create these combinations out in the field, rather than at a workshop. Of course, it takes time, and zombies can still bite your face off while you work. The items you'll need are scattered around the world, often near where you find those useful blueprints (some blueprints are inside locked safe houses, accessible only after finishing side missions.) But, after you find the materials you need, they will spawn in your safehouses. This includes weapons. I personally prefered swords and massive blunt smashing weapons. You’ll need stronger weapons too, as later in the game the zombies get tougher; some have guns, and some have axes. It’s great fun.
Cars, and more importantly combined vehicles, are really important in DR3. The easiest way to get through the massive hordes of zombies is to drive through them. A variety of vehicles litter the map; most are destroyed and unusable, but those whose lights are flashing are available to drive. Cars also make it easier to dodge the Mad Max style outlaws who have quickly taken over parts of the city.
There is an interesting story lying beneath the gameplay. This a world post-zombie apocalypse, where a cure has been found. Citizens are required to get chips implanted that track them via GPS but also contain the anti-zombie drug Zombrex. But suddenly people with the chips are getting sick. There are also mysterious bees. NOT THE BEES! Most notably, an airline pilot is infected... while flying. This leads to a rather excellent title credit sequence.
Along the way you’ll be told about other survivors to go and help. They send you on fetch quests, some of which left me shaking my head. There are more people fighting to survive around the city that you’ll come across. To help them you need to clear away the zombies; a car or a steam roller is useful here.
But it isn’t all wonderful zombie hordes. For some reason, Capcom - the game's developer - think that we still enjoy games with particular save locations on the map and those that only autosave after major story events - not including side missions. This meant I had to do the same side mission a number of times including listening (or slowly skipping through) the conversations over and over. Of course, if you found a bunch of cool equipment along the way, you can kiss it all goodbye - ditto for character upgrades.
They’ve also done an odd thing with your inventory (which may be a carryover from DR1&2 but I haven’t played them.) There are lots of things lying around the world that you can pick up - everything from helpful weapons to fairly useless cardboard boxes and collectible items. What happens when your inventory is full is that picking something new up drops your current item. So, if you accidentally pick up the wrong thing or press the wrong button, you might find yourself holding a sandwich in the middle of a crowd of zombies, instead of a baseball bat.
Even with the bat you might not be in luck. Many times I found myself behind a zombie, all lined up and then… whiff! For a hack and slash game a large number of your hacks and slashes will miss targets that are right in front of you. Worse still, zombies don’t always die straight away and can attack you from the ground, and it’s even harder to hit them once they’re there (for some reason.)
The sound mix caused even more issues. I had to completely guess what my task was in one side mission because all I could hear was zombies; there were no zombies close by at the time. Other times important sounds, usually voices, were muffled or reference noises were confused (for example it’s really important to know where bullets are being fired from.)
The screen was also quite dark. When travelling through the sewer, I had to readjust the gamma levels so that I could see at all (it turns out I was surrounded by zombies.)
The game uses voice controls through the Kinect camera that comes packaged with the Xbox One, sadly this function wasn’t working with the console we were given so I can’t tell you anything about that feature. Moreover you can manage inventory, maps and an in-game ZDC app via Smartglass, but our Smartglass app refused to connect to the Xbox One.
Overall, DR3 is fun game with awesome amounts of zombie smashing but it also has a bunch of annoying things which distract from the aforementioned smashing.