Xbox One’s Dead Rising 3 is super-serious about zombies, and that makes it hilarious

Xbox One’s Dead Rising 3 is super-serious about zombies, and that makes it hilarious

Dead Rising 3 is a dark, gritty look at life after the zombie apocalypse, and stop me if you've heard this one before. It's the third game in a light-hearted series of romps through an open world where you have a limited time to get to certain places, do certain things, and you could only save in certain locations. If you didn't get to a mission on time, it was gone. If you didn't get to a bathroom to save, you lost your progress if you died. The games were a curious combination of humor and sometimes frustratingly hardcore gameplay.

Dead Rising 3 has ditched the time limits of the first two games in the series, and you can now save your game anywhere. You don’t need a workbench to modify your weapons. The timed aspect of the gameplay, as well, as well as save points being limited bathrooms, can be found in the game’s Nightmare Mode. You can in fact jump between either mode and keep all your items and powers; your progress is linked to your account, not the mode.

“You’ll have the time really pushing you along, you’ll be saving in washrooms only, classic Dead Rising. I’d say it’s harder than Dead Rising 1,” Josh Bridge, the game's executive producer, told me during our demo. “You can hit that right away if you want, but I kind of see it as a new game plus.”

During the regular game mode you can explore, save your game, and see everything there is to see without worrying about that ticking clock. It's heresy for fans of the series, but at least you can go back to the “punishment” of the original system if you prefer.

Being serious so you can be silly

The team wants to push the gore further, and there’s new ways to rip the zombies apart, or in two. The game is filled with grisly death animations, and the zombies try to hang onto your car as you drive past; you have to knock them free.

The draw distances are much more impressive, and the screen is often packed with zombies. During our demo frame rate was a slight problem, but I was told they’re aiming for a solid 30 frames per second. “We’re comfortable we’re going to hit it,” Bridge said. “Our engine is built knowing that it needs to throw a bunch of things at you, while streaming. We’re running pre-release software, the team is still working on it.”

The more dour, realistic tone has turned off some fans already, but that was done on purpose. By dressing the game up like a standard zombie game, by playing it straight, it's much more funny when the player goes off the rails.

“One of the things we did intentionally was make the game look a lot more serious, so when you go and start goofballing it the contrast is more absurd,” Bridge explained. “It’s up to you to photobomb the game.” During one sequence the character wears a Blanka mask on his head with a cloth shark costume over the rest of his body. You can wear a dress if you'd like. The tone is serious, but you can act as weird, and use as many fantastical weapons, as you’d like. The fun is found in the contrast as much as your actions themselves.

The psycho bosses will also return, although we weren’t shown any during our time with the game. “Zombies aren’t intelligent enough to be the boss, our social commentary, which is about this thick, because we're lighthearted, is that zombies are kind of the symptom of the evil of humanity,” he stated. “That’s why there’s an outbreak, and you’re going to come across survivors that are friendly, and survivors that are crazy.”

I'm looking forward to seeing the crazy ones, and to see if they look as out of place and crazy as the lead character. There is something to be said for rampaging across a “realistic” zombie world dressed up as the sillier Capcom characters, and I'm hoping for the return of the laser swords and goofier weapons for the original. The soul of the first two games is definitely still here, although it's hidden under the veneer of a serious horror game, and that makes the jokes land even harder.