Dead Space 3 review

Far more action-orientated than its predecessors, but there are thrills here to satisfy horror junkies.

Dead Space 3 Got Right

+ An all-round explosive, fun experience

+ Great weapon crafting feature

+ Difficulty settings make it more about survival

+ Co-op is a great addition

Dead Space 3 Got Wrong

– Story is unbalanced, boring

– Complicated crafting seems to force microtransactions

– Gets a little too repetitive near the end

If Dead Space 3 is the natural evolution of a genre, then survival horror never had a chance to begin with. How ironic that survival horror has had to, erm, survive the barrage of forced action sequences, boring quicktime events and repetitive level design just for the sake of making a game more appealing to a mass audience. That’s not saying Dead Space 3 is a bad game  —  quite the opposite  —  but it’s not quite the ferociously memorable experience the original game was. I played Dead Space 3 having been satisfied by an electrifying mid-section, only to be left with a closing stanza that felt more like a chore than any real sense of achievement. That seems to be the case with most shooters these days, but at least we get a stack of neat features and a great cooperative experience to keep the gameplay fresh.

The Dead Space mythology has never been easy to follow, not because it’s complicated, rather because it’s never done a very good job of actually making us care about the narrative or characters. Sure, Isaac Clark is a relatable and likeable hero, but can someone explain to me how he went from dirty, reclusive alcoholic to refined soldier in only a matter of minutes? As far as introductions go, Dead Space 3 has a major identity problem.

Wait a second: Can anyone sense a bit of deja vu here? Third game in the series? Check! Enhanced multiplayer experience? Check! Mass market appeal? Check! No, this isn’t Commander Shepard’s last chance at redemption. This is Isaac swimming in a pool of unlimited ammo. Wake up! Are you paying attention?

Dead Space 3 starts off as a third-person shooter, but it can very well be crafted into the hardcore survival horror game you want it to be.

But alas! Dead Space 3 can actually be a lot of fun! Surprise, surprise! Sure, it’s not quite the horror epic many of us expected (hoped) it to be, but there are a few scares in there just for good measure. The series’ iconic haunted corridors and limb-bursting combat are as satisfying as ever, and there’s far more of it in this explosive third entry in the series.

To be honest, calling a Dead Space game “explosive” is quite depressing. It’s representative of what is currently lacking from the industry: Truly original, innovative ideas. Dead Space 3 is innovative in some cases, but I can’t help but wonder if it would have been better and more flexible with its ideas had it been its own new franchise. The fact that the story in this entry is so frustratingly convoluted means we probably didn’t need another game with Isaac Clark, and that it wouldn’t have hurt to give gamers a new hero to look up to.

There are a number of moments in Dead Space 3 worth noting. The spacewalks make me dream of a game where ALL you do is spacewalk because they work really well in this case. Using Isaac’s kinetic energy to solve puzzles and move generators into place while floating through space offer a surprisingly satisfying breakaway from the combat.

The all-new weapon crafting is also something that must be applauded, but again, this addition is something representative of a series that almost, but not quite, falls off the rails. Isaac can only hold two weapons, down from four in Dead Space 2, but the ability to build and craft your own weapons from scratch makes up for that.

If only the crafting system wasn’t so complicated at first. Much like how cheap iPad games essentially force you to buy in-game currency to avoid the intimidating grind of progression, Dead Space 3 throws a bunch of futuristic tools and resources at you in an effort to make things more complicated than they should be, in the hope you’ll just give up and fork over a few dollars to EA to instantaneously get everything you need. It’s not completely necessary to use this implementation, and it’s not like it’s used in a competitive environment, but it points to a future of microtransactions, which is something gamers should prepare for.

Yet, while the offer is on the table to skip over the grind, you’ll eventually be swimming in resources and tools, so if you planned to play the game as it was intended you’ll probably never even consider EA’s priced DLC offerings. The option’s there, though, if you’re in a bit of a rush. How will this influence game development in the future? That’s the worrying thing.

Dead Space 3’s optional side missions provide interesting exploration away from the game’s main missions, allowing you to visit mostly broken ships floating in the icy planet’s orbit. You’ll unlock mysteries of the game’s story before being treated with some resources, and while these missions are a welcomed break away from the so-shallow-it’s-hard-to-care story, they suffer from the same repetitive, drab design that plagues some of the game’s later missions. That’s disappointing because the initial missions paint a picture for an evolving experience full of surprises.

It’s important to note that, while Dead Space 3 can certainly be played alone, it’s not quite the single-player experience that made the first two games so memorable. Hints about the cooperative experience are plastered all over the game, with the second controllable character, Carver, acting as arguably the most unimportant and pointless character in the series. His worth in the co-op experience just doesn’t carry over when you’re playing alone, which makes the story and experience feel unbalanced, like as if it’s forcing you to play it with someone else.

When you do give in and play through the game with a friend, co-op works deliciously. Any sense of isolation is gone, but the game still serves up its fair share of scares to keep the action exciting and exhilarating. Some missions and dialogue are only in the co-op playthrough, which is weird  —  Carver could very well have been a playable character momentarily in the single-player campaign  —  but it works well to expand the story and unveil some of the mysterious of the Dead Space universe.

Dead Space 3 starts off as a third-person shooter, but it can very well be crafted into the hardcore survival horror game you want it to be. Buried beneath the microtransactions and co-op offerings are difficulty settings that mold the game into a satisfying and terrifying survival experience. The Hardcore mode, which brings you back to the start of the game if you die, is just as exhilarating as it was in the second game. Lower-tier difficulties do a great job of enhancing the experience beyond its initial action-packed sequences of ammo drops and power-ups, so there’s definitely a survival experience here if you’re looking for one. You just have to give the “mass market” game a chance.

It’s hard to fault Dead Space 3 overall because it offers so much for so many different types of gamer. The microtransactions present an interesting dilemma for the industry and consumers, but the game does a great job of balancing these out with superb gameplay pacing and difficulty settings that reward players for embracing the grind.

It’s far more action-orientated than its predecessors, but there are thrills here to satisfy horror junkies. The story is shallow  —  which Dead Space game isn’t?  —  and secondary character Carver seems useless in single-player, but the cooperative experience makes for a surprisingly satisfying action combo for something a little different. This game isn’t quite “Dead Space”, but it’s still one hell of a ride!

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