Dead Space 3 Review
The galaxy’s baddest engineer is back, again.
Bringing co-op into the Dead Space series presents what is probably the biggest challenge that Visceral Games have ever faced. Though they’re certainly up to the task in technical terms, the challenge lies in keeping the same feel in Dead Space 3 that fans have come to love. Some were quite vocal in expressing their concerns that the tone would change with another person fighting alongside Isaac, and that isn’t even to mention the uproar surrounding the inclusion of micro-transactions in the crafting system. Now it’s time to see how Visceral brought it all together, it’s time to save the galaxy with the power of welding tools. Again.
Bringing a hero out of retirement, for the third time, is never an easy task especially when he or she was an unlikely hero to begin with. Isaac isn’t only unlikely, he is also pretty reluctant at this stage of the game so he has to be dragged into action in the same manner we’ve seen in many action movies before. Despite the formulaic beginning, Dead Space 3’s first few hours represent a tense and jarring struggle for survival that will leave you breathless at times, and tense at every turn.
If you’ve played either of the previous games, you’ll be immediately at home with Dead Space 3. No major changes have been made to the standard, third-person, control scheme and you’ll still start off with your trusty plasma cutter in hand. One big change to the overall structure though, is the addition of a secondary playable character named Carver. During the single player game you won’t have to drag him along with you, instead he’ll show up during cut-scenes, and on your radio, and the writers do a great job of making you think he was just off pursuing another angle of the same goal Isaac is trying to complete.
This time around you’ll have access to a greatly expanded arsenal thanks to a new crafting system. Instead of simply finding new guns, you’ll be able to find parts scattered throughout the environments and put them together in a myriad of combinations. Using scavenged resources you can purchase new weapon blueprints if you like the look of some of the pre-configured setups provided by Visceral, but I recommend spending some time experimenting.
There was some controversy around this new crafting system, when it was first announced, due to the fact that you can spend real world money on in-game resources. Whether you agree with this approach or not, it isn’t anything new for EA and after playing from start to finish I can tell you that you can track down plenty of resources without having to open your actual wallet to get them. Players who want to have the most powerful gun available as soon as the game starts can purchase the resources to unlock it, but if you’re like me you would rather complete side quests, which offer large caches of supplies as rewards, and experience all the of the content Dead Space 3 has to offer instead of purchasing it. In short, the micro-transactions don’t affect the game for those who want to ignore them. I have personal opinions about this sort of thing, but since it doesn’t affect the game I’ll save them for another time.
Speaking of side quests, Dead Space 3 does actually offer a lot of optional content in the form of branching side quests and areas that can be explored. These missions are a welcome addition to a series, and genre, that is often quite linear. The first few side missions you’ll tackle will turn out to be where most of the horror elements are hiding. While the main story, for the most part, trades horror for suspense the optional missions often have dark and creepy themes to them and their own accompanying story. That is, at first. Later in the game, the optional missions degenerate into cookie-cutter fetch quests with almost none of the story elements that first few had.
The main story suffers from a similar issue in the latter stages, becoming repetitive and plodding as some areas are backtracked through multiple times and few events pop up to move things along. I found this curious since at around fourteen hours, completing a number of side quests along the way, it was the longest Dead Space game yet. It seems like everyone got tired near the end and that the game could have simply avoided this lack of enthusiasm by being a couple of hours shorter.
Still, Dead Space 3 is fun to play and is a beautiful game which should be considered an accomplishment given that it takes place mostly in industrial buildings and fields of snow.
This time around, you have the ability to open Dead Space 3 up to bring a friend, or stranger, along for the ride. The second player will take on the role of Carver, a military man with a dark past. The events of the game will change, sometimes drastically, when Carver is along for the ride and he conveniently fades into the background when you aren’t playing with a partner.
I am a fan of this approach to co-op, and it works much better than that of the later Resident Evil games where your partner was always in tow, but I’m not a fan of the fact that it blocks out some content that feels like it should be in the main campaign. When playing the single player game, you’ll come across doors that tell you they will only open in a co-op session. This just seems like a cheap way to lock out areas, especially in light of how clever Visceral were in integrating the second player the rest of the game.
Dead Space 3 won’t be the Dead Space game some people are looking for, but it still does a lot of things right. It never quite creates the same creepy atmosphere that the first two could, but it will still have you catching your breath at times. The two player mode isn’t perfect but it stands as a solid first step in the right direction for co-op gaming, and other developers should note that there is a good way to work other players into your story. Even if it isn’t as scary as it used to be, Dead Space 3 has plenty of great moments and the new weapons manage to make it even more fun to tear monsters apart than ever before.
Available On: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC