A few weeks ago, I got a chance to try out Dead Rising 3 and a number of other Xbox One launch titles. Dead Rising 3 so far seems to be shaping up as not only a worthy addition to the franchise but as a solid entry for the next generation of consoles. I got to chat with Jon Airhart from Capcom, a producer of Dead Rising 3, about the latest instalment in the crazy, horror franchise.
Jon, it’s somewhat fitting that Dead Rising 3 is a launch title for Xbox One since the original Dead Rising was a launch title for the last generation. If there was one thing about DR 3 that you think would sum up the fact that it’s a next gen title, what would it be for you?
Jon: Well, for us the greatest thing that we were able to achieve for Xbox One with Dead Rising is that now, finally, the series is truly an open world experience because Dead Rising 1, as you say, was a lot of people’s first experience with the Xbox and there were a lot of load screens. You know, you go out to one area of the mall, you go outdoors and you’ve got a big load screen. The power of the Xbox One has allowed us to make the game fully, completely open, completely streaming from one end of the city to the other without any loads and we didnt have to sacrifice any zombie desnsity or gameplay density to do that. We’ve got thousands and thousands of zombies on screen, about three times as many as Dead Rising 2, and that’s really the thing that’s changed the series and made it feel next gen. Because you’ve got that same crazy, wild gameplay as Dead Rising but completely open, no load times and it’s just something you couldn’t have done on the last generation.
So with that increase in size and scope, what sort of challenges come along with that and trying to maximise the game to it’s full potential?
Jon: Well it starts with a design challenge, you know, we put all this crazy content and great stuff into the game, you’ve gotta sort of rethink the basic rules of the franchise. For instance you look back at the rules of the old Dead Rising game. They have a very strict structure with a time limit which is unique and very, very fun and it kind of gives this game incredible structure which is awesome. However, when we put all this stuff in, it really wasn’t working all that well, it felt like you were trying to have fun on a schedule. So we really had to just go back to basics and rethink that and luckily we were able to kind of present both experiences so that the default story mode that you get right off the bat is a less restrictive experience where you don’t have to worry so much about the time limit. You get to just go out, go around and find combo weapons, find blueprints and experiment, kill a bunch of zombies and have a good time. But we also have something called Nightmare Mode which brings back those classic Dead Rising rules so you really have to beat the clock, which is more so the enemy than the zombies although the zombies are now more aggressive and more deadly in Nightmare mode. So yeah, putting all that stuff in and really making it an open world game made us rethink the fundamental rules of Dead Rising and it was awesome because it allowed us to bring not only the classic, masochistic kind of Dead Rising/Capcom experience to gamers but also this new open world freedom which is awesome and that’s really what the game is all about, the freedom to play the game how you want.
And I assume that scope of world is one of the reasons you’ve put such an emphasis on vehicles this time around, why don’t you talk a bit about what role the vehicles have within the gameplay and particularly with the main character?
Jon: Yeah, so the world is huge, it’s bigger than both Dead Rising 1 and 2 put together multiple times and so obviously as you say driving around is very important for getting from one place to the other. The main character, Nick Ramos, he actually was a mechanic before the outbreak happened, so he worked at the ‘Wrench-O-Rama’ garage, working on the vehicles in Los Perdidos which is why he’s able to craft these crazy combo vehicles and combo weapons in the environment. If you’re driving around in, say, a taxi, that’s pretty good. It’ll get you from Point A to Point B but it’s not super durable if zombies are grabbing onto the sides trying to pull you out… It’s going to break down pretty quickly. But if you combine a vehicle with another vehicle, say you combine a back hoe with an SUV you can create a ‘Turret Rig’ which is like this totally awesome zombie killing tank! It’s got a turret on top, blades on the sides to cut off those clingers, and when you make combo vehicles that’s some of the most powerful stuff in the game. It really allows you to get from Point A to Point B really quick with 10,00 zombies in between. ‘Turret Rig’, accept no substitutes! Another one is the ‘Roller Hog’ where you have a steam roller and a motorcycle. Take those two, put ’em together… It’s like basically a paint roller of zombie death. And of course, we put flamethrowers on it as well, just for funsies.
Everything needs flamethrowers. Talking now about things that the other Dead Rising games did, in terms of finding survivors and choosing who is worth saving, it was a big part of those games. Is that coming back?
Jon: Yeah, absolutely. So you’ll meet tons and tons of characters in this huge world and you can choose to save them, choose to help them and they’ll reward you. There’s a lot of little story bits, not only in the main missions, but those survivors are where you see the world and all it’s colour, it really gets fleshed out. You know, Nick’s really helpful, he’s a good guy at heart and he wants to help people wherever he can. One thing you’ll notice about Dead Rising 3 is a lot of the escort parts of those missions… You know, they’re a little big frustrating but they’re part of that classic experience so we kind of went away from that and what we did find about survivors and what we felt was really awesome was that when you were escorting those survivors to a safehouse in the older games, they could be super useful. You give them weapons, they start fighting alongside you and that was really, really cool, that’s something we wanted to keep. So what we did was, we kinda turned it on it’s head, where if you clear zombies away from a stranded survivor, they just head straight to a safe zone by themselves so you no longer have to escort them. But then what you can do is go back to the safehouse, go to the survivor bulletin board and call on them to help you out. So if you’re in a really tough part of the game, you can grab a survivor and call them out, give them some weapons and form a posse. You can give them orders, you know, say “Attack” or “Go over there!” and it’s really helpful and useful in the game so yeah, we’ve kept that feature and I think made it even more fun.
And do the survivors have any of their own skills or stat progressions, anything like that?
Jon: Well they don’t level up necessarily but they’ve each got their own personalities and their own traits like speed, abilities, aggressiveness, things like that. They all have a little bit of personality that you see come out in missions when you’re helping them which just adds colour to the world and it’s a classic element to the Dead Rising experience, we’re just happy to be able to bring it back.
Now co-op is back again for this game. It was a big addition for Dead Rising 2 but there were a few wrinkles in the implementation… One that comes to mind is the flawed save system, so what have you done this time around to approach co-op and address those problems?
Jon: Yeah, Dead Rising 2 had online 2-player co-op which was cool, super fun to just get online with a buddy and kill some zombies. However, you didn’t save story progress, all you could really do was kinda grind out some levels for you character. Well, we took care of that in Dead Rising 3. When you play, your save is structured so you have your character part, where you have levels, combo weapon blueprints and things like that and then separately also your story progress as well, for both regular story mode and nightmare mode and it’s all saved. So when you play online, say you play with your buddy through chapter 3 and you clear it online, when you go back to the single player experience you can start from the beginning of the game, then when you get to chapter 3 if you want, you can skip ahead to chapter 4 or you know replay chapter 3 then just keep playing. So that’s a big improvement over Dead Rising 2 and again, it just feeds back into that idea of letting you play your way. That’s also basically the biggest thing we’re using the Xbox One cloud system for, those asynchronous save files, where you’re getting story progress and character progress seperately from your co-op partner and you can just enjoy the experience online or offline without having to retread or replay things that you’ve already experienced.
On the Xbox Cloud, are there any other particular features of the Xbox One that have been invaluable or have even just given you new ideas for things you wouldn’t have thought of?
Jon: Yeah, well like I said, the cloud part of the game is being used basically for the co-op experience with the asynchronous saves which is basically adding a lot of value to co-op. Another platform feature that we’re liking is Kinect and it’s really interesting to see how much more powerful the Kinect is, how much more sensitive the sensor is. You know obviously, this is a hardcore game, it’s for hardcore gamers and we focused on things that hardcore gamers are going to find valuable when we did our Kinect functionality. So you know, it’s just kind of like the little cool stuff… Like, you’re able to yell out “Hey zombies!” and the zombies will come, be attracted to you. So if you’re playing online you can maybe get all the zombies attracted to you while the other player skirts around to horde to get away, get into an alley or something like that. You can actually just escape [zombie] grapples by making any motion rather than doing a little minigame with buttons. It really feels pretty next-gen and really natural to do it. You can point to the screen and while you have a survivor posse, give them orders of where to go by pointing at the screen, or point and say “Attack” to get them to attack. So the Kinect stuff has been really surprising and incredible and it’s added to the experience in these little, cool ways that I think people are going to be surprised by.
Finally, there is a huge amount of weapon and vehicle customisation in Dead Rising 3, what’s your personal favourite?
Jon: Oh man, that’s a really tough one. I think that my personal favourite has got to be the ‘Ultimate Shout’ which I believe that you saw earlier today-
I think so, is that the one with the witches hats?
Or Traffic cones?
Jon: [laughing]Yes, that’s the one!
Sorry, I think that might be an Australian thing, we call them witches hats.
Jon: Oh really? That’s cool, I didn’t know that! [Laughing] So it’s the witches hat plus a speaker that gives you a basic power shout and then on top of that you add a car battery that gives you the electric shout and then on top of THAT you portable stereo to get the ‘Ultimate Shout’ and the reason I like this is you get this huge, crazy, pulse damage where stuff just gets blown away and you can just clear a whole crowd full of zombies super quick. Also if you use it against the co-op player, it’ll blast them down the street so you can do a little bit of griefing and have fun with your buddies.
I’m going to be honest… That’s probably what I’m going to be using that weapon for most of the time.
Jon: And so you should, it’s a lot of fun!
Jon, thanks for having a chat with us!
Jon: Thank you very much.
Dead Rising 3 is a launch title for the Xbox One and comes out November 22, worldwide.