Dead Space 3 has had a turbulent time with the gaming community, with many citing that that the new ability to buddy up takes away a lot of essence of the series. With the release date of the next instalment of the series from EA and Visceral Games only a few days, we’ve stepped back into the heavily weighted space boots of Isaac Clarke to see if the game meets up to fan expectations.
Dead Space 3 opens up with a prologue set 200 years before the events of the game where players take on the role of a solider named Tim who is tasked with a reconnaissance mission to a wrecked ship. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from playing the Dead Space games is that no-one knows how to fly a goddamn space ship and if we ever find ourselves in a Dead Space-like universe and you’re offered an alternate form of transportation, you should probably take it.
The prologue acts as an introduction to some of the games mechanics and a small taste of what you can expect. The locator makes a return and is an essential tool in navigating the snow-filled environment where visuals are limited. The animations in Dead Space 3, especially in the facial region, are absolutely top notch and look fantastic. However I still find myself frustrated that the destruction of my environment is still hugely limited with many an indestructible piece of furniture to be found.
After a series of pretty badass set action pieces that have Tim hurtling down the side of a mountain, dodging pieces of flaming wreckage, the player is brought up to the present day where Isaac is unwillingly enlisted by members of Earth’s last batallion. I must admit that this scene did heavily remind me of the scene in The Fifth Element where Bruce Willis’s former-military character is enlisted by General Munro to return to active duty to protect Leeloo and help save the world with the aid of some stones. Replace Leeloo for returning Dead Space characters Ellie Langford, the stones for Markers and you’ve pretty much got the gist of it.
This is one of the main problems I found with Dead Space 3 which is that it all feels a little bit too familiar. This gets increasingly problematic for a game that is so well renowned for its ability to scare the bejeesus out of us as there’s no real surprise anymore. You’ve seen that necromorph, you’ve flown through space dodging exploding space junk, and you’ve shot those yellow nodes on that massive tentacle a hundred times before now. There’s plenty of “wow, that was freaking awesome” moments but considerably less “oh god, whatthehellwasthat?! RUNAWAYRUNAWAYRUNAWAY!!” sections.
On Normal difficulty, the game spits out health packs like they’re going out of fashion so you’re never in any real danger of finding yourself struggling to survive. This previously panic-inducing feeling is also amplified by the fact that you no longer need to stumble about looking for the nearest save point without ending up with your intestines as a hat. Your progress saves automatically at set points in the game and you can quit out at any time with the game saving your inventory and returning you to the nearest checkpoint when you load back up.
Stepping away from the familiar, Dead Space 3 does feature two new features to the series -a co-operative mode and a re-designed workbench that allows you to build all manner of enemy splattering weapons. Weapons are crafted out of several components that Isaac finds on his travels, with cores and frames building up the bulk of the weapon. You can also customise your weapon with additional tips and attachements, such as scopes or amplifiers. You can even chuck in an extra core into the “lower tool” section to give your long-range weapon a secondary fire action to do some up-close damage.
The upgraded weapons bench is by far the best part of Dead Space 3. With set blueprints providing builds of guns with names like Disembowler and Mjolnir – a lightning gun with a hydraulic hammer attached – giving you enough reason to grin, you can also build your own death-dealing devices from scratch with the 73 unique parts to collect throughout the game.
In regards to the co-operative mode, there isn’t really a lot to say about it. There are 10 optional missions in Dead Space 3, three of which require you to be playing in co-operative mode which does emphasise that Visceral do want you to check out the multiplayer option. As with any title that includes co-operative multiplayer, the lack of a local co-op mode does irk me, however the ability to drop in and out relatively seamlessly (the hosting player has to hit a checkpoint before you can join) is a welcome feature.
Playing the game through as Isaac and as EarthGov Sergeant John Carver will offer the player a different experience with each character, which for fans of the Dead Space narrative and lore is a sure-fire reason to give the game at least a couple of playthroughs. Fans are fairly familiar with Isaac’s story by now so it’s certainly appealing to get a perspective into this twisted universe from a new dementia-suffering protagonist.
These changes, with the inclusion of a new cover and dodge mechanic, certainly cement the idea that Dead Space 3 is now at it’s very core an action title. Big guns that create big bloody messes that you can enjoy making with a partner.
Fans of the series could find themselves on the fence with Dead Space 3 as it does contain everything you know and love from the series, but I certainly found that the scare factor was greatly reduced because of the familiarity. On the other hand, the addition of co-op and a focus on action could bring in some new fans who will be keen to explore the previous titles.
For those wanting to stay alive and get the most out of their Dead Space 3 experience, be sure to check out our essential list of Dead Space 3 Hints and Tips.
Dead Space 3 is scheduled for release on February 5th, 2013 in North America, February 6th in Australia and February 8th in Europe for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.