Dead Rising 3 for PC leaves me mentally divided, which is why this review is going to come in two different parts. The first part is delves into my feelings on the game itself, while the latter part will talk about Capcom Vancouver's PC port.
Dead Rising 3 was a game that I pondered picking up for Xbox One last year, but never got around to it. The second sequel takes place in the Los Angeles-inspired Los Perdidos, starring scrappy automotive mechanic Nick Ramos. The Zombrex outbreak has reached the city, leading the United States government to call for martial law and lock down all exits. Now Nick has to contend with zombies and crazy people to get out of Los Perdidos before the government bombs it into a smoking crater.
Let's get this out of the way: Nick Ramos is no Frank West or Chuck Greene. He's a dour everyman in a world full of insanity. Frank West was appropriately goofy and Greene was an old hand in a world that played up the absurdity. Dead Rising 3 tends to take Ramos too seriously within the confines of the story, which is odd because he appears in your chosen costume in cutscenes. Wearing a thong, aviator sunglasses, and an afro? Nick's delivery is still deadly serious. There's some fun to be had in the juxtaposition, but the game is full of tonal whiplash, with serious situations surrounded by goofy shenanigans.
Speaking of costumes, Dead Rising 3 continues the series' tendency to let you wear whatever you want to while you're wading through zombie viscera. I admit, tearing down a crowded street with a Kobun helmet and a luchadore leotard is sublime. Dead Rising 3's story may be serious, but your moment-to-moment play is damned fun once you've customized Nick to your preferences.
Gameplay-wise, Dead Rising 3 is pretty much the same as Dead Rising 2: kill waves and waves of zombies with weapons ranging from the deadly to the obscure. The crowds of zombies are even more impressive than they were in DR2, offering loads of bodies to chop, smash, burn, and run over. Running around aimlessly hacking zombies to pieces while wearing the most outlandish of costumes is still the absolute highlight of the Dead Rising series and Capcom hasn't forgotten that with DR3. They're even eased off on the time limit constraints, so you have more time for random fun.
Ramos is just as handy as Dead Rising 2 protagonist Chuck Greene, meaning you can still combine two weapons together into a newer, deadlier form. Combine a katana with a rake to create the Zombie Raker, or a create a Helmet Bomb out of an Afro Wig and Dynamite. The combinations aren't endless; the game contains a specific set of Combo Weapons. After a while, you'll stick with what you know, diminshing the effect of the system.
With Nick being an automotive mechanic, Capcom Vancouver has also added a Combo Vehicle system that allows you to weld two vehicles together into a new ridable beast. Like the Combo Weapons, Nick can create these new vehicles on the fly. Just drive one vehicle next to another and if there's a valid combination available, you're off to the races. There's only 10 different Combo Vehicles in Dead Rising 3 though, so the system has a shorter shelf life than the weapons. And like Combo Weapons, the Combo Vehicles lose some of their luster later in the game.
Dead Rising 3 does have a few niggling gameplay issues. The waypoint system for sidequests is annoying: the waypoints are semi-transparent, meaning they're hard to pick out against the background. The waypoints also disappear within a certain distance; frequently, I'd get to my intended destination, get a bit lost, and then have to run away to re-find the waypoint. I'd almost rather not have them at all if the system is going to be this frustrating to use.
There's also the latter half of game, which has you ping-ponging from one side of the map to the other for missions. It smacks of tedium, and I probably would've put Dead Rising 3 down for a bit if I hadn't been playing for a review. This doesn't get in the way of mindlessly destroying zombies, but if you're trying to beat the game, it's an uphill battle at times.
So let's move onto the PC port itself. Dead Rising 3 with all of the bells and whistles turned on - to the level that my modest gaming PC could support - looks great. Capcom Vancouver threw a ton of options in here, so PC players can tweak the settings to their hearts content: level of detail, ambient occlusion, SMAA (Enhanced Subpixel Morphological Antialiasing), up to 16x anisotropic filtering, subsurface scattering, reflection quality, zombie quality, and more. The game's "High" settings seem to mirror the Xbox One version, with an internal resolution of 720p, 4x anisotropic filtering, and 30 FPS. (You can unlock the FPS by messing with INI files.) If you can run it, Dead Rising 3 is up to the challenge of providing some great image quality.
But there are problems. The game crashes: sometimes early on, sometimes 20-30 minutes in, sometimes never. I certainly couldn't figure out what produced the issue. There's a great deal of texture pop-in on the port, with low-res texture outstaying their welcome. Dead Rising 3 on PC also sucks up a lot of power to perform. Lowering the shadow detail helped, but the framerate was all over the place when I tried to move above the Xbox One-style settings, which seems to be the game's baseline. My system just started to chug at certain points, especially custscenes.
Dead Rising 3 is the first game I've played on PC in a long time that actually made me want to just go and get the Xbox One version. (According the folk at Digital Foundry, Dead Rising 3 absolutely hammers your GPU and CPU.) Part of the benefit of a PC version is the higher graphical fidelity, while the console versions trade that in for plug-and-play and stable performance. Dead Rising 3 seems to require more from more powerful hardware to reach the visual level of an Xbox One. And at that point, I don't want to mess with PC settings; I'd rather just put the game in my system and play.
When we do reviews, we're reviewing the sum of the entire experience. Dead Rising 3 is a fun game with some issues of its own, but the PC port misses the best benefits of the platform. It's not well-optimized for PC, meaning you'll be locked into Xbox One-level of performance unless you're running a monster rig. Capcom Vancouver is aware of the issues and is working on fixes, but right now I can't recommend Dead Rising 3 on PC unless you don't have an Xbox One and you absolutely need it right now. Otherwise I'd wait a month or two to see if Capcom can improve the port.
The game looks good with all the bells and whistles on, but it chugs along when it comes to framerate
The music and sound never jump up above simply average.
The interface has issues, notably in the semi-transparent waypoints.
Once you've polished off Dead Rising 3, there's some fun to be had in Nightmare Mode or the occasional zombie killing spree.
With a bit more time in development, Dead Rising 3 for PC could have been the definitive version. Unfortunately, an above-average game is hamstrung by a port that runs poorly on stronger PC hardware. Crashes and framerate issues abound. If you really want to play Dead Rising 3, your best bet is to wait or pick up the Xbox One version.