the more i read about Xbox exclusives... the more I WANT THEM ALL....How seriously do you want to take that zombie invasion?
Mild-mannered mechanic Nick Ramos is wearing a giant novelty shark costume. Our co-op partner - a sturdy trucker named $#@! - sports a full suit of armour. Together we're gleefully slashing our way through a hotel pool full of swimshort- and bikini-clad zombies with a pair of glowing laser swords that, for legal purposes, are absolutely not lightsabers. As we climb out the deep end, a trail of eviscerated undead floating behind us, we find a sport bike waiting. "You ready?" asks senior producer Jason Leigh through the headset. Together we mount the motorcycle and speed off a conveniently placed ramp that launches us straight into an astonishing herd of zombies swarming in the street below.
For longtime Dead Rising fans, this should feel like business as usual, but for everyone who watched DR3's dark, gritty unveiling at this year's E3, this probably sounds like a completely different game. Where are the dimly lit rooms with bare bulbs ominously swaying in silence? Where's the terror and dread communicated in Nick's panicked body language? Where are the inexplicable airstrikes? According to Capcom Vancouver, DR3 potentially offers both humour and horror in equal measure. It all just depends on how you want to play.
"We still have humour, but it's really up to you to evoke it," explains executive producer Josh Bridge. "You can play it straight or you can go totally off the rails. We try to leave it up to you to blur those lines. The stuff we force upon you is: these zombies are scary; this game looks scary; there's tension; it's up to you to survive. And then it's up to you to deviate if you want."
We did plenty of deviating during our hands-on time in the form of ridiculous outfits and over-the-top weapons, but that genuine in-your-face intensity was obvious even if it wasn't quite as bleak as the E3 demo. Though populated with outrageous items, the world itself feels remarkably believable, as do its undead inhabitants. "If we went deliberately cartoony, we felt we'd never convince you this game has actual tension. And we wanted tension," says Bridge.
Fear and loadingHowever, with the Xbox One supporting all the on-screen action, the team didn't have to stop at mere tension. "Being next-gen, the fidelity of the graphics and especially the lighting effects mean we can actually make the game lean more towards serious horror because we can put you into dark environments - flickering lights, running around with a torch. Certainly in some areas it gets downright creepy," teases Leigh. We didn't experience much horror during our own play time, but the signs are all there: weapons still break with extended use, zombies act more aggressively than ever, and Bridge promises some deliberately-paced indoor sections as well as "more scare moments."
But that's not all. "You're going to die," deadpans Bridge. "Your initial thrust through will be purely, 'Holy smokes, I just need to survive and find stuff and stay alive.'" That may sound harsh - especially compared to the demanding yet relatively lighthearted approach of recent Dead Rising games - but according to Bridge, DR3 is actually the belated realisation of a much older vision: "We look at it as getting back to what [the first] DR was starting to do. It actually was intentionally trying to be serious and real-looking. The tech has finally given us the opportunity to go where we wanted to go."
DR3's renewed commitment to survival horror isn't the only change technology has inspired, though. As Leigh explains, the added next-gen horsepower has also "allowed us to make a legitimate, fully streaming open world game." While the team considers the earlier games more "free-roaming sandbox" than true open-world, they have no problem associating DR3 with titans like Skyrim and even GTA. It's a fair comparison. Not only does DR3 feature the series' largest, most densely populated world, it also completely eliminates load screens. Whether you're ducking in and out of stores, driving clear across the map, or gearing up for a boss fight, it all happens seamlessly.
While the idea of an open-world horror experience that can keep pace with grittier games like Resident Evil and The Walking Dead is pretty badass, we're still relieved to find that, as producer Mike Jones puts it, "At its heart, you're still in an open world filled with zombies - do whatever you want." For many (ourselves included), that'll mean opting-in to all that classic, mad fun. "Even if you start the game thinking, 'I'm just going to go through this with a baseball bat and f--- up some zombies,' you can't do it!" laughs art director Alan Jarvie. "You walk down the road and there'll be a shark outfit or a knight's uniform - it's hard not to put that on."
Regardless of whether you stick with the serious or search for the silly, DR3's new open-world formula does warrant a few fundamental changes. The most shocking for fans: the main campaign no longer operates on an unforgiving timetable. "I liked the time constraints," confesses Bridge, "but I really wanted the freedom. Now, with this mode that doesn't penalise you for taking your time, you can really start experimenting." Because there's so much more to discover in the newly expanded world, forcing time constraints on players would have, in Bridge's words, "been too much of a loss."
However, the timer hasn't been eliminated entirely. Hardcore players can still find it in Nightmare Mode, which takes the same narrative-driven campaign and applies a timer, manual saves at certain in-game locations, limited save slots, and even tougher zombies (especially at night) - basically everything you'd expect from a traditional Dead Rising experience.
Under your skin
The campaign in question follows new hero Nick Ramos, an average Joe much like past protags Frank West and Chuck Greene. "He's a mechanic; he's pretty tough, but ultimately a nice guy," says game writer Annie Reid. He's also a "bit of a loner," with a mysterious past and a tattoo he doesn't remember getting. We spent more time maiming zombies than getting to know Nick, but from what we saw, he seemed endearingly shy and eager to please, despite clearly being buff enough to kick some ass.
The game opens three days into the most recent outbreak, with Nick, his boss Rhonda, and a few other survivors (including potential co-op avatar $#@!) already holed up in a diner. With no sign of rescue and no info to go on, Nick and the others leave to find help, and while they quickly learn of a nearby extraction point, things go sideways. From there, it's up to Nick to survive. "It was intentional to develop a story that had a very clear goal - escape - and then leave the unravelling of it to you," says Bridge. However, he also hints, "A big theme in the series has always been 'how did the outbreak start?' So you start unravelling that through the story."
