E3 2013: Dead Rising 3 brings next-gen zombie mayhem

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One of the biggest surprises from Microsoft’s E3 conference was the announcement that Capcom’s Dead Rising 3 was coming to the Xbox One – and that it would be  a platform exclusive. Not one of those “timed” ones either, because Microsoft’s doing publishing duties. It’s a good lock for Microsoft, because of all the Xbox One games I saw, this is the one that’ll make me get the system.

We got to have a close up look at the game, in the company of Capcom Vancouver – formerly blue Castle Games – the same people who brought you Dead Rising 2. And while that particular game wasn’t much more than a poor facsimile of the original, decidedly Japanese Dead rising this new, next-generation entry changes very many things.  Most jarringly, it’s now sporting a much darker, grittier and sombre tone that its goofy and whimsical forbears. This game takes its zombies rather seriously. Don’t be alarmed, that’s just how it appears on the surface. scratch a little deeper, and you’ll see all that silly Dead Rising staple fare tucked away.

Yes, I saw main protagonist, garage monkey Nick Ramos (not sure whether or not he’s covered wars)  running around, hitting zombies over the head with a giant mallet while wearing a full shark costume – and later, clefting them in twain with a fiery, gas-powered flame sword. In fact, despite the much more serious demeanour, it all comes across as decidedly sillier and funnier. The new tone and the shiny next-gen can of paint aren’t the only changes though. For those who found the series frustrating, the new game is set in a giant open world – but doesn’t have the overbearing time limits imposed by the first games. Nor will there be any of those blasted escort missions that can be missed  – which the designers have admitted to just not being very much fun. Even more accommodating is the fact that the game now features an autosave system – so you’ll no longer have to duck off to a washroom just to save your game.

Of course, there are those who say that this will dilute everything that makes Dead Rising stand out – but those options are all there for masochistic veterans, in the form of the game’s Nightmare mode, which makes it just as gruelling as the originals.

Another big change is in the zombies themselves. They used to be a force purely because of their vast numbers, and while they’ll still congregate in their thousands, they now possess  a sort of base intelligence, actively seeking out the player and responding to movements, lights and noises. There are more zombie types now too;  deceased firemen will happily swing axes at your head, protected by their fire gear. Undead football players will attempt to tackle you and, we’ve been told, there will be many more ghoulish varieties available.  When you’re traversing the large open world in any of the game’s myriad vehicles, zombies will do their best to cling on, and mowing down a hoard of zombies affects vehicle handling and damages.

Of course, Dead Rising 2’s favoured weapon-crafting system makes a return, but it’s decidedly more robust now. You’ll no longer have to find a wayward workbench, and can now craft new creations on-the-fly. A new , pseudo-RPG levelling system allows Ramos to become better at making, and using different types of weaponry, and eventually he’s able to craft hybridised super-weapons. He’s also better at throwing weapons now, and a well tossed sawblade is perfect for slicing zombies in half.

Like so many other games at E3 this year, Dead Rising 3 will have smartglass-enabled companion gaming – but this one of the more interesting (and obvious!) uses of it. Your smartphone or tablet can function like a real-world telephone through which a particular character can call and offer missions and military support.

 It was a pretty short presentation, but it left me excited – and Dead Rising 3 was one of the most “next gen” games I saw at E3. It’s a world filled with detail. Nearly every building can be entered and best of all, not a single loading screen to be seen through the whole thing. It does, admittedly, have a bit of a frame rate issue at the moment, but Capcom Vancouver says it’ll be optimised and fixed in time for launch. And as I said, it’s a bit of a feather in Microsoft’s cap, because this is the game that’ll make me seriously contemplate picking up an Xbox One.

Last Updated: June 19, 2013

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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