BADGP Reviews: Dead Space 3

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Dead Space 3 (EA, Visceral)

Review: Stuck Between Action and Horror

Alex Linna

March 1, 2013

Developer Visceral Games has been walking a thin line with the Dead Space intellectual property, a line between a third-person action game and a scary and atmospheric survival-horror game.  Dead Space hit the scene in 2008 to what would be one of the best years of gaming. It drowned in a sea of other established franchises, but was able to find critical success.  This was due to the refreshing rebirth of the survival-horror genre. It played a lot like Resident Evil 4 and was tense and claustrophobic while dripping with immersive atmosphere.  Dead Space 2 came along in early 2011 and something was off. There was light and color. Gone were the times of terror and tension.  Visceral could not have made another game exactly like Dead Space 1; they took some chances with #2 and succeeded.  The environments were much more varied, there were more enemy types, there was a competitive multiplayer addition, and Isaac spoke.  The series had moved in a more “action-y” direction.  This was followed by 2013’s Dead Space 3. Gone was the competitive multiplayer, in was the cooperative multiplayer.  More changes were necessary in order to attempt to conjure more sales by hitting a wider audience.  Live, human enemies were introduced.  Accursed microtransactions were present. There was snow.  Despite all of the changes and desperate attempts at money-grubbing, Dead Space 3 barely holds to its roots, but it does.  There is enough of what made the first Dead Space so exceptional present in Dead Space 3.

What is Dead Space 3?

Dead Space 3 is the third in line of the Dead Space franchise. A third-person shooter with cover present at times when combating human enemies, Dead Space 3 adds more action and eliminate some of its predecessors’ tension and scares.  This is not to say that Dead Space 3 has no scary moment, it certainly does, but the inclusion of non-necromorph enemies eradicates the possibility for scares.  Dead Space 3 is a fairly linear game with some optional side missions which are welcome and offer some unique challenges of their own.  The narrative picks up close to where DS2 left off, and eventually offers a satisfying conclusion even if things get a little crazy and hard to swallow near the end.

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How Does it Look?

Dead Space 3 is technically proficient like its two predecessors, but has some truly breathtaking skyboxes.  It is generally a very beautiful game that is incredibly detailed with three major environments: a dystopic Earth, abandoned space stations, and a snowy planet.  The pacing slows once the planet is reached, but seeing necromorph silhouettes charge through a snow-blind section is intense and entertaining.  Dead Space 3 offers an excellent progress/statistics system and reveals how many collectables, side-mission, and gun parts are in a section.

How Does it Sound?

Dead Space 3 has some good tracks within its creepy and occasionally orchestral soundtrack, but Dead Space 3 really shines in its sound design just as the previous two games did.  The crunch of ice, space parts, and necromorphs are well realized and add immensely to immersion.

How Does it Play?

To no one’s surprise, Dead Space 3 plays much like Dead Space 1 & 2.  There are some notable changes however.  First off, there is a full cooperative campaign including missions that can only be experienced through DS3’s online-only co-op.  The most interesting new addition comes in the form of weapon-crafting.  There are multitudes of weapon designs to experiment with. Every time I forged a new gun, I could not wait for the necromorphs to start bursting from the walls so I could try out my new plasma cutter dripping with acid, or my stun-gun/grenade launcher, the possibilities appear to be endless!  This allows for multiple strategies to come into play.  I leaned on a shotgun/assault rifle-like combo for most of the game. I would blast their legs off when they got close then finish them off from a distance with my precision rifle.  Dead Space has always been a capable action game and DS3 maintains the tight, satisfying controls from the two previous games.  There are some cool new vertical gameplay sections. At least, they were cool the first five times, but the following twelve or so began to wear on me.  As for complaints, there was much more backtracking than I would have liked (I guess it is a staple of the series now…) and the puzzles were lame.  The puzzles stood to show as a reminder that Isaac is an engineer.  Engineering based puzzle design does not always incite joy or excitement in the player.

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How Does it Compare?

Dead Space 1 borrowed heavily from Resident Evil 4 with its over-the-shoulder, close camera tension builder, so naturally Dead Space 3 continues to borrow the in-close over-the-shoulder camera.  I want to be clear that I really enjoyed my time with Dead Space 3 and it is great, but it is probably the worst game in the series.  The first is a horror/action classic, the second at least had some cool environments and new enemies, three kind of treads water.  The environments for the most part are boring (save a few jaw-dropping sky boxes), the plot is at the worst it has been, shooting live enemies was weird and felt out of place, and the weapon crafting was the only real addition to gameplay.  Dead Space 3 feels like a more generic third-person shooter in 2013, whereas, Dead Space 1 was a gem of unique gameplay and atmosphere in 2008.

Conclusion/Recommendation

Isaac Clark is now an action hero. Dead Space 1 is a classic for atmosphere, gameplay, and narrative style.  Dead Space 3 is much more generic by 2013 standards, that being said, Dead Space 3 is a great action game and I had a lot of fun with it.  The story is good enough, the game is good-looking, it plays fantastic, it simply does not innovate in many meaningful ways and attempts to bring in a wider audience that would never play Dead Space game to begin with.  Dead Space 3 is certainly one of the better games from the first half of 2013, but might not be as relevant come GOTY time.

Alex: 8.0

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