Dead Space 3
Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Lately, whenever developers try to add something new to a popular franchise fans react with outrage and there has never been a better example of this than Dead Space 3. Over the past few months leading up to the game’s release, we’ve seen outrage over the addition of online co-op, Kinect voice work, human enemies and of course microtransaction DLC.
With all of these questionable additions added into Dead Space 3 by Visceral Games, many fans of the series have wondered if the game will still provide the same experience as before. As such, is Dead Space 3 everything fans have been hoping for or have these improvements only bogged down a great franchise?
After the events of Dead Space 2, one would think that people would begin to realize that the Markers are bad news and two months after Isaac Clarke managed to survive the outbreak on the Sprawl he is now a rather broken man. This is certainly understandable given his history with the Necromorphs and the Markers, but poor Isaac can’t run away any further.
It turns out that the now militant Church of Unitology is now hunting down the last of Earthgov, the last remaining sense of order in the area and they have set their sights on Clarke. With a psychotic organization bearing down on him and the information that his estranged love interest Ellie has gone missing near the ice planet of Tau Volantis, Isaac agrees to travel with the last remnants of Earthgov to track her down and potentially discover the origin of the Markers.
Interestingly enough, the story of Dead Space 3 can be divided into three clear segments, with a great prologue providing previously unknown backstory on the markers, Isaac’s venture to find Ellie and successfully reach Tau Volantis and finally the adventure upon the planet itself. As the player progresses through the story more tidbits of information are revealed about the mystery of the planet and the Marker.
However along those lines, the previously well-written storyline of the Dead Space games flounders a bit and at least one clear culprit here is the fact that the game is now co-op oriented. The single player and co-op campaigns play very similar to one another in most regards as only a few noticeable things change such as a few minor cut-scene differences and dialogue interactions between Isaac and Carver as they venture the planet’s surface. However the fact that Carver has even been included takes the focus away from Isaac and even in single player that focus does not return.
In previous Dead Space titles, there has always been a deliciously wonderful blend of horror and psychological degradation regarding Isaac Clarke. Throughout the first title you’re looking in denial for you’re dead wife, while the second game sees the player haunted by hallucinations and more. With Dead Space 3 however, all of that is abandoned except for the fact that Isaac is apparently a “broken man” at the start of the game.
Instead, Carver becomes the focus of the Marker’s influences and this means that unless you happen to be playing as Carver in co-op, you will be missing out on all of the creepy hallucinogenic mind-screws that Dead Space used to be known for. Now playing with a co-op partner can add in more side-quests it does ultimately ruin the entire feeling of the game and Isaac’s story as a whole, which means that it is wonderful that Co-op isn’t mandatory in the slightest and players can simply ignore that co-op option if they please, or at least wait until New Game Plus so they experience the game’s story as it should be told, not with a hanger-on ruining the experience.
Calling something that can be as grotesque at times as Dead Space 3 is beautiful may sound rather demented but calling it anything else would be doing the title a disservice. The reason for this is simply thanks to the fact that Visceral Games has outdone themselves when it comes to creating everything in Dead Space 3, whether it be the environments, the Necromorphs or even Isaac’s RIG that we’ve grown accustomed to.
The first half of the game serves as a great reminder to everything that made Dead Space great as gamers explore haunting corridors of derelict space ships while the second half provides a stunning contrast as gamers must venture through a snowy world, often blind to danger a few feet away, always fearful of whether the next Necromorph will come screaming out of the blizzard or tunneling right out from under your feet. Then when players do venture inside, they find themselves exploring blood-soaked bunkers full of eeri reminders that everyone who used to live there died… and died horribly.
The Necromorphs themselves have taken on a more gruesome appearance than before and even returning versions have seen upgrades and seem even more terrifying and homicidal than ever before. As for Isaac’s RIG, there are a number of new designs and the lighting effects have been made better than ever as players will trek through dark corridors with only their face-mask lights lighting the way.
However even the creepiest visuals in the world can’t create a haunting atmosphere without a sound effects and music to help set the tone. Thankfully players will find the world of Dead Space 3 full of eerie musical tracks that do a great job keeping the game feeling spooky. Alongside this the game also features amazing sound effects in the form of both environmental noises and the Necromorphs themselves. The sound of doors opening and shifting debris can cause hesitation while the screams and roars of the Necromorphs continue to impress.
As for the human aspect, the voice work provided within the game is superb as the previous voice actors for Isaac and Ellie return and are fleshed out with a number of other well-voiced characters that sell the experience and terror well.
As I mentioned in the beginning, many things have been added into Dead Space 3 that were never in past iterations and I will go over those shortly, but for the most part Dead Space 3 is, at it’s very core, the same type of game that fans have grown to love over the years. This means the minimalistic HUD displayed on Isaac’s RIG and holographic inventory system and of course, the cutting of limbs from Necromorphs.
