They wouldn’t let us record during the closed-doors Dead Rising 3 demonstration. Not even audio. Consequently, I took old-fashioned notes with a pen and a notebook. I’m looking at them right now and the general theme seems to be “some good ideas here and it looks quite pretty but oh gosh, the screen tear… and that’s a terrible frame rate.”
I should elaborate.
Dead Rising 3 is, as they went to great pains to repeatedly point out at the start of the demonstration, an Xbox One exclusive. It wasn’t playable at E3, presumably because it’s still a way off and with grand-scale open games like this, deviating from a tried and tested path often breaks them when they’re not finished. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, InFamous Second Son was in a similar situation for the PS4.
The game undoubtedly looks good. It’s clear that it’s running on next gen hardware with lighting, textures and models that seem well out of reach for this generation of consoles. The crowds, too, mark it out as being beyond what we’re used to. There is a veritable horde of undead at every turn and, as you would imagine with a Dead Rising game, a plethora of imaginative weapons you can use on them.
Having that many zombies on screen, with that level of detail, is impressive. Add to that the fact that different zombie types have different abilities and you’ll understand that the game is pushing quite a lot of data around its crowded streets.
The enemy variant they showed was the zombie fireman. This was a tougher, more intelligent zombie type, armed with an axe. A small group of them seemed much more effective than a much larger group of standard enemies might be but the upside of these encounters was that you got an axe to pick up after you took down the first zombie fireman. Still, they were deadly – almost finished the demo early by killing off our experienced player at one point.
The demo showed off one of four sections of the map that covers San Perdido, a kind of representation of Los Angeles. Our new hero is Nick Ramos, a mechanic who can craft his weird and wonderful weaponry from discovered blueprints without the aid of a workbench – he crafts anywhere. Weapon blueprints and crafting aren’t the only things to return from previous games in the series either.
The people showing the demo seemed keen to impress upon us that it was a darker, more serious tone to the game – a quote I’ve seen rephrased and repeated numerous times since the demo. In truth though, it’s just as silly as the previous Dead Rising games and anyone who claims to the contrary should go back and re-watch the part where Nick is dressed up in a skintight summer dress, throwing cement saws he’s taped to a sledge hammer at lurching undead firemen. More serious, darker tone? Only in the marketing blurb.
So the crafting, blueprints, costumes, safe houses and wacky weaponry all return. What is missing are the load times. The whole of the map streamed in, with some quite impressive vistas in the distance and packed zombie-filled areas in the foreground. This mix of crowded foreground and expansive background, all on screen working together, was something they were keen to stress in the demonstration but given the impact it clearly had on frame rate, I’m not so sure it was the best element to show off at this stage.
The most impressive elements on show were, somewhat surprisingly, the Smart Glass functions. At one point in the demo, in need of some more advanced weaponry but without any local knowledge, they took to a nearby tablet that was running the Smart Glass app. They were able to explore the map on the tablet, find the location of a gun store and select it. The gun store now popped up in game as a waypoint for Nick to get to. Smart Glass was also used at times to call in artillery and air strikes on huge crowds of zombies – the latter bringing the demonstration to an explosive end and once again highlighting those frame rate issues.
That’s something that can be polished out, of course. It’s clearly quite ambitious to try and make a game that looks that good and has that much going on at once. I hope they can fix the technical issues in time for release without scaling back on that ambition.