Our good old friend Issac Clarke is back for another bout with the pesky necromorphs. Not content with taking things solo this time around, our heroic engineer is bringing along a pal for the ride, marking the first time co-op is available for the franchise.
Is it any good though?
Dead Space 3
Developed by Visceral Games/ Published by EA
Available on the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Dead Space 3 starts with an unusual and unexpected recap. Issac has been enjoying what could be seen as a normal, boring pedestrian life in a colony. He’s also had a bit of a romance, and a life without all the drama and horror of the Markers and their horrific spawn. Everything seems to be in order, that is until the Church of Unitology, lead by a fellow named Jacob Danik, unleashes hell on the colony as they search for Issac and the hidden secrets within his head. Saved by EarthGov soldiers Sergeant John Carver and Captain Robert Norton, Issac and his new friends must foil the Unitologists attempt to unleash the Necromorph threat before life as they know it is doomed.
As was with the entries before it, Dead Space 3 benefits from a intricate and entertaining plotline full of entertaining twists and turns. The dialogue is as excellent as always and really fleshes out the characters, and the setpieces players will be going through are fantastic and lend themselves to a larger-than-life experience. However, the adventure in Tau Volantis (the icy planet where most of the game takes place in) is one of the weakest in the franchise, because it just isn’t scary.
The original two titles were terrifying because of the ever present claustrophobic corridors of the Ishimura and the Sprawl, and the feeling of being a normal person alone in a place full of demonic monsters. Now we’re presented with wide-open environments, human enemies, and last but not least constant companionship from either NPC’s or a second player. Not to mention that Issac no longer feels as vulnerable as before, as he’s almost a soldier, with mastery over various weapons and comes complete with a rolling dodge. Sure, there are some jump scares here and there, but overall the fear factor here falls flat on its face and instead is replaced by a new focus on explosive action.
Dead Space 3 plays exactly as you remember. It’s still a third-person action-adventurer, and you still guide Issac through abandoned, creepy areas full of the evil Necromorphs. To survive, players will have to strategically dismember their foes – as they’ll continue to crawl towards Issac unless they’ll tentacles are removed,- collect loot like ammo and health, and perform upgrades to the RIG, the suit that provides the player with all the nifty armor and abilities like stasis and telekinesis.
New to this entry in the series are a couple of things. First are resources, which are collectibles that work as a sort of currency in the game. Issac will no longer use credits in here; instead players will create items and weapons using these resources. Players will even get little bots that scavenge resources later on in the campaign, facilitating the process. It’s an interesting addition that will pique the interest of people who search every nook and cranny in the game for hidden stuff, and will allow players to always be able to produce helpful items as long as they got what’s needed.
The second addition would be the in-depth weapon creation system, which is pretty fantastic. Here, players can construct a wide variety of weapons – from heavy hitters like elemental shotguns to stasis casting machine guns – by using weapon parts gathered in the wild or resources. Every weapon can be created from scratch by building piece by piece and putting them all together, or by building them using schematics picked up in the environment. By allowing this freedom in weapon creation, literally hundreds of different weapons can be created, each with their own strengths and abilities. And to add even more options, players can also upgrade any weapon by adding circuits, which can improve weapons even more, adding greater damage outputs, improving reload speeds and fire rates, and more.
Side missions are also included for the first time in Dead Space 3, and they really caught me by surprise because they’re pretty fantastic. They’re all self-contained stories that usually end with Issac gaining more resources, circuits and weapon parts, and really extend the gameplay quite a bit. I wish the development team would have thought of this sooner, because they are a lot of fun.
The biggest and most substantial addition to the Dead Space franchise is of course the online co-op. While it’s a big bummer that there’s no local co-op, as I would have loved to play with a friend or visitor, it’s as every bit as fun as promised, with one player taking the role of Issac and the other of newcomer John Carver. While the campaign remains relatively unchanged, players who take on the role of Carver experience unique dialogue and scenes where he experiences his own hallucinations. It’s pretty cool that we can get to see what’s going on in Carver’s head, and it’s also almost a second campaign to play through. Also, co-op players get access to a couple of missions exclusively available for two players, making the campaign that much more unique.
While Dead Space 3 is a wild ride, it does suffer from a bunch of stupid mistakes and lack of refinement.
One of my biggest gripes is with enemy A.I, particularly that of the human Unitologists. These guys just hide and take potshots at Issac and Co., never really bothering to follow the player if they flee or climb ladders.
Near the beginning of the game I climbed a ladder to retrieve a box and saw that they kept firing even if they weren’t hitting anything. Curious to see if they would rush me, I dropped the controller to see what they would do, which turned out to be absolutely nothing. Ten minutes in they were still shooting from behind cover, and I hadn’t moved an inch. Bad A.I., in my opinion.
Another issue I had was with item retrieval in space and after defeating enemies. When it comes to retrieving stuff in space, getting anything in zero-g conditions is frustrating. There’s so much detail in these sections that you’ll probably end up losing these small items among all the debris and stars. I’ve lost plenty of ammo just because I lost track of the items as I smashed containers only to have them float away unseen.
When it comes to recollecting items from dead enemies, it’s annoying that if you kill too many enemies in an area, their corpses will start disappearing (pretty quickly, I might say), costing the player items he/she might have needed. I can’t tell you how much this has annoyed me, especially when I found myself low on health and in desperate need of health packs.
Finally, I didn’t like that you can only carry two weapons at once. Lame.
Despite a couple of glaring and annoying issues, Dead Space 3 is still a solid action-horror game, even if it isn’t scary. Plenty of great and tense moments exist, and playing with a buddy is an absolute blast. So, if you’re looking for a solid third-person shooter or want to know what happens next in the always dramatic life of Issac Clarke, then now is the chance to hop on the Dead Space bandwagon and take out the Necromorph threat for good.