Ever since the Dead Space series first hit the scene it has dug its way into the hearts of its fans faster than a marker could turn a corpse into a necromorph. Now that Dead Space 3 is here, it finds itself at a crossroads. Like most other game series, Visceral Games could’ve taken the easy way out and produced more of the same, but instead have opted to create a new experience that takes some of the best aspects of the previous two titles and adds new features and gameplay mechanics that enhance the experience and take the franchise to new and interesting places.
Isaac Clarke is back to once again save the human race from the threat of impending doom from an army of necromorphs composed of the flesh of the dead. Only this time the religious zealots known as Unitologists, who worship the zombie-making markers are getting in on the action are actively hunting down Isaac. The megalomaniacal leader of the group, Jacob Danik gives players an extremely palatable villain as well.
People who were worried that the addition of human opponents and the fact that a large amount of the game takes place on the ice-covered planet of Tau Volantis should rest assured that Dead Space 3 still gives you that vibe that anything could jump out of an air vent at any moment and eat your face off while amping up the action. Just about half the game still takes place in the dark corridors of abandoned spaceships and there’s plenty of undead to dismember. But the the background of a dead, frozen planet finds ways to be just as desolate and disturbing as the loneliness of space. Tau Volantis creates an atmosphere of suspense in much the same way the film The Thing did by trapping a group of survivors in a desperate situation.
That’s not to say that DS3 doesn’t have its Gears of Wars moments, because it totally does. Some may see it as a dramatic departure for the series, but I feel that it adds a new dynamic and doesn’t take away from what the core of the game is all about. The newest set of zero gravity missions along with the brand new vertical action/combat rappelling areas and the battles with the Unitoligists help invigorate new life into a series that could’ve gotten stale with its third installment.
Gameplay-wise not much has changed as far as the core mechanics players use is concerned, but the updated weapons customization features and revamped workbench adds new depth to developing gear. Being able to swap out varying combinations of pulse rifles, shotguns, grenade launchers with a multitude of micro-chip boosts and ancillary parts to give boosts like stasis-injected bullets allows you to make the guns of your dreams (provided you can find the parts, of course) and lets you customize your arsenal to your playing style. The only problem is, there needs to be a little more balance to the system as it seemed like I was able to get some seriously powerful weaponry that lasted me through the entire game early on.
The difficulty could’ve used a bit more balance in general though, as “Normal” mode seemed like a cakewalk through a decent portion of the game, at least until some of the latter levels on Tau Volantis. That’s not to say there weren’t a few points early where I died once or twice, but overall it was not tough to get through a lot of the levels in one fell swoop. And while the new addition of a co-op story mode is a welcome one, it’s the kind of thing that you’ll want to try on a higher difficulty setting to get the full effect.
My only serious major gripe would be that the level layouts and mission parameters for a hefty chunk of the side quests were much too repetitious. There needed to be more variety like there was in the main story. Going through various industrial plants that all look a bit too similar to unlock new weapon parts or gear gets old after a bit. Co-op missions did tend to have more depth to them though but were much less prevalent.
The co-op feature itself is actually has some very well thought out features. If you go online and play as John Carver, the grizzled Earth Gov. Sergeant you can experience everything from a whole new perspective adding enticing replay value to the campaign. Carver has issues of his own that he’s dealing with that become apparent throughout the adventure and intrigue you to check out where he’s coming from. Playing with a friend, or stranger also gives you access to a few co-op only missions, but I can’t say I’m much for having my hands forced in games like that in general, especially if it means I can’t explore every facet of a story on my own at my own pace.
And while the plot of Dead Space 3 is full of intrigue through almost the entire game, it starts to fall apart at the end falls into some tropes that seem to plague franchise titles now and days. After playing through such an epic trilogy I just expected something with a bit more umph. I don’t want to get too into detail here though, as I would hate to spoil anything more than I already may have and I really think this a title worth playing through despite some if it’s flaws.
Dead Space 3 is one of the few games I’ve found in the last couple of years where I played until 4am without even realizing it. It compels you to keep journeying into madness with it and invigorates new life into a game full of deadness and while many of its new features need some tweaking here and there, they are all welcome additions. This has always been a compelling series and this installment does not disappoint despite its few shortcomings. If you consider yourself a fan of suspense or shooters, than you’re going to want to pick up a copy and rend some necromorphs in twain from head to tentacle.