Review | 12/17/2013 at 8:08 AM

Dead Rising 3 Co-Op Review

Making the zombie genre undead...again.

Like World War II games last generation, it might be time to put the zombie genre to bed. Yet, just when I think I've lopped off my last undead head, along comes a new game to change my mind one more time. Dead Rising 3 for the Xbox One continues the open world style zombie game the original created back on the Xbox 360 in 2006. We started in a shopping mall in Dead Rising 1, found ourselves in casinos in Dead Rising 2 and now Dead Rising 3 gives us a full quarantined city at our chainsaw wielding fingertips.

In Dead Rising 3 you are dropped into the shoes of Nick Ramos, a mechanic stuck in the fictional city of Los Perididos. As with all the other games in the series, the focus of the game is on its main character and how he handles the events put forth to them. The team at Capcom Vancouver is fully aware of the issues that past games have created, whether it's a horrible save system or the constant annoying need to find a certain item - both of these have been addressed. In fact, early on in Dead Rising 3 the game makes you believe you are going to constantly need to find Zombrex (a temporary cure if bitten) - but then throws a major curveball into that notion. The save system has completely been overhauled, so much so, you simply can click "Save" at anytime from the main menu and your progress is saved with a respawn at the nearest safe house next time you play.

The biggest addition to Dead Rising 3 is the extended use of vehicles, or rather, the ability to access a whole host of vehicles to drive around a much bigger world. These vehicles can be "crafted" into Road Warrior like hybrids that are perfect for slaughtering the undead. Weld a motorcyle to a steam roller, an icecream truck to a party van, or a utility truck to a sports car. A lot of the vehicles have alternate modes that allow you to fire projectiles or perform some action that take care of large crowds of the undead. And most of the vehicles have a spot for a second player in co-op. These combo vehicles are created by finding blueprints and parking the two required automobiles next to each other on the road.

This is another big change in Dead Rising 3. No longer are you required to build weapons at a workshop; instead, at any point in time you can create new weapons by combining weapons and items found throughout the game world. There are over 100 to find and some can even be combined further to create super weapons. Some of my favorites are the "Freedom Bear" which is a teddy bear with a boombox and LMG machine guns; the Sentry Cat, a beer keg created pussy cat of destruction; and an electrified traffic light that shoots flames from one end of the pole. Yes, the weapons are completely over the top, and that's part of the game's charm. Best of all everything you find and create is stored at the safe house and can easily be recalled, this includes AI survivors who can help you.

Since we're now in the "next-gen" of gaming, it's worth talking about Dead Rising 3's graphics. The city of Los Perididos is simply overflowing with undead and the first time you encounter an entire highway filled with them it's a little terrifying. The visuals are absolutely impressive in these regards, recreating that feeling of being overwhelmed. That being said, you can see where there are shortcuts. Only smaller sections of those zombies react to you, leaving a larger portion of what is on screen a little more than scenery until you get closer. The character models and cut scenes do look great, though sometimes they never quite get past that plastic look.

Still, Dead Rising 3 continues to impress me. There's virtually no loading other than a quick flash when starting up some of the core missions or psychopath side missions. You can travel anywhere in the world, in and on top of buildings, and it's completely seamless. In a way, Dead Rising 3 feels like Crackdown and the Dead Rising series blended together.

The game itself is incredibly meaty, too. On top of the core game's collectibles of blueprints for weapons and vehicles, there are side items to collect, like Frank West Statues. You can also find "tragic endings" which showcase people that apparently came to their demise in some sad way. You'll find speakers spouting off propaganda to destroy and special challenge missions like killing zombies with only fire or vehicles. All of these things earn you PP, the game's XP system. You'll level up your character unlocking new abilities and upgrading things like life, inventory, or the ability to create new combinations of vehicles/weapons/foods.

It's in doing this that the game can lend itself well to co-op play. As the entire campaign can be played at any point in drop-in and drop-out fashion, you can customize your character to utilize abilities your co-op partner might not be focusing in. Perhaps you want to focus on melee while your friend works on firearms. You can be the inventory mule while your buddy puts everything in his life bar to be the tank. One player can focus on the combo vehicles while another the specialty weapons.

Joining a game will put you in the shoes of Dick, one of the side characters you encounter along the way. All of your customizations and level abilities are brought in and out of the game with you. Anything you collect and earn will come back with you out of the game, and this includes certain missions that are completed as well - depending on your own progress. The matchmaking system does a pretty good job of putting you into a game that's at the same point or prior to your own progress so you'll get maximum enjoyment.

Co-Op definitely makes the game much easier, especially during the game's "night time" hours when the zombies become more numerous and feral. Showing up to save a friend with a combo vehicle just as they are beginning to get overwhelmed is incredibly satisfying. And really, like any good open world game, co-op shines in Dead Rising 3 because of the unpredictable nature of what can happen. I've witnessed my partner accidently fall into a mosh pit of zombies from the roof top, one into which he dropped a stick of dynamite only seconds before. Soon after, he was launched clear across my screen in glorious next-gen physics fashion.

There are a few downsides to co-op play, odd ones too. When you join a game you start with absolutely nothing in your inventory, so you'll need to quickly pick up some stuff to join in on the action. During cut scenes the co-op character is entirely absent too, giving a bit of disconnect. These things are minor, and definitely don't detract too much from the overall experience.

Dead Rising 3 was a game that grew on me the more I played it. It keeps a lot of the familiar formula from the previous games, including the famous gameplay timeline, but removes a lot of the annoyances associated with it. If players just want to explore the world and collect everything, Dead Rising 3 easily allows that. If you'd like a more traditional Dead Rising experience, Nightmare mode is available for you sadists. Co-Op in Dead Rising 3 shines, multiplying the absurdity and creating the unpredictable and hilarious outcomes we all enjoy from games that provide freedom. Killing 50,000 zombies might seem like it gets old, but Dead Rising 3 does its best to make sure it doesn't.