Isaac Clarke continues his role as the luckiest unlucky man in the galaxy and he once again finds himself in the midst of necromorph hordes fighting for his life and to save humanity, only this time he has a bit more help. Dead Space 3 continues the story and gameplay of the fist two in many ways, building on previous iterations in many ways, but also makes some notable changes and continues to depart from the first game in some ways as well. The end result is that the game improves on the 2nd but is still a shadow of the first.
The first thing most anyone heard about Dead Space 3 was that it would feature co-op. You had a partner this time, and after the increase focus on combat in Dead Space 2, this sounded to me like a welcome change. Knowing that I probably wouldn’t have a co-op partner to play with as very few of my friends are early adopters for any game that doesn’t make the acronym COD, I was looking forward to the idea of at least having an AI partner through the game right? Well, it turns out that the extra character doesn’t show up except for cut scenes if you don’t have another player, which was a big disappointment, but at least the rest of the game held up pretty well. Since we are already talking about the low points, might as well get those all out of the way now though.
Avid fans of Dead Space are bound to remark on the simple fact that the survival horror game they fell in love with isn’t so much of either anymore. Playing through on normal I never once ran out of amo or health packs, and rarely found myself scared or even on edge. Part of this is no doubt the natural result of having played through this universe twice now; there is only so many times the effect can be the same, but part of it is also that the game clearly is focusing more on the combat. A great way to make note of that is the simple fact that I played through the first two games using the Plasma Cutter almost entirely, and while there were other weapons available, more often the lack of amo made them feel more like a burden than useful to me. This time around I switched between several weapons because there was no reason not to.
Dead Space 3’s upgrade system also got a big change-up this time around. Cash money is no longer used here, in fact everything is based on resources and building. While this much more rich and in-depth customization feature for the game’s weapons probably thrilled many, it did nothing for me. I never once made a custom gun (though I did slightly modify my plasma cutter and use one of the “custom” guns that comes with new copies of the game in the form of the downloadable code for online play). Collecting resources was also rather frustrating, where before you simply needed a certain amount of cash, now you needed a certain amount of a bunch of different resources so you were often left with an over supply of one and a lack of another (typically Tungsten). Truth be told, this overhaul felt unnecessary and quite frankly, tedious. It did nothing for me at all.
Lastly, there were way to many levels of the game that required fighting humans (seriously, no one wants to do this in a Dead Space game, why can’t they figure this out?). The only time this wasn’t a total failure was when necromorphs were terrorizing both you and your human enemies making for some interesting combat. Also, the fact that there were now some necromorphs using axes and guns… yeah, I know necromorphs aren’t zombies but it is hard to not think of them as such and seeing necromorphs use weapons was about the same as seeing a zombie pick up a weapon in a movie, it is full of that, “oh c’mon!” feeling and just simply didn’t work. What makes the necromorphs scary is their animalistic like ferociousness. They are like giant killer ants almost, violent killer animals with purpose; which is scary as hell.
One last side note, I really have to make some comment about how the planet is full of 200-year-old buildings and technology that are apparently all completely compatible with Isaac Clarke’s modern technology, and also in great shape. It seems research and development has really stalled for at least 200 some years.
There is plenty of good in Dead Space 3 though. The bulk of the game hasn’t been ruined by over developing it; that is to say that they didn’t break what worked for the vast majority of it. For example, the game looks great, and the first scene where you see the waste land of ship wreckage around the mysterious planet is actually quite beautiful. I know, describing something as beautiful in a Dead Space game seems odd, but it is the truth. The rest of the game’s visuals are on par with the previous entries in the game, and it is probably accurate to say they have improved enough that you will notice it. Though it can be hard to tell if they have improved or if the fact that the environments have changed just makes it look like it has.
Much like Dead Space 2 the game has a “one big seamless world” feel to it, and in fact it is even better than before. The only “seams” as it were are hidden by cutscenes (going from a colony on the Moon, to this mysterious Marker Home World for example. Beyond that, you feel like you are making your way through one continuous world, and that can’t be overstated. Visceral needs to tell other developer’s their secret to loading a game in the background because I seriously couldn’t even tell most of the time when I had entered a new chapter or checkpoint it loaded so well. Some will undoubtedly cite how there is a fair amount of backtracking in Dead Space 3, but this is realistic and I liked it. Buildings don’t have one linear path in and out, so it makes sense that you might find yourself walking out of a door near where you came in or having to go back to a building for something you didn’t need before. This all really adds into the feel that this is a real world, a real place that you are physically making your way through and it is done incredibly well.
The game’s combat is also as solid as ever. The human-to-human stuff is a bit weak, but that is more the result of it being out of place in the game than anything else. As per the last two Dead Space games, calm and cool wins the race; firing randomly and frantically can and will get you killed. Aiming for the limbs is still the way to go, and more of the necromorphs this time around are fast (rather them just overwhelming you with numbers) so well aimed shots make a big difference. The addition of Feeders (I apologize if they were in the previous games but I can’t recall them) also worked well, in fact it is the only new (human) necromorph that does. You are able to sneak past them, which is wise if you can because there are always more feeders than you can see hiding in the vents and other areas. Alert them to your presence and these easy to kill necromorphs will still swarm you so fast that the minute you have to reload you are probably going to die. Feeders provide probably the closest thing you’ll get to an actual hair raising event in Dead Space 3.
Finally, Dead Space 3 deserves some serious nods for providing a game that actually answers more questions than it creates questions need answering for a change. We learn far more about what the Markers are, where they come from and why they do what they do. That isn’t to say everything is answered, but we learn far more and it is a bit less convoluted than it has been in the other games. Additionally, the larger cast of “good guys” really makes a lot of sense, and I was happy to see that the Dead Space universe is now populated full of people who actually know what necromorphs are rather than being full of people with no knowledge. It is a natural progression of the story, and well done at that.
Dead Space 3 is, as I said before, a shadow of the first, which should go down as one of the best games on this console generation. Understanding that the series has evolved into something similar but notably different is the key to really enjoying what is a superbly well-made game. This is the sequel to Dead Space 2, not Dead Space, and if you look at it in that light it is a definite improvement over the predecessor. While there have been some changes and additions that fall flat, nothing ruins the game outright and Visceral deserves credit for trying to do more than just make more of the same. If you enjoyed the first Dead Space, you’ll probably enjoy Dead Space 3 but if you really enjoyed Dead Space 2 you should love this one.
Final Rating: 8.5/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Time to completion: About 15 hours
Gamer Score Earned: 415/1000
Price Bought at: $39.99
Current Price: $39.99 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: If you have someone to co-op with the $29.99 price point is worth it, but I don’t regret $39.99
Why you should buy it: Continues a great franchise in a more epic fashion
Why you shouldn’t buy it: Sacrifices much of the scares for more action