Dead Space 3 Review
By: Jimmy Kovalski
Developer: Visceral Games
Players: 1 (1-2 Co-Op Online)
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 and PC
Release Date: February 5th 2013
Rating: M for Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language)
A Cold Day in Hell
After a very cool and mysterious prologue, Dead Space 3 puts you back into the shoes of your favorite necromorph-slaying engineer, Isaac Clarke. The opening shows Isaac a bit down on his luck, distraught over his break-up with Ellie Langford and still having visions of the marker. Life couldn’t get any better, right? Enter Captain Robert Norton and John Carver, where they confront Isaac and persuade him into helping them reach Ellie and her team. The team have been stranded aboard the CMS Roanoke. Upon reaching the ship, Isaac and crew discover that the planet of Tau Volantis is the marker home world and that an expedition 200 years ago turned a machine off that caused the necromorphs to run wild. The mission quickly turns into a near suicide run to stop the marker threat once and for all and put an end to the necromorphs.
Without giving away any huge spoilers, that is the basic outline of Dead Space 3’s story. There are quite a few interesting twists, and the story does a good job of keeping one entertained. The game introduces us to some decent characters, but only a few are worth caring for. There is also a weird love triangle sub-story that falls a bit flat, but I was generally impressed with the tale of Dead Space 3. Especially toward the conclusion. The story reminds me of some B-movie horror flick. You know; the ones that are not really impressive, but offer just enough twists and revelations to keep you interested. The ending of Dead Space 3 will surely be looked at as a “love it” or “hate it” thing, but put me on the “love it” side.
Dead Space 3 takes place in mostly linear corridors that fans of the series are accustom to. There are a few moments of open areas when you’re on the planet’s surface or flying around in space, but most of your time will be spent navigating the tight corridors of ships and buildings. The first couple of chapters take place in space and are easily the most impressive environments that the game has to offer. Tau Volantis just doesn’t have the same memorable backdrops. There will be some occasional beautiful, yet terrifying sky-boxes, but the general environments on the planet’s surface are lacking. You will notice some re-used environments and grow tired of seeing the same old area as backtracking is a major thing in Dead Space 3.
New to the series is the addition of cooperative play. The whole single-player campaign is playable with a second character named John Carver. The actual character is pretty much a copy and paste job from any other third-person bro-shooter, and he is very unlikable for the majority of the game. He does come around towards the end and some exclusive co-op side-missions do fill out his back story, but he could have been much more deep and interesting.
I feel that the addition of cooperative play neither adds, nor detracts from the game, it’s just simply there. Think of it as an Army of Two game with better gun play. Let me set you straight a bit— Dead Space 3 is a single player experience. I highly recommend going through the first time by yourself. One will occasionally run into some co-op puzzles (that you can do yourself), co-op side missions and John will sometimes appear at random moments, but the addition of co-op does not hinder the core single-player experience. I do commend Visceral Games, as they could have just added the watered-down competitive multiplayer from 2 to fill EA’s “all-games-must-have-multiplayer” theme, but chose to do something different instead. That’s all fine by me; it just doesn’t add anything to the game. A separate side-campaign with an alternative story would have been the better choice here, in my opinion.
Perhaps the most interesting new idea in Dead Space 3; one that fails to reach its true potential, is the inclusion of secondary side-missions. I love this idea a lot, as it can really open the game up, but it’s not entirely done correctly here. Early in the game, you will come across side-missions that have their own standalone tale to tell, and they are quite interesting. Unfortunately, once you reach Tau Volantis, the side-missions become terribly boring and repetitive. Go to point A, fend off hordes of necromorphs, then open a chest full of loot. It’s fine the first time, but after the 5th or 6th time of doing the same thing, it grows very tiresome. It’s a concept that I hope EA expands upon if there are any more games in the series. It’s just not fully realized here and is a big missed opportunity by the ending chapters.
The biggest and by far best addition is the crafting system. You see, Dead Space 3 still has benches to upgrade your weapons, though the benches now are much more complex. During one’s time in the game, the player will collect resources from enemies or from looting boxes and containers. With these resources, you can craft weapon parts to use to craft some truly sinister weaponry. You can also mod each gun in many various ways, including damage modifiers, acidic rounds, electric rounds, etc. The possibilities seem almost endless. You can also craft mods, ammo and health if you so choose, but know that these take up resources that could be used for better guns. The crafting can be a really confusing mess the first time you mess around with it. There is a tutorial of sorts at the beginning, but it does little to lessen the confusion. Over the course of the game, I went from questioning the crafting system to flat-out loving it.