In all likelihood, the conspiracy stems from a group called the Illegals. In the ten years since DR2 ended, the government formed the Federal Bureau of Zombie Defense and Control as a way to manage the zombie threat. The ZDC started implanting infected citizens with chips that automatically dispense the undead-antidote Zombrex but also track them via GPS. "At face value, all the government influence is actually built to help. It's not a dystopian world with obvious surveillance and people running underground. It's just a result of the zombie threat," assures Bridge.
Regardless of the ZDC's true intentions, a small faction of angry vectors rejected this monitoring system, choosing instead to rely on black market Zombrex. We've no idea if this actually leads to the outbreak, but it does make them obvious scapegoats. At least the chips mean Nick doesn't have to constantly hunt for Zombrex like Frank and Chuck, although he will have to make choices that'll eventually lead to one of several possible endings.
DR3 also introduces a new location: Los Perdidos, a fictionalised version of Los Angeles. "It felt like people would recognise it," asserts Bridge. "So we smashed a whole bunch of cities around LA together." According to Bridge, this sense of familiarity will help ground players and cultivate an even deeper uneasiness. But there was another reason: "It's a choice based around the addition of combo vehicles - or that's part of it," explains Jarvie. "Nick's a mechanic, and we wanted him to feel like he was in an authentic setting."
You read that right: combo vehicles. In addition to collecting combo weapon blueprints and assembling outlandish weapons from random items (which can now be done anywhere in the world, not just at workbenches), Nick can actually create on-the-fly Frankencars by combining two entire vehicles. And the results are just as insane as the weapons: a taxi and backhoe become a massive Road Warrior-style armoured transport complete with machine guns and operable side-mounted blades. A motorcycle and a steamroller become, well, a motorcycle with a massive roller on the front that mows down zombies at incredible speeds. The options are diverse, deadly, and always offer a meaningful co-op seat, just in case.
Bridge estimates that, given the size of the world, you could actually spend as much as 50 per cent of the game in vehicles, but Los Perdidos is more than just roads. "We kind of cram in the fidelity that you'd expect from a linear experience like Uncharted," promises Leigh, "and we try and do it everywhere so regardless of the angle you're taking through the world, it feels like you're playing that kind of game." Achieving such a consistent level of detail was a major goal for the team, but according to Bridge, they didn't stop there: "[Our design team] has essentially hand-crafted spaces. You're not going to come across a cookie-cutter sort of world."
The idea of a fully formed city with no repeated content becomes even more impressive when you consider the scale of Los Perdidos, which the team says is "six to eight times bigger" than DR2's casino and much denser. Rooftops, basements, back alleys, freeways - the world exists in all three dimensions, and according to Leigh, if it makes sense that you'd be able to enter a building, you can: "[In Case Zero] if you actually went into every single building, it got completely pointless. But I'd say the majority of spaces are enterable."
Hell is other people
And of course, what would any great city be without its native population? On Xbox One, thousands of zombies can be squeezed on-screen at once, but despite their increased numbers, each one is unique. "There's a f---ton of zombies," proclaims Jarvie. "Because our scarring system, clothing system, and the body/head systems are all randomised, you could potentially see many permutations. They're not all pre-modelled." There are even special types of zombies like cops, firemen, and football players who possess unique attributes like, say, shotguns they vaguely remember how to fire. Kind of.
As if undead jocks weren't bad enough, Psychos return to fill the gaps between the story bosses, only now you'll really have to seek them out if you want to take them down. "You're going to come across some really dark ones and some incredibly insane ones," warns Bridge, who also reveals that each of the seven demented, murderous survivors is based on a different deadly sin. "I can't tell you how difficult it was to come up with 'sloth,'" he jokes.
Naturally, the Psychos aren't the only non-zombies left out there; plenty of saner survivors are scattered across the city just waiting for assistance from Nick. Unlike past games, however, these survivors offer more than tedious escort missions. Once you gain their trust, you can order them to follow, attack, or scavenge for items. You can even form an ad-hoc posse by summoning multiple crew members at one of the city's safe houses. "Some survivors are really, really good," emphasises Bridge, "so find those, arm them up, and you'll have your own little army walking around with you."
Combined with the impressive tech under DR3's hood, even our short stint in a self-contained section of the city was enough excite us. Melee weapons have serious heft, and the animations sell every kill. Guns feel convincingly powerful, and zombies can be maimed in so many spectacular ways, each of which feels authentic thanks to the location-based dismemberment. And in the end, whether you prefer serious horror or silly mayhem, aren't zombie guts all we really want anyway?
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An hour in Dead Rising 3, Xbox One's scariest, silliest horror game...
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This game is going to be awesome, I hope lol. I love the videos and info we've already seen thus far.
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Combo vehicles sounds cool. I'm pretty confident that xb1 launch games will live up to the hype. There has been plenty of hands on previews for months now. Bring on Nov 22.
People find Dead Rising games scary?
I've never really enjoyed any of the Dead Rising games -- experienced them through demos (but I might spend more time playing it now that I got one through the Games with Gold promotion.)
They both involve rescuing survivors to get PP(Prestige Points) to level up. You can arm them with weapons like an uzi (unlimited ammo for the NPC's) or any other weapons to make it easier. In the 2nd the survivors are smarter and will go to your waypoints much better.
Also the psychopaths are scary if you dont have good weapons and are a low level
Last edited by Soldierboy; 10-28-2013 at 06:10.
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I'm happy they got rid of the timer, hated that in these games.
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