Amidst all the talk about Xbox One and PlayStation 4's launch titles, you don't hear much about the cutscenes. But for Dead Rising, they bear mentioning. The game launches directly into an introduction as compelling as anything on cable, and it's frankly fantastic.
The quality of the intro is rivaled only by the sheer number of zombies on-screen at once. The graphics may not seem like a significant improvement over some of the better-looking Xbox 360 games at times, but when a throng of hundreds of zombies stands between your character and his destination, you start to understand what the Xbox One's new hardware brings to the experience.
The endless numbers of zombies helps give Dead Rising 3 its gripping atmosphere of desperation. Pervasive audio cues (in glorious 7.1 stereo surround sound) provide a constant reminder that zombies completely surround the protagonist, and staring into the sea of zombies will give you the sort of sinking feeling in your stomach that only the most gruesome horror movies can provide. Whether playing solo of coop, the prospect of hack through the countless zombies to reach the next checkpoint transmutes that sense of hopeless dread into adrenaline-fueled excitement.
I'm not entirely sold on the game's Kinect integration; yelling at the screen to get the zombies to move toward our character felt awkward. But it worked. The zombies reacted exactly as you'd expect them to, and creating diversions by shouting can make reaching your objectives a little easier. Knowing when to act can help, too. The zombies behave differently depending on the time of day, which further fuels the sense of atmosphere. At night, they act more aggressively; during the day, they're more lethargic, making it easier to get around.
This is definitely not The Walking Dead, though. Dead Rising 3 features plenty of action, and it allows for a great deal of customization. You'll find a ton of items simply laying around, and you can pick up all of them. As you level up your character by chaining zombie kills, you'll gain new crafting abilities and perks. Building weapons in segments as you collect more pieces makes Dead Rising feel almost like an action-oriented role-playing game -- almost.
DR3 also features a remarkable number of vehicles as well as different ways to customize them to make them your own, giving you that extra touch of pride as you run down every zombie that crosses your path. This is hardly just mindless fun; zombies come in many classes, some more powerful than others. If your custom vehicle isn't strong enough to deal with the types you're up again, you won't be able to simply plow through an area.
As you level up, it becomes easier to deal with the hordes of zombies. In fact, this is by far the easiest entry in the series to date. At higher levels, the challenge all but disappears, because your character is so strong. For those who prefer a meatier challenge, DR3 offers Nightmare Mode, which brings the experience more in line with Dead Rising 2. You can't save at any point you like in Nightmare Mode, and the zombies become much harder to deal with.
Really, my biggest complaint with Dead Rising 3 stems from its severe lack of a visual leap in the graphics; Capcom definitely prioritized quantity over quality when it came to graphics. But everything else about the game raises the bar considerably compared to its predecessors; it's a more accessible adventure, while Nightmare Mode allows seasoned zombie killers to sink their teeth into something more challenging. Even when the action starts to get a little dull -- despite the vast array of customizable weapons! -- the vehicular combat helps to make up for some of the monotony. Dead Rising 3 delivers almost everything fans of the series would want from a next-generation entry of the franchise, while stunning newcomers with massive hordes of zombies.
The graphics don't provide as much of a next-generation leap as we'd hoped, but the atmosphere and huge number of zombies more than make up for any other visual shortcomings. The weapon and vehicle customization options and the addition of Nightmare Mode give Dead Rising 3 the legs it needs to stay in constant rotation on your Xbox One.