Yes ladies and gentlemen, our review of Dead Space 3 is finally here. Before we venture any further, I want you to do me one favour. Take any of that fear you had about the co-op, the ability to take cover, or even the weapon crafting, and throw it out the window. If you don’t have easy access to a window, a garbage can will do just fine. Visceral’s latest installment of the Dead Space franchise remains true to the Dead Space franchise and its horror survival roots.
Platforms: Xbox 360/PS3/PC Genre: Horror Survival
Developer: Visceral Games Publisher: EA
Platform Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Like most people, when Dead Space 3 was announced to have co-op, I was afraid that this series was going to end up going the route of Resident Evil 5. However, as more was said about the co-op, like how it was completely optional and the partner was not present if you weren’t playing co-op, I began to have a little more faith. The solo experience is pure horror survival, and while the co-op feels slightly less so, it is completely optional.
The game’s environments vary greatly as you progress through the game. You will experience plenty of the dark, claustrophobic areas fans of the series have come to know so well, the more open terrain on the planet of Tau Volantis, the zero gravity and completely air-free environment of space, as well as some other areas that I won’t mention for the sake of avoiding spoilers. It’s obvious that Visceral has continued to put a great deal of effort into ensuring the immediate scenery is crisp and consistent while keeping the horizons or distant environments just as beautiful and eye-