The Necromorphs in Dead Space 3 have been given an upgrade in ferocity as this batch of enemies is smarter and faster than they ever have been before. While in past games most Necromorphs were a one-on-a-few affair, these Necromorphs are not quite that simple to take down. Their AI seems to have seen a significant improvement over past games which means that they can react to your attacks and try to rush the player whenever there are a number of enemies in the area.
This means that most fights can happen at a fast pace that will see Isaac surrounded by swinging blades, flying acid and clawing creatures. These intense fights made the tension and fear of death all the greater as the player often has to deal with trying to sever the limbs of multiple creatures at once and while they have the standard Stasis, Kinesis and quick-heal options available, the intense sequences of struggle against the Necromoprhs has made it so that players will need more than quick-wits and health to survive… they will need adequate weaponry.
Discovering a new weapon, gathering currency to buy things and even gathering different ammo types has all been trashed for Dead Space 3. In their place comes a new system that is focused around a new item gathering system which is where we see microtransactions rear their ugly head. Now players will find various resources throughout their quest to survive, such as Tungsten, Junk Metal and more. These are the new form of currency which are used to do everything involving customization in the game, such as building new guns, upgrading Isaac’s RIG and even creating items.
Ammo in Dead Space 3 is now universal meaning that no matter what type of weapon you’re using, you will always have some sort of ammo for it if you find some, which tends to make running out of resources less of a concern. That being said, it is for the best considering the vast amount of options players have to work with when it comes to the weapon customization and creation system.
Weapons are built by using various parts found throughout the game, starting with a compact (1-handed) or heavy (2-handed) frame and built around the core’s players use. For example using a plasma core will create a plasma cutter but then adding a different tip to it will make it a rapid-fire cutter that can even be augmented to cause lightning damage. Find a spike core? If you stick a shotgun tip on it the gun will now shoot shotgun rivets. Now every gun can be given two cores which means each gun can be given two types of fire options, so while the game may only give the player two inventory slots, taking four weapons into battle is still the norm.
Creating weapons in Dead Space 3 is an enjoyable affair and players can constantly mess with their gear to try and figure out a weapon that will be good for them and will fit their play-style and the possibilities really do seem to be endless as nearly every type of weapon can be created if you happen to have enough resources. These resources can be gathered around the world itself, taken from stomped Necromorph corpses or even gathered with Scavenger Bots that find items and return them to a customization best after a set amount of minutes. Of course, you can also buy them with real money.
Because of the aforementioned reasons, it really does feel like the whole microtransaction aspect of Dead Space 3 has been blown out of proportion. While it can seem like the entire crafting aspect of the game was created to try and pull money out of consumers, Visceral has added in more than enough ways to make sure that players never truly feel the need to drop extra money for resources if they don’t want an early edge. Players can disassemble items, weapons and even weapon parts to obtain more resources and the aforementioned Scavenger Bots can bring back something called “Ration Seals” which can be used to buy packs of resources for free. This means that while yes, the game does flash a little Marketplace button at the bottom of every customization screen, it is something that can be completely forgotten about if you take offense to it.
Going further into some of the new additions, human enemies in the form of the Unitologist have debuted in the series for the first time and as such, cover based shooting has also been added to the game. These sections are unfortunately rather bland for the most part because of a number of things, such as the fact that Isaac’s ability to take cover behind objects is terrible considering he never manages to actually hide properly and the game’s slow-moving system does not fit well with enemies actually shooting back at you. Thankfully, these fights occur rarely and these human enemies are very easy to dispatch at times as they are susceptible to stasis and kinesis just like Necromorphs and most of the time these battles are usually interrupted by a Necromorph swarm anyways, turning a mundane fight into a three-way fight for survival.
Finally, for the sake of the Xbox 360 version of the game exclusively, EA and Visceral have added Kinect voice support into Dead Space 3 where players can give various vocal commands such as opening menus, healing, reloading and more without pushing a button. While novel and surprisingly responsive, these vocal commands seem to be nothing more than a tacked-on feature that takes longer to use and less effective in the heat of battle than simply pressing a button to survive as players have always done.
Visceral Games and EA have tried a number of new things with Dead Space 3 and unfortunately most of them happen to be rather terrible in the long run. Players miss out on the previously iconic hallucinations unless they take part in co-op, human enemies slow the pace and force the player to use a terrible cover system and the resource management can be seen as a money-grab. However these changes do nothing to hinder the fact that Dead Space 3 is still a great title.
For the most part, co-op can be largely ignored for a lengthy and still enjoyable single-player campaign, the weapon crafting system allows the player to create whichever weapon they feel like slicing and dicing Necromorphs with and the more open world of Tau Volantis breaks the terror up a bit as the player ventures between blood-soaked corridors and a snowy world where unknown terrors lurk beyond the snow-screen. As such, Dead Space 3 continues to still be a terrifyingly enjoyable game that has seen a number of bad inclusions, but thankfully these negatives do little to detract from the greatness of the experience as a whole.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.