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Today I Played: Dead Rising 3

Chris Plante co-founded Polygon in 2012 as editor-at-large and is now editor-in-chief. He also created and occasionally teaches NYU’s Introduction to Games Journalism course.

What's wrong with Dead Rising 3?

I've been struggling to verbalize what I find so unsatisfying about Dead Rising 3. It's a finely crafted game that I think plays to people like my colleague Russ Frushtick. You know these types, maybe you are this type: the person who gladly devotes hours to scouring a virtual open world for items hidden in easy to overlook corridors and closets. When it comes to stuff, Dead Rising 3 has you covered.

Plus, it looks great, even if the occasional car materializes as if summoned by a warlock. The boss fights, which can be reduced to repeatedly punting ammunition at an overpowered enemy, are insufferable, but hardly enough to spoil the overall experience. So what's the deal?

The sticking point for me, I'm beginning to think, is this restricted sense of physical freedom. Dead Rising 3, at its grimy undead core, is a beat'em-up, an unholy progeny of the retro arcade genre in which the player move a muscular character from one end of the screen to the other, smashing buttons and mauling a horde of slow-moving fodder. The fun is in watching the mayhem. Like the zombies of Dead Rising 3, the genre brainless.

But Dead Rising 3 is structured like an open world game. It expands upon the comparably restricted interiors of its predecessors to a sprawling exterior: a devastated city space.

The pleasure of open world games stems from the navigation, which is to say, if you're going to spend the thrust of the game traveling, then the traveling better be enjoyable. When you think of games like Crackdown, Saints Row 4 or Grand Theft Auto 5, you think of the ways you explore the world — not the close range combat.

Dead Rising 3's open world is a series of barriers, be they the swarms of zombies or the stacks of concrete blocks planted into its alleys and avenues. It's an open-world game that impedes movement. That's why I can't get into it. I want to run around. I want to adventure. Unlike Frushtick, I can't settle down and focus on the little things.

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