Real Talk By: The AX
Oh Dead Space, how we’ve missed you. Its been a little over 2 years since we last had the opportunity to telekinesis limbs off of necromorphs and use said limbs to impale the generous donors. I would be a liar if I were to say that my life hasn’t been a little empty in the meantime; the lack of corpses to stomp with immeasurable amounts of blood would leave anyone feeling like something is missing. At long last I feel I have been made whole now. Or, at least during the first 9 or 10 hours of gameplay.
Dead Space 3 is the third installment in the series developed by Visceral Games and published by EA. (Thanks Captain Obvious… who gave you a college degree? Let me slap them.) Is it true that the third time is a charm? In this case, I’m not so sure. Dead Space 3 is reminiscent of meeting up with a friend you haven’t seen in a few years to find out they have packed on a few pounds: it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there is noticeably more of them compared to the last time you saw them. The campaigns of the first two entries lasted a solid 12 hours for me, while Dead Space 3 took me 20 hours to finish. Some people would consider that a good trait, but in reality the extra 8 hours had very little to do with the story and more to do with mindless grinding. While the game is extremely polished and combat is a lot of fun, the pacing and story seem to have fallen by the wayside.
The game starts out with Isaac Clarke being recruited by EarthGov against his will to suppress an uprising led by religious extremists that could potentially destroy the human race. Having nearly escaped death on two separate instances, he isn’t really too keen on the idea of aiding until he finds out his ex-girlfriend is missing. Thus begins Isaac’s third quest to eradicate the necromorph plague and save the damsel in distress.
The story takes you to environments in both space and also the Hoth-like planet of Tau Volantis. The atmospheres are masterfully crafted and designed, and at some times it is very easy to get lost in how beautiful this game is. The attention to detail and the sheer scope of these locations almost make the game feel like an entry in the Mass Effect universe, at least until you board the derelict ships or blood-stained abandoned outposts that feel like they are right out of John Carpenter’s The Thing (Why couldn’t Isaac’s partner be Kurt Russell?). The sound design kept the settings downright creepy: doors slam behind you as you hear distant footsteps and cries of the undead hordes from directions too difficult to pinpoint. Combine that sound design with fantastic lighting effects and the mood is enough to make you proceed very slowly.
Isaac encounters foes early on in the game, and the combat has barely changed at all. Trust me, that is a good thing. It still feels great to suspend enemies in stasis while using the Ripper to saw their limbs off and systematically fire the limbs at other baddies. This time around you can add upgrades to your weapons, allowing them to do additional elemental damage. My personal favorite was the stasis mod, which delivered a small amount of stasis with every shot fired. These small additions freshened up the traditional Dead Space formula while keeping older aspects intact. Other new features include a centered aiming reticule, a poorly implemented cover system, and human enemies that return fire. These additions feel like they were included to appeal to a wider audience instead of improving the overall experience.
Unfortunately, the entire game is not as polished as the combat or atmosphere. Dead Space 3 takes you on a journey of endless fetch quests and repair missions to pad the amount of time you spend playing it. The story itself is extremely forced and doesn’t really make sense at times. I had to tell myself on occasion not to analyze it too much and to just have fun killing necromorphs, but the weak love triangle that is woven into the story had me too distracted. Upon beating the game I watched the credits to see if Michael Bay had helped write such a bad love story on par with Pearl Harbor. Really, it’s that bad. The rest of the story revolves around generally vanilla or altogether unlikable characters whose fates rarely evoke any semblance of emotional response, unless you count relief for not having to hear from them again. My biggest issue with the story is that not only is it nonsensical at certain points, but the rich and extensive lore of the Markers is hurried and not fleshed out. In fact, the Markers play a very small part in the events of Dead Space 3, which I found very upsetting. How can the source of the necromorph threat be so easily overlooked? The game also adds optional side missions, some of which are only playable in co-op. It’s great that Visceral took the effort to put more content in the game, but the side missions were merely unnecessary survival challenges designed to line your RIG with resources.
Speaking of resources, Dead Space 3 has done away with the credit/monetary system which was utilized in the first 2 games to purchase weapons, ammo or health. This time around, players are given various resources such as tungsten, semiconductors and scrap metal to craft your supplies. This creative addition forces you to manage your inventory more responsibly and encourages exploration of the game’s gorgeous locales. At first it is extremely difficult to decide whether to use your resources to craft health packs or ammo, or whether you should use them to upgrade your weapons or RIG. As the game progresses, coming across these resources gets easier and eventually they become plentiful. I really enjoyed the crafting system in Dead Space 3 because creativity is rewarded with cool guns. However, I found myself missing the older weapon upgrade system and the spike of joy I got when I came across power nodes.
The biggest addition to Dead Space 3 is Co-op. No doubt you have heard about this controversial feature. The question one might pose in relation to co-op is “how does the game manage to remain scary if someone has your back?” Unfortunately it doesn’t; even in single player I was scared by slamming doors much more often than the necromorphs. While it is fun to slay waves of necromorphs with a friend, it feels more akin to the recent entries in the Resident Evil series than it does Dead Space. My biggest issue with the co-op is that some portions of the game are only available to be played with a partner. This is a clever way to get people to try out this new mode, but it does take away from the single player experience for those who feel more of a rush being the Rambo or lone wolf type.
Dead Space 3 is a key example of how ambition and high production values can cripple a great idea. The grand scale of Dead Space 3 differs so much from the previous 2 games that I often forgot I was playing a Dead Space game.That doesn’t necessarily make a case for a bad game, but when a precedence has been set and ignored, disappointment is not unexpected. Dead Space 3 is a good game, but its flaws prevent it from being a great game. It is such a shame that this game will be more remembered for its botched and forced love story than for its scares.
Dead Space 3 Gets
Out of Five
+ Solid Combat mechanics
-Side missions lack execution
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