Second Opinion: Dead Space 3
I absolutely adore horror films with snowy settings. John Carpenter’s The Thing and The Shining are… shining examples of my love for white horror (okay, maybe that sounds wrong). I also really love snowy levels in video games, with Phendrana Drifts from Metroid Prime being one of my all-time favorites. So you can probably imagine the look on my face when I was playing Dead Space 3. Unfortunatey, it took longer than I’d like for that laughing Joker fish grin to be slapped on my face…
Dead Space 3 is the third main entry in Visceral Games’s acclaimed survival horror trilogy. Whether it’s the final part or not is up in the air for Mr. Collins to feel tonight. But really, who actually thinks EA will allow this multimedia giant to just die? It’s like that other big EA-published series, Mass Effect, with the third numbered entry marking the end of main character Shepard’s story, but not of the entire series. I’m sure the same will apply to Dead Space, though I am glad things ended on a pretty high note, albeit a slow and disappointing start.
While not exclusively catering to action game fans, Dead Space 3 does bring a more substantial dose of action into the mix. I was surprised and quite pleased to see how Visceral expertly blended action with horror here, for the most part. However, there were moments that just felt dull and too far into third-person shooter territory, especially in the beginning of the game. After a pretty awesome prologue, things went from eerie and atmospheric to just downright generic. And what’s more, we’re also introduced to the game’s unnecessary villain, who I found extremely laughable. But hey, I guess there just had to be an actual person to direct all our hatred at in the game, amidst all the necro-slaying.
The entire game is on a larger scale now, from the aforementioned action elements bringing about some intense setpiece moments, to a story that sees Isaac and friends, including the return of Ellie who is now part of a pretty funny love triangle, going from derelict ships in space to exploring the icy Marker home planet Tau Volantis in hopes of putting an end to the Necromorph infestation once and for all. Everything has been upped by Visceral for this go-around. Though I do miss the days of Isaac being more isolated. But with this being the final part of this trilogy, it makes sense for things to be more epic.
Despite universal ammunition and actual, living, gun-wielding unitologists, Dead Space 3 still manages to creep you out throughout its 19 chapters (resulting in around 10 hours). The series’ staple “pop out of vents” scares are still intact, but the icy planet setting for the final half of the game actually leads to some fresh and much-appreciated thrills. Enemies pop out of the snow making for some truly intense battles. I’ll admit, the first time this happened to me I did jump from my seat. And speaking of the enemies, Dead Space 3 also brings a nice variety of Necros to dismember, along with the aforementioned gun-wielding enemies you’ll confront from time to time as well. And you have quite a lot of freedom in regards to how you’ll be confronting the enemies in this threequel, thanks to a brand new feature introduced to the series: weapon crafting.
Out of all the games in the series, even more than the original, Dead Space 3 is the only game where we are truly put in the role of an engineer. Yeah, in previous games you’re tasked with fixing machinery and other contraptions only a mind like Isaac’s can, but here we actually get to use his engineering expertise to craft weapons to our heart’s content via the benches throughout the game. Throughout the game you’ll collect various parts needed to construct new weapons, or to modify existing ones. So on top of being able to upgrade your trusty ol’ plasma cutter, you’ll be able to do neat things like attach a flame thrower to it, or make it shoot out an electric current, hell, or even stasis ammo. If you want to get even more creative, you can craft your own weapons from scratch, too, or just use the blueprints to make the aforementioned modifications. The choice is yours, and this makes Dead Space 3 extremely replayable and gives it that addictive collection element found in loot-heavy games like Borderlands.
It’s funny though, and I may be the only one, but with the multitude of options available with the weapon crafting system, I still found myself relying solely on my plasma cutter for almost all of the game. I did modify it though, upgrading it as much as I could and making it hit enemies with an electric current, but that was pretty much it. Nothing crazy here. But I still enjoyed the hell out of dismembering necros. That never gets old. And I really did like how they’re a little tougher than in previous iterations. They move quicker and are able to surround you quite quickly. This makes for some truly frightening combat scenarios, especially later in the game and when faced with the regenerating necros. So despite the exchange of bullets with some enemies, and Isaac not being completely alone, Dead Space 3 still manages to be scary. And that’s a very, very good thing.
But wait, I still haven’t touched on the game’s cooperative mode. Gone is Dead Space 2’s multiplayer mode (which I totally loved), and it’s replaced with co-op. You can tackle the entire game with a buddy if you so wish. Doing so does take away from the series’ trademark sense of isolation, making things less creepy, but co-op does open the door to its own set of exclusive missions. These co-op only missions center on the second player’s character, John Carver. I’m glad Visceral decided to make co-op its own separate mode as opposed to forcing it on players. This allows fans to still got that traditional solo Dead Space experience while still catering to those co-op lovers out there. Everyone wins.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t that excited for Dead Space 3 in the months leading up to its release. I was truly excited for it when it was first revealed, but then as time passed, and word of EA’s plans to broaden the series into other genres broke out, that excitement started to fade away. But here I am, having completed the game already (Dead Space veterans, start on hard mode!), and I walked away really impressed. Like I said at the beginning of the review, the game started out pretty dull, but it quickly became the Dead Space I know and love, with some new surprises once I got to Tau Volantis. It’s a game that’s extremely replayable, with a good amount of difficulty settings to tackle and loads of customization options when it comes to weapons. I can definitely see people becoming quite addicted to collecting parts and aiming to build the best possible weapon. In the end, Dead Space 3 isn’t the best game in the series (I still think the original game is, thanks it being the scariest of the three), but it’s definitely a solid entry in the series and one that I’ll be revisiting quite a few times.