You gotta feel sorry for engineer Isaac Clarke. Thriving for his dream job, repairing and maintaining equipment… might sound boring, but oh well, he gets the job done. Then one day he is ordered onto a spaceship for a repairing assignment and before you know it, he’s having his worst nightmares come true.
Visceral Games’ Dead Space has come to its third installation. Whereas the original was focused on claustrophobic environments and making you scared of the creepy Necromorphs that waited for you in the dark and shady corridors, Dead Space 2 brought a more cinematic and action-packed journey with it. It didn’t have the fear factor anymore that made its predecessor a unique horror experience, but it was still a great entry for the series, with some minor tweaks that enhanced the gameplay. Third time’s the charm as they say, but for Isaac Clark it will be his most terrifying journey yet.
Time has passed after the incidents of Dead Space 2. Isaac Clark has become fed up with the world and is mentally unstable. Therefore Ellie, his romance from DS2 leaves him. Thus becoming even more depressed Isaac spends his days in a shady apartment until EarthGov soldiers come and get him back for the fight against the Unitologist leader named Jacob Danik, who tries to “evolve” mankind with the help of the alien artifacts, Markers. Of course, Ellie is in trouble too, so there’s that. Now it’s up to Isaac to stop Danik, figure out how to save mankind and rescue the damsel in distress. Engineer suit up!
The story this time around focuses on Isaac’s struggle to do the right thing with the expense of his own personal needs. Honestly, the overall plot feels like an excuse for the action. The plot has gone to an even more action-orientated setting than ever before, with crumbling buildings and multiple near-death escapes, which make for a great action game, but loses a great amount of the scariness the game has come to known for. Characters themselves feel also loose. Isaac being able to think of solutions to everything without hesitation and his shifted personality from fearing Necromorphs to yelling profanities at them, feels off. At least Danik, with his Bond-villain personality brings for some interesting conversations with Isaac, but a lot of the motives and actions are either dumbed down or completely left in the dark.
Saving mankind from doom will take you from forsaken space stations, that remind of the original Dead Space, to the icy tundras of an alien planet called Tau Volantis. Each location has its own personal look and feel to it. The variety & pacing of each area is well thought-out with open-worldish sub-areas that have optional objectives scattered throughout the game.
Off the bat, the game looks amazing. Walking on Tau Volantis, the snow hitting your face and seeing a beautiful detailed environment with shabby research facilities on the horizon will make you stop and admire how well the scenery is made. But the presentation doesn’t end there. The audio is great as well with guns actually making you feel badass and the disturbing sounds the necromorphs make when coming from the dark, will make you want to turn back. Addition to that, the game’s intense soundtrack will keep you on your toes.
Dead Space 3 is nowadays more of an action than a horror game, which can be either seen as good or a bad thing depending on what you’re looking in the game. As a whole I like this direction better with breathtaking cinematic moments but I would have liked to have more quiet moments with actual suspense. Now you can see the scares long before they happen. It doesn’t help that every time the pattern is almost identical. Abandoned room, lights go out/your elevator has a short circuit, alarms begin to sound, enemies jump you… after the X time this happens, it gets boring. And when there’s that “one wave too much”, it flattens the experience even more.
Gameplay-wise not much has changed. The story drives Isaac from one misfortune to another while completing objectives that vary from getting from point A to B and thrifting in outer space to repairing damaged paths or solving puzzles that require your Stasis and/or Telekinesis abilities. Especially the puzzles are very well-done with them becoming more challenging as the game progresses, but never falling into the frustration level. And when you have to simultaneously defend yourself against hordes of enemies, it makes for a hectic and heart-pumping experience.
Killing enemies is still most effectively done by dismembering them limb by limb with your diverse weapons. Your arsenal has decreased from four to just two weapons, but that hasn’t weaken your chance of survival since one of the additions to Dead Space 3 is weapon crafting, which let’s you customize your weapons to a fairly high degree. For example have a shotgun attachment as your main fire mode and as an alternative have ripper blades, or maybe an smg that shoots acid and can also be used as a force gun? There’s a great amount of possibilities with the crafting and by finding different notes in-game you can upgrade different stats of your gun like damage or reload speed. You can also craft notes and other items such as health packs yourself with resources you find along the way.
By completing the game you’ll open New Game+ mode, which let’s you play the game again with your current equipment. It’s a joy to find that one alien swarm that was a pain the first time around and now just obliterate them with no mercy. Addition to just pleasing your bloodthirst you can also unlock three additional modes including Pure, Classic and fan favorite, Hardcore. Classic allows you to only craft and use weapons from the original Dead Space. Pure lets you only obtain ammo, health packs etc. by crafting them yourself from resources that are dropped by enemies. And Hardcore gives you one (1!) life to play with. You die, game over, completely.
Dead Space 2 had an online component in form of a humans vs. necromorphs scenario, which was a horrific (heh) experience. Dead Space 3 ditches versus matches and offers the possibility of playing through the game with a buddy, though it’s restricted to online only. Co-op has a couple of exclusive optional missions and the dialog between the characters give a little bit more info on what’s actually going on around you. However, by sharing the experience with a friend, it takes away the last bits of scariness from the game, but simultaneously for the same reason, it’s great. Fighting through hordes of necromorphs, drifting in outer space, sharing equipment, screaming at your friend for having a lousy aim. The game is just fun to play with a friend.
Due to the weak and somewhat incoherent story and lack of actual scariness it might be a disappointment for the fans of the series, but if you are willing to forgive these issues, Dead Space 3 is a highly polished game with amazing visual and audio quality. And with the addition of co-op and the replay value of New Game+ Dead Space 3 is well worth your money.
Game provided by Reviewer
Images Courtesy of EA Public Relations