Capcom can be a difficult company to read. So many of its games are downright silly, painted with big, broad arcade strokes and brought to life with straight-faced bombastic zeal, but it's hard to tell if the publisher is in on the joke.
As the title suggests, this add-on for Dead Rising 3 leaves little room for doubt. This is Capcom at its most mischievous, throwing all its toys into one sandbox and bashing them together until the arms and legs fall off.
The tone is set as soon as you select SUDR3ARHEEXPA from the main menu. You get a mock arcade boot-up sequence, a parody of the old "Winners Don't Use Drugs" screen, and an over-the-top attract sequence that makes the average Street Fighter intro look like an Alan Bennett play.
Structurally, the game harks back to Capcom's arcade past as well. It's essentially a scrolling beat-'em-up inserted into Dead Rising's zombie-infested open world. Across four districts of increasing difficulty, you must battle through two stages, a bonus stage, and then two more stages to clear each one. Along the way you'll be given challenges to complete. Some are simple: kill 750 Zombies, for example. Others require you to destroy giant bombs or generators, find and return vehicles or defeat boss characters.
There's a time limit to keep you moving, but there are no lives to lead you to the Game Over screen. Should you die, you can buy yourself back into the game by cashing in some of your collected Zenny, Capcom's venerable digital currency.
There are four characters to choose from, each drawn from the Dead Rising series. Frank West, Chuck Greene, Nick Ramos and Annie Greene are all here, and each has their own unique style of fighting. Fast, Heavy and Normal attacks are your main offensive options, and each character also has a powerful Super attack that is charged up during combat.
The zombie hordes don't put up much of a fight, of course, so mostly it's about managing the space around you rather than working out intricate tactics. If you want to button-mash the same attack over and over, that generally gets the job done. The occasional special zombie complicates things slightly. Some have a radial influence on others, buffing their attacks or defenses, but ploughing into them solves pretty much any problem. It's only the hulking Super Zombies that require a little more thought - but even then it's a question of getting your hits in and then getting out of the way. Dark Souls it ain't.
The game has a cathartic energy and is well served by a bright new aesthetic that has giant bouncing icons, enormous coins spilling from cartoon treasure chests and - yes - over-sized food items that replenish your health. There's even a cheeky booby trap, designed to look like a power-up that fills your Super Attack gauge, which instead turns you into the defenceless Tofu bonus character from Resident Evil.
It's that sort of daft touch that is Super Ultra's true selling point. This is a glorious mash-up that digs deep into Capcom history and goes out of its way to delight arcade geeks with its obscure references. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the bonus costumes, which are unlocked by meeting certain criteria - killing X number of zombies, earning particular grades on specific stages, finding hidden arcade machines and so on - and then purchased using your Zenny.
From obvious choices such as Chun Li and Ryu to deep cuts like Captain Commando and Regina from Dino Crisis, each is designed to tickle the retro-gaming ribs and also offers a whole new suite of attacks and special moves to experiment with. There are 20 such costumes and they are, rather wonderfully, treated as just that - costumes. If you had any lingering doubts as to how seriously you should take this DLC, the sight of Frank West cosplaying as Felicia from Darkstalkers should settle the issue once and for all.
Much like eating a kilogram of Haribo, SUDR3ARHEEXPA offers one hell of a sugar rush and you'll easily blitz through the game's four districts in a few hours. That's a task that is much easier with four players, and considerably harder solo. As knockabout fun, Super Ultra excels, but balancing clearly wasn't a priority. More is definitely merrier with this one as you work together while competing for high scores.
The long-term appeal depends on your willingness to replay those same stages over and over to unlock everything. There's no shortage of secrets and Easter Eggs to find as you explore, which makes the repetition easier to take, but the fact that it's all running in the visibly strained Dead Rising 3 engine can't help but dull its kaleidoscopic shine. It's glitchy, the physics frequently erratic and the vehicles still handle like bathtubs. In the midst of a massive, neon-flecked zombie slaughter, that's not really a problem. When you fail a stage because the timer ran out while you struggled to free yourself from some random scenery snag, it's harder to forgive.
It's very easy to be caught up in the giddy swirl of this DLC, but the rush is rather short-lived. In many ways, it's a spiritual sibling to Far Cry 3's Blood Dragon expansion. Both are fuelled by a heady brew of nostalgia and adrenalin, and both have tongue so firmly implanted in cheek that it bursts out the other side. Where Blood Dragon built to a manic crescendo, however, after the first few hours SUDR3ARHEEXPA too easily turns into a fun but flawed grind for all but the most dedicated Capcom aficionado.
7 / 10