Dead Space has always trodden a fine line between suspenseful alien horror and all-out shooter in the vein of Space Marine. This installment has been described as a necessary evil by one of the series’ original creators, which should give you a decent idea of how it’s going to unfold.
The days of Isaac Clarke, crafty engineer desperate to survive with whatever tools he can, are over. Now Isaac Clarke is tagging along with the last of Earth’s defense force, killing Necromorphs with giant military issue guns. There’s still that desperate last stand vibe throughout but any tension or atmosphere has long been drained away by an airlock Visceral intentionally opened when they realised that it would just be easier to make Dead Space 3 a cover based shooter.
The most frustrating thing? It works. It really, really works. Necromorphs are more annoying hinderance than terrifying foe, and we’ve all walked the decrepit, plague-ridden corridors of spaceships dead in the sky a hundred times now. So the extra injection of action does the game justice, whilst also removing some of the hammier issues with the franchise – you’ll never start sighing and pointing your gun at the alien-infested air vents whenever you start hearing the game’s admittedly impressive score swell up.
Following in my favourite tradition of reviewing, I’m going to lay into the game’s flaws before I start redeeming it, but in this case, I’m justified – it’s a thrusting, spiky mixed bag of good and bad points and some of these issues could be a serious game breaker.
Firstly, the story is horrible. Previous Dead Space games kept it kinda simple and that’s the way horror should be. There’s all this soap opera stuff about Isaac leaving his girlfriend and cutting himself off from the world, but then she’s moved on and she’s with this other guy but he still has feelings for her and I’ve completely lost interest already. There’s so much filler, laced with so many plot holes, that the moment you start caring about it (which is a task in itself) it falls apart. Why would Isaac care about her now, when she’s shown calling him endlessly in the beginning of the game? The military goons that drag Isaac back into the fight use her as an incentive and all of a sudden she matters to him again. It’s just flimsy.
Missions boil down to an endless to-do list of fetch quests. You get to a new area and you’ll instantly be told to go and pick up an item on the opposite side of the building. This makes up the entirety of the game – combat aside – and really drags the story into a pit. There are no genius gameplay sections like Dead Space 2’s fraught straightjacket intro, just muddling, generic “go here, do this” errands dictated to you by the game’s frankly awful characters. Thankfully, the missions are always dotted with the one thing that will keep you coming back to Dead Space 3 past the sub-par plot and repetitive fetch-quests – combat.
It’s visceral (har har), frenetic, and ultra-bloody, packed with satisfying crunches and squelches, effortlessly accompanied by some stellar sound design. Ammo is harder to come by so you’ll constantly be fighting on the knife’s edge, finding ways to improvise and save your ammo, using Isaac’s inexplicable force powers to impale enemies with their own limbs, or bringing combat down to a crunchy, desperate melee-fest. There are several guns to find, build and experiment with in conjunction with his Kinesis and Stasis powers. This gets even more chaotic in co-op (despite being the only time co-op feels worthwhile). The multiplayer isn’t even worth commenting on for the most part – it’s lazily implemented and only serves to cheapen the scares further. If you’re playing alone the other character – a generic soldier named Carver – just sits it out. He’s not present in gameplay at all.
Combat is supported by the addition of a great new scavenging-fueled upgrades system that probably gives the game more weight and tension than any enemy encounters. I spent far more time worrying about whether I wanted to upgrade my RIG’s durability or add an acid mod to my ripper weapon than I did worrying about what was behind the next door, or what that noise behind me was.
What we have here is a game with all the right ingredients for a good shooter but with no flair or individuality to set it apart from every other good shooter. It takes way more than a mix of cool gameplay elements to make a game unforgettable, something which the previous entries in the trilogy knew and worked with, earning their place amongst the horror giants, but this third title is a wet fart in comparison.
A CONSOLE APART – THE PC VERDICT
The PC version of Dead Space 3 has been touted as the best version (alongside the Xbox 360) but this isn’t true in the slightest. There’s a noticeable and nigh-on unforgivable lack of high definition going on here which exposes some ugly flaws with the character models – the visual downgrading so consoles could cope with the game makes it look clumsy and angular in places – and it just doesn’t stand up to the aesthetic of previous games. It’s playable, sure – but there’s so much more that could have been done with Dead Space 3 on PC.
So what is Dead Space 3? In essence, a good shooter with average visuals and a plot plucked straight from the book of generic space stories. The combat is fluid, vicious and desperate even in the larger scale battles. But it’s a terrible ending to the trilogy and an abysmal Dead Space title with scares and the gritty aesthetic almost surgically removed to leave behind a healthy but bland, middling game. If you love shooters it’s good for killing a few hours – the game is certainly long enough with all the collectibles and optional missions – but if you were looking for another Dead Space game, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.