The rest of the gameplay is pretty standard fair for Dead Space. The act of freezing a necromorph in place, shooting his arm off, and then impaling him with his own arm is as satisfying as ever. Visceral did add a new cover mechanic, of sorts. Isaac can crouch, and if he is behind a wall he will lean over and shoot. This rarely comes in handy as most of his fights occur with running necromorphs, so it seems a bit pointless. They also added a new dodge maneuver. This allows Isaac to roll forward, backward, or sideways, and is very handy when trying to escape from the grasp of an enemy. If you are a series veteran, you will feel right at home with the controls. The small additions are nice, but the mantra here is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The one major difference I noticed about Dead Space 3 as opposed to the others, was just how much more ruthless the enemy A.I. was. These guys are brutal. The now can transform into a multiple number of ways. Gone are the days of just shooting their head and an arm off as they will now grow tentacles/arms out of their head, torso and back. This makes you use more ammo or think of more creative was to dispose of them. They also move much faster now making you always stay on your toes. Some will sprint full on Usain Bolt style at you while others will crawl on the ground like a damn spider dodging every shot. There are also many points throughout the game where they will come at you in a much larger number than previous games. All of this created a tension or a sense of terror that the other games lacked. There may not be a huge variety in the enemy types but damn they are terrifying, brutal and scary.
The more concerning aspect in regards to the enemies of Dead Space 3 are the boss battles. They are here but not very memorable or challenging. These creatures have some really cool designs but the battles themselves are boring, challenge less and forgettable. Hell one boss takes about 5-6 chapters to finally beat as he keeps showing up and running away. The final boss is pretty cool in the grand scheme of things but again, offers no challenge at all. They could have done a much better job in this department.
The one thing I feel Dead Space series has always nailed is the presentation and Dead Space 3 is no different. The game looks stunning. Everything from the amazing sky-boxes, to the smooth animations of the player’s actions and to the terrifying ways the enemies run and crawl. The lighting effects are stellar and mesmerizing and the way the snow crumples beneath Isaac’s feet is a small joy. No surprise but the sound design is also one of the best around. From the creaking sounds of old walkways to the terrifying shrieks of the monsters and even the cringe worthy sounds of bullets ripping through the flesh of the necromorphs, this game hits all the right notes. The original score also does its best to set the mood accordingly. Dead Space 3 is a great excuse to fire up your surround sound and play with speakers at full blast.
We can’t talk about Dead Space without talking about atmosphere. Dead Space 3, while not as good as the first two, has great atmosphere. The game’s opening first few chapters do a great job of building the tension and is very reminiscent of the first game but towards the end, the atmosphere falls off a bit. It is still better than most games around but the atmosphere on Tau Volantis doesn’t quite build the tension like we are accustom to seeing in the series. This may be dues to the fact that the later portion leans more towards an action approach.
Speaking of action, Dead Space 3 is more of an action game than its predecessors. By no means is this a bad thing. Sure some horror purists will dislike it but I believe Dead Space 3 tight-ropes the line between horror and action without going too much into one or another. You will have some action scenes but they are nicely mixed in with the terrifying tension building corridor parts we are used to seeing. There are a few parts with human enemies that are quite disappointing and uninspired but they are few and far between.
Dead Space 3 takes a lot of chances. Some pay off while others miss their mark. The story is entertaining, the game play is still great, the enemies are more sinister than ever and the crafting system is deep and entertaining. It’s a shame the game drags a bit towards the back end and that the secondary objectives are a huge blown opportunity; and yes it is more of an action game than the previous two but in no way does that dilute the horror that still remains with Dead Space 3. It’s also a long game. It’ll take you 13-18 hours the first time through and with a ton of different difficulty modes to play and collectibles to get this game will be in your system for awhile. If you have anything at all invested in the series I highly suggest you play it.
+Deep crafting system
+ Enemies are more terrifying than ever
+Top-Notch Sound Design
+Co-Op doesn’t take away from the core single player experience
+Great replay value
-Starts to really drag towards the end
-Uninspired and easy boss battles
-Secondary missions grow boring and repetitive
-Tau Volantis lacks the tension building atmosphere that we are use to seeing
-Co-Op doesn’t add anything meaningful to the game
Final Verdict: 8.0/10
Value verdict: $60 when purchased
Well worth the price. A ton of different difficulties and collectibles will have you playing for a long time.
*This game was reviewed with the Playstation 3 retail version obtained by the reviewer himself.