Since its release, some fans of the Dead Space franchise have lamented that the third installment was not scary enough or deviated too much from the gameplay of its predecessors. Some players feared Visceral Games’ focus was too much on action rather than Dead Space 3 itself. With the shift from survival-horror to action and the introduction of cooperative mode (co-op), Dead Space 3 provides an entertaining experience.
The beginning of Dead Space 3 reveals Isaac Clarke to be a broken man. Years of fighting Necromorphs and inner demons has evolved Clarke from a hardworking, humble engineer to a weary hermit. Clarke prefers escapism instead of confrontation; hiding out from Markers and raving Unitologists while his relationship with Ellie disintegrates completely. However (and most predictably), Isaac is forced back to reality when Ellie, designed with a new eye and larger tits, goes missing on a mission to forever eliminate the Necromorph threat.
Compelled by his ex-girlfriend’s need, Clarke takes gamers on a third and final fight to defeat the Necromorphs and silence Unitologists. Discoveries will be made, puzzle pieces will be connected and lives will be lost. Gamers will experience new adventures on the icy planet of Tau Volantis and ancient space frigates. New characters are introduced to the story including Austin Buckell, Jennifer Santos, Robert Norton, Jacob Danik and John Carver, who is a playable character in the game’s co-op mode. Although some of the new characters seem unnecessary and forgettable, others are imperative to showing Isaac’s personality and internal conflicts. Some parts of the story are a bit corny as romance is a large component of Dead Space 3, but fans of the series should think Isaac, as a tortured hero, is allowed a little love in his life.
Although there are many surprises within Dead Space 3, the biggest frustration may lie within the game’s predictability, especially for players that have completed the first two games. Isaac can’t just catch a ride on the tram or start up an engine. Necessary parts and pieces are always needed, pieces are always dispersed throughout facilities, the ship is always broken and Isaac is always inconveniently separated from the group. This formula is easily recognized by the Dead Space veterans and tends to dull the game’s frightening atmosphere. Overall, the continued Isaac Clarke saga in Dead Space 3 thoroughly ties in with the previous games. Dead Space newcomers will appreciate the refreshing horror story while veterans will enjoy some familiar elements in their treasured franchise.
Gamers can play the Dead Space 3 campaign either solo or with a partner in online co-op. Difficulty settings range from casual to hardcore. Certain modes can be unlocked after beating the game or a particular difficulty setting.
Gamers looking for the scarier side of Dead Space 3 should play the game alone (although, certain achievements can only be unlocked through co-op). Depending on whether the player scares easily or is accustomed and immune to the flow of Dead Space scare tactics, the game may be more action and less horror. Dead Space 3 is a fun, smart game and deserves to be rated on its own merits instead of endlessly compared to its brilliant predecessors. With that said, the gameplay of Dead Space 3 is not as scary as the installments before it.
The game is tense and players may experience stress during certain moments, but the game is not scary. Unlike in Dead Space and Dead Space 2, gamers probably will not ever experience such a level of anxiety to the point where they had to discontinue gameplay and take time to recuperate. One issue observed during the solo campaign is that the spaces in Dead Space 3 are usually open, large and well lit. Previous games in the franchise took advantage of claustrophobic and achluophobic fears, unnerving players with atmosphere alone. Another pain for the game’s fear factor is how Necromorphs appear as more human-esque instead of “holy hell, what is that?!” This does not suggest Dead Space 3 is not great (it most certainly is), but longtime fans may feel disappointed by the tamed, action-oriented gameplay.
Gameplay in Dead Space 3 is diverse. Clarke will need to be creative with his methods and adapt to foreign environments quickly. Players will experience new elemental obstacles. Certain rigs must be acquired to battle the forbidding Tau Volantis tundra. Although the game focuses largely on dismembering enemies, Clarke will also have to scale mountains, carefully free-fly through space, use mounted guns, solve puzzles and gamers should always be prepared for quick time events. Optional missions are also included. If explored, these optional missions reward players with much desired resources and unique stories. There is enough diversity throughout Dead Space 3 that, while players may not be scared, they most certainly will not be bored.
In Dead Space 3, a new weapons and rig upgrading system is introduced. Instead of collecting nodes and distributing them in a simple weapons map, players collect resources to create custom weaponry. Resources, such as tungsten and semiconductors, are of great value to Isaac. Scrap metals and parts are used to create aid (med pack, stasis modules), upgrade rigs, upgrade and create guns and their support tools. For example, Isaac may need to collect scrap metal to build a stasis support piece for his customized electrocuting Ripper blade. Perhaps players would prefer to modify their Plasma Cutter with damage support and an acid bath tool, spraying Necromorphs with a deadly chemical compound. Gamers can even save blueprints of their death machines and share them with their co-op buddies.
This new take on how to upgrade and design weapons individualizes gameplay and gives players an opportunity to create their best method for taking out enemies. There are also cute resource bots Isaac can collect. These little resource bots will scan an area for valuable resources and then return them to weapons benches and unload their treasures for Clarke. The bot buddy makes resource gathering much easier for the busy, always-in-imminent-danger Isaac. Players can buy downloadable resource content if they find their bot buddies are not gathering enough stuff.
Co-op play in Dead Space 3 uses a drop-in/drop-out system, meaning players can continue the story with or without their partner. Gamers can either open private or public games or browse games to meet fellow Dead Spacers. If players choose to play cooperatively, EarthGov Sergeant John Carver joins up with Isaac to stop the combined Unitologist/Necromorph threat.
As expected, playing alongside a friend is terribly fun with Dead Space 3. However, co-op mode removes any fear factor from the game. While playing with a pal, gamers should hardly notice the macabre appearance of alien forms or bloody wall messages. Players will need to strategize together to solve puzzles and take out Necromorph hordes, although playing on normal difficulty did not bring about an increase in enemy volume.
Players will not compete for resources as each player gets their own set of ammo, med packs and other goodies. Carver and Clarke can share blueprints with one another and revive each other if one partner falls in battle. New dialogue and cutscenes are unlocked for players who choose to work together and co-op specific achievements are available to unlock. Gamers can even carry over their customized weapons and rigs from solo play to co-op. Co-op is not suggested for players who are hyper-independent as the co-op mode requires gamers to move and work at the same pace. In other words, gamers cannot leave Carver stranded in a biology ward simply because he has a smart mouth.
Sound can make or break the mood of a horror game and, unfortunately, Dead Space 3 did not perform well in that category. The music of the game is too upbeat and action-like, a far cry from the eerie silence and indistinguishable noises of the unknown from previous installments. It is suggested that players turn down the music through the options menu so they can better hear the ghastly groans and moans of tortured Necromorphs. Gamers may yearn for more spooky noises in Dead Space 3. Necromorphs still sound grotesque but there is not enough random rapping or unpredictable, sporadic slamming and screaming. There is the seldom voice in the wind and doors often sound like enemies as they screech shut, but players may be more unnerved if these sounds were heard more often. The voice acting is superbly done and actors fit each character’s personality well.
Dead Space 3 is an enjoyable game, based on its own merits. Depending on the gamer, Dead Space 3 either delivered or disappointed. Although the game failed to be as scary as its previous installments, Dead Space 3 is entertaining, engaging, intelligent and opens the door for many others gamers to explore the horror genre. Unless Visceral Games plans to continue the series, Gaming Illustrated wants to thank Isaac Clarke for bringing us an epic space adventure filled with both horror and hope.