The PC version of Dead Rising 3 has arrived, a scant two and a bit weeks ahead of the Xbox One and I was only too happy to give it a spin on my preferred platform.Despite a few technical wobbles, I was not disappointed.
Dead Rising 3 promised a new city, a new protagonist – a mechanic by the name of Nick Ramos – and a new zombie outbreak, but that’s not all it delivered. It also brought with it a dazzling number of weapons with which to chop, fry, electrocute, explode and bludgeon the zombie horde and more cars, construction vehicles and motorbikes with which to run them over. The zombie horde itself is bigger – and more detailed – than ever, as is the city in which the outbreak takes place. In short, it gave me everything I’ve ever wanted in a real zombie apocalypse, in game form.
A quick recap
Before I get ahead of myself, here is what you need to know about the Dead Rising series: it’s all about mysterious zombie outbreaks that happen in small, secluded areas (the first was a mall, the second a casino strip). Players are charged with rescuing survivors, killing psychopaths and taking out zombies with weapons made from stuff that’s just lying around while trying to get to the bottom of why the outbreak happened, all before a timer runs out and the mall/strip/town is bombed to hell and back by a government trying to
cover up contain the outbreak.
The timer starts counting down the second the game starts, and some game events happen independent of the player. To see everything you have to be in the right place at the right time, but that provides a sense that things are happening with or without the player, which makes the series’ worlds feel more alive than the average video game setting.
The first game was all about using anything and everything found in the shopping mall you’re stranded in to kill zombies, the second introduced a “combo weapon” mechanic that let you also combine things into new, more effective weapons with which to thwack the zombie horde about the face. The third, I am pleased to say, has taken most of those ideas and turned them into something that feels familiar, yet new at the same time. The only thing missing in DR3 is the photo-taking mechanic from the first game and the alternate-reality semi-sequel, Dead Rising 2: Off the Record.
Dead Rising 3 takes place ten years after the events of Dead Rising 2, and things are slightly different now. Instead of preventing bitten humans from turning into zombies with Zombrex, it’s done with an under-skin chip that automatically administers the drug, But something goes wrong and a zombie plague breaks out in Los Perdidos, a fictional town in California, and it’s up to mechanic Nick Ramos to get to the bottom of things.
In addition to bringing a whole lot of new objects and weapons to the table, Dead Rising 3 lets players combine vehicles into brand-new death-dealing wheeled monstrosities that are tougher than regular cars, which I felt made squishing zombies and getting around the rather large open world of Los Perdidos a whole lot of bloody, gory fun. The driving mechanic, while present in DR2, is much more fleshed out in this game with a good selection of vehicles that don’t drive like they’re on ice as they did in DR2.
The main difference in DR3 is the “Story Mode” that lets players tackle things in a rather more leisurely manner than previous games allowed. In Story Mode, zombies aren’t massively aggressive, the game is automatically saved at certain checkpoints and there is plenty of real-world time with which to get to all of the secondary objectives that crop up throughout the game. This definitely wasn’t the case in any of the previous Dead Risings, which had a sense of urgency, like you might run of out time before finding out what really happened. As a veteran of the series (and a terrible time-manager) I was quite grateful for the respite, and on my first play-through, which took me around 25 hours, I got to see everything I needed to with plenty of time to spare, including two awesome surprises for long-time fans toward the end.
Of course, since Dead Rising 3 was designed for the Xbox One – itself a glorified gaming PC with more powerful hardware than the Xbox 360 – the developers were able to squeeze in better-looking zombies and more of them than ever before. As such, the game world is absolutely packed with zombies, to the point where you quite literally can’t swing a cat almost anywhere in the Los Perdidos without hitting at least one. The extra horsepower also let the designers make the world bigger as well as a lot more realistic than before, something that lends DR3 a rather gritty look and feel.
But never fear, just because zombies look better and the world isn’t quite as cartoony doesn’t mean you can’t still run around in a banana hammock beating zombies to death with boards, shovels, chairs and anything else that isn’t nailed down while wearing a stuffed shark’s head on your head, because you totally can. Dead Rising 3 definitely keeps the silliness of the previous games alive, it’s just up to the player to find it. I highly recommend playing co-operatively with a friend and ignoring the main story altogether as that’s the best way to uncover DR3’s silly side.
And it wouldn’t be a Dead Rising game without other series staples like timed missions, a countdown to extinction by way of a fire bomb, someone handing out missions via walkie-talkie and a levelling system that improves Nick’s abilities the more I played. I also noticed a refinement of Off the Record’s challenges that tasked players with killing X zombies with Y weapons before a timer runs out, this time called “Trials” that offer fun ways to earn some extra PP (the game’s “experience points” that are required to level up).
Should you want to, you can restart the game after levelling up a bit and unlocking some abilities that make Nick a bit stronger and more formidable, as your progress isn’t reset, and you can tackle the game’s challenges with a bit of much-needed experience under your belt. All other DR games have done this, and I quite like it.
Essentially DR3 gave me everything I love about the Dead Rising games and more, but with enough changes to the format to please those who didn’t like some things about previous games, like the aforementioned “Story Mode” that gives players more time to do what they need to do.
Nightmare Mode and extras
For those who enjoyed being pressed for time, DR3’s Nightmare Mode restores all of those classic elements. There’s less real time to do things, zombies are more aggressive and there are no checkpoints – saving can only happen at specific locations, namely toilets which are scattered rather sparsely throughout the city. Playing Nightmare Mode took me back to the first Dead Rising’s sense of urgency, which also somehow made every small victory feel just that much more satisfying. It is therefore the preferred way for fans to enjoy Dead Rising 3.
I played the Apocalypse Edition of the game that included four DLC packs which extend the main story by an hour or so each. Each pack lets you play through parts of the game from another character’s perspective, complete with unique objectives and story missions which I rather enjoyed.
But is it a good port?
This is the question most PC gamers will want to know, and the answer is “no”. Out the box, the game is limited to 720p and 30 frames per second, which are the Xbox One’s default settings and honestly, it makes everything feel sluggish and look bad, no matter your hardware. Getting to 1080p means scrounging through the menu system, and unlocking the frame rate to however fast your graphics card can manage requires a quick “hack” that I posted about last week.
Worse, Dead Rising 3 has clearly not been optimised for PC hardware, as its minimum required specs include an NVIDIA GeForce GTX570 or an AMD Radeon HD7870, 6GB of system RAM, a 64-bit operating system and a quad-core processor. That’s not exactly an entry-level gaming PC.
Even if you exceed those specs by a long way, like my own gaming rig does (12GB of RAM, Radeon R9 290, Core i7-2600k) the game doesn’t run silky smooth – I still saw plenty of frame rate drops and general sluggishness even with the unlocked frame rate enabled.
I also saw a lot of “pop in”, where scenery elements like cars, buildings and light posts would appear out of nowhere as well as a few glitched quests – things that scream “This game needs more work!”. Other players have reported random crashes to desktop and saved game corruption which fortunately I didn’t experience; Capcom has since released a patch to address the most serious of these issues but the fact remains, Dead Rising 3 for PC – while a hell of a lot of fun when it works – isn’t quite the polished gem it needed to be for release on the PC.
Should you get it?
Even with these shortcomings, yes, you should totally buy Dead Rising 3 for PC. It’s the very best Dead Rising to date, with more zombies, more city and more gore than ever before to satisfy your inner zombie-basher. It’s just not quite as silly as the previous games; I’d go so far as to say this is actually a somewhat more serious Dead Rising.
But it’s still an absolute blast to play, and will easily occupy you for 30 hours or so or more should you decide to get every achievement, play with a friend or kill the 100 004 zombies required for the most difficult achievement.
Dead Rising 3 is available on Steam for $49.99 (R550).