The one thing I remember that annoyed me most about Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2’s set-up was constantly being called in-game by the various characters who helped direct you to survivors and trouble. On paper the concept is sound, contextually giving you the sort of direction to progression other games tend to struggle with, but like the incessant calls from your ‘friends’ in GTA IV, it just became annoying and distracting.
This is, in part, due to the nature of the UI setup. You had to stop what it was you were doing to answer the call, breaking your in-game stride. Now, however, with the companion app revolution Dead Rising 3 will add to your overall immersion, by having your physical real-world phone or tablet utilised as an external UI. This opens up a lot of value for expanded co-op, I know I’ll likely play with my wife, or her me, in this way with one of us manning the phone, so to speak, and watching the ever-present ticker running, pointing out events and places of interest for side-quests and more. Oh, and you can call in drones and airstrikes, and your physical device will ring too. That’s some cool shit right there.
Dead Rising 3 was such an ambitious undertaking from the team at planning stages that it almost wound up on PC only.
“We targeted high-end PC at the start, and then we partnered with [Microsoft] and started trying to figure out how we can get this on console. When we started this years ago we knew we wanted to push the bar and just go as far as we could.”
I can hear a chorus of foreheads smashing keyboards now... but perhaps this is an indication that Xbox One has some chops to it, after all.
Of course you’re not locked into playing the game this way and can utilise an in-game UI on your own, or manage SmartGlass on your own, the above is just one of the ways I’m thinking of playing Dead Rising 3. Thankfully the team at Capcom Vancouver (formerly Blue Castle Games) are thinking of you as a player, and the choices you might want to make in approaching your own playstyle. It’s an important factor bolstered by the fact that they’re gamers too, and every decision they’ve made from a design-perspective has stemmed from that single sentiment alone.
“It was actually intentional right from the outset,” says executive producer Josh Bridge when we ask him about the game’s new, darker tone. “We talked and discussed this a lot with Capcom Japan [and] we wanted to make a game where you weren’t just repeating the same formula of time running out. We found it frustrating as gamers even when we were playing Dead Rising 1 and there’s so much of that game we loved that we wanted to just explore in... but we didn’t want to just say “okay, there’s no time-limit”, you know, we did that with [Dead Rising:] Off the Record and found that yeah, it was cool, but there’s so much to do other than trying to do constant side-missions. [So] we actually wanted to have zombies be the threat -- it felt like zombies should be the star of a zombie game, whereas it kind of felt like they were [always] just a toy.
“So if we’re going to say they should be the threat, then they should look threatening and the game should look threatening, and it all should show a line to that vision that this is actually a horror game first and a comedy game second.”
It’s interesting to have flipped the script like this, and you could argue that Inafune’s original vision which pitted humans as the real horror and indeed zombies as the toy, treated both horror and comedy with an equal amount of respect, but Capcom Vancouver realised that after two games and all the content in between, the threat had just died. How many times can you put a traffic cone on a zombie’s head before the humour wears off?
While things like Kinect and SmartGlass might have seemed gimmicky upon reveal, Capcom Vancouver is arguably at the fore where their inclusion -- in a creative and contextual -- manner is concerned.
“SmartGlass allows you to just set your destinations, you can use it as a map if you want but it actually has a whole bunch of other features like exclusive missions, a voice is talking to you... and it’s [all] just coming out of SmartGlass. It actually has its own storyline with you.”
“When we ended with Off the Record
it was a comedy game first with kinda
horror and you didn’t really take it seriously for that and there wasn’t a lot of investment in the AI of the zombies perse; you could do some distraction but they weren’t really that much of a threat,” Josh continues. “So with [all of that] we wanted to make sure it had this really dark look to it; a little more tough look to it, so when you actually evoke that comedy -- which is still in there, even more so than ever for what you have as options -- the two coming together is almost like you’re photobombing the game.
“It’s a classic horror, it’s not a contemporary horror -- it kind of stays within that 80s vibe, so then that juxtaposition is now all the more strong.”
Dead Rising 3 is set some 10 years after the events of Dead Rising 2 and we come into the picture three days post-breakout. You play as hapless mechanic Nick Ramos who works and resides in the city of Los Perdidos -- a fictional town constructed for the purpose of Capcom Vancouver’s grand zombie playground vision. We’re told there’s no repeating or cut-and-paste level design here at all -- everything is handcrafted and designed with purpose. The game-world is large enough that you could fit the playspaces of Dead Rising 1 and 2, combined, in Los Perdidos and still have room for more. But perhaps most impressive is that DR 1 and 2 had loading between areas where Dead Rising 3 has none. Not a single one, apparently.
“There are no load screens, it’s running all the time and it took us years to do,” the team tells us.
The construction of such a large set for the player and his zombie ensemble hasn’t excluded purists of the franchise. Initially we’re told that you play the game at a pace that suits you, but when probed about culling the time-limits of previous iterations, Josh explains that that’s just not the case.
Finally, Capcom Vancouver has a unique use for Kinect by way of voice-recognition. Basically, you can create an audiovent in the room to attract zombies by yelling or screaming. This can have both a positive and negative effect: One is you can crowd-control zombies with your voice, and two is if you’re hit with a cheap scare and scream, you’ll attract zombies to you. Either way, the application is solid. Now if only Microsoft could greenlight Illumaroom
“So we actually have two modes,” he explains. “We purposely built a non time-restrictive mode and a completely time-restrictive mode -- both following the same storyline. So if you want to, it’ll completely hand your ass to you with Nightmare Mode where the time-limit is going to be pushing you along a schedule -- you’re gonna have to meet and finish the missions at a certain time or you’re going to miss them; you’re gonna miss the optional content; you’re going to run out of time -- a bomb is gonna likely nuke the whole area.
“You can only save in Washrooms and it [just] keeps that classic pressure,” he adds with a smile. “But if you wanna have the freedom to explore... we have a bigger world and there’s even more stuff to do in it than any other Dead Rising, and if you want that and to take it all at your own leisure, that’s there for you. You can even hop between both modes if you want -- it all goes to the one profile and saves all your experience points.”
Despite the darker tone and shift in zombie relevance, Dead Rising 3 carries with it some familiarity. PP is back, and allows you to unlock various Perks and raise in skill and ability. You’ll still need to rescue NPCs, but it’s not as much of a frustration now because the team, as gamers, recognised how annoying the whole system could be and given the raised challenge of the game’s undead lurching impediments, they’re actually helpful now.
“Survivors aren’t just escort missions and babysitting, if you complete and help them out they’re gonna offer to help you out now,” Josh reveals. “And now they’ll just fight to their death with you. You can direct them and give them perks and, actually, with the Kinect, we got it to detect your finger pointing which actually evokes a cursor in the game and you can just say “attack” instead of multiple button inputs.”
The other major carry over is, of course, weapon and item customisation. Workbenches are gone, because as a mechanic Nick can use his skills on-the-fly and out in the field, which allows for a more freeform approach to confrontation and being a “survivor”. You’ll still need blueprints to be able to construct your zompocalypse tools, and early on you’ll need the exact ingredients but through the game’s levelling system you can unlock the ability to substitute certain ingredients for others found within the world (blades, for example). Moreover anytime you’ve picked up a weapon, or an item, they’ll now appear in a weapons locker in a safe house, and these are littered all over the world. This was a design feature to streamline the fetching side of the previous games, where you had to remember each weapon or item’s location, often hamstringing the exploration side of things.
Vehicles make a return in expanded fashion, which was exampled in spectacular form with a Sunday drive through a graveyard in a hearse. Capcom Vancouver not only hand-crafted every inch of their game-world, they made much of it destructible too. This was all in an effort to alleviate the frustrations of hitting impervious light poles and the like, but given the stylistic dive they make Nick perform from the hearse as it drives into a petrol station, which explodes ceremoniously on impact, I’d venture they had a grander vision for emergent cinematic play.
The most exciting prospect of all though, comes in their redirection of the undead. Making zombies a threat beyond overcrowding is something of a revelation for the series, and while their zombies still remain a part of the Dead Rising lore with zombees still located at the base of various undead necks, they’ve also changed up their personalities. Muscle memory is how they explain different enemy types, suggesting that police or firefighters will instinctively fire weapons or swing axes, respectively. The firefighters are also tougher, as would be the outline for their profession, which opens up ideas about different zombie types we might run into later. Soldiers, boxers, electricians, ninjas!? There’s really a lot of potential in this department.
As an Xbox One launch title and an exclusive one at that, Dead Rising 3 is likely a must-have. Its feature-set alone is enough to maintain countless hours of play, and the inclusion of companion app support throws in potential for off-handed co-op. Add companion app-specific tasks and missions with in-game unlocks and rewards, and this one addition alone adds a whole new dimension to play, but the team’s thoughtful and creative use of Kinect elevates the game’s outside-the-box approach to what many still consider a gimmick immeasurably. But at its core, Dead Rising 3 is a game built for
harcore gamers by
hardcore gamers. I witnessed the passion Capcom Vancouver has for its product firsthand and it was infectious, but only because the wares they’re peddling are so damned tantalising. I can’t wait to visit sunny, undead Los Perdidos this November.