I’ve always thought the Dead Rising series is a good idea. While there is certainly no shortage of zombie-themed videogames, only very few of them embrace the ridiculousness inherent to what is, when you think about it, a pretty out-there take on the post-apocalypse story. When the dead get out of their graves and start walking the earth, writers have the license to get as weird with their stories as they like. That’s always been the basis of Dead Rising, a handful of Capcom developed videogames that place a greater emphasis on absurdity than melodrama. Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse Edition brings the latest entry to the series from Xbox One to PC, faithfully translating both the best and worst aspects of the irreverent zombie game for a new audience.
Dead Rising 3 stars Nick Ramos, a young mechanic with a mysterious background who wants nothing more than to escape zombie-infested Los Perdidos with his group of fellow survivors. To accomplish this goal, Nick is bounced around an open world full of the mindless undead, a vicious military presence, aggressive bikers, and a number of ordinary people whose personality has been changed—for better or worse—by the collapse of their city. The tone is light-hearted throughout and the game’s sense of humour is great when it’s confined to gags like Nick’s bizarre item combinations (a teddy bear strapped with machine guns or a motorcycle decked out with flamethrowers). It’s far less successful when applied to a cast of “whacky” characters who more regularly come off as repugnant than actually funny. The sadistic female police officer who communicates entirely in sex jokes (“It’s not fair. I finished before you,” she says, dying after a boss fight) and the morbidly obese, wheelchair-bound woman manically defending an abandoned all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant are too one-note in their depiction to transcend their “weird for weirdness’ sake” design. It’s junior high-level comedy writing that shocks or grosses out the player rather than actually making them laugh.
Luckily, Dead Rising 3’s cutscenes largely take a backseat to its gameplay, which is much more successful than its story. Despite the sense of repetition that can arise from spending hours with a game so dedicated to its primary gimmick, there’s something admirable about an experience centred totally on the wholesale slaughter of zombies and nothing else. Each of the weapons proves itself by offering new and novel ways of levelling crowds of the undead. Each campaign and side mission, regardless of how the narrative dresses up the action, is all about dispatching waves of zombies. The Los Perdidos streets are destroyed in such a way so as to funnel the creatures into confined spaces where they can be driven through en masse. Every part of the game exists in service to the simple act of knocking over zombies like so many shuffling bowling pins. And that myopic style of design is probably the best recommendation for Dead Rising 3. The player who can forgive the poor story and limpid character writing may be able to find something interesting in the strange sense of satisfaction that comes from mowing down enormous mobs of shambling undead—to enjoy the same feeling of visible accomplishment that comes from, say, mowing an overgrown lawn or having a long-overdue haircut.
This purity of intent means that Dead Rising 3 will or will not appeal to its audience depending entirely on how enticing they find the idea of repeatedly killing zombies with a creative arsenal. Nothing about the PC release of the game will change this. Aside from a strange, possibly system-specific glitch where exiting the game causes it to freeze, the computer version of Dead Rising 3 looks and plays just as well as its Xbox One counterpart. Capcom has done a good job of preserving the original experience, even extending it with the inclusion of all four of the game’s Untold Stories of Los Perdidos downloadable content episodes. In essence, Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse Edition is the same game as it was before. It’s a silly, fairly shallow take on a well-established genre, but the commitment with which its zombie-killing mechanics have been designed also mean that the game is a lot of fun for those willing to embrace it for what it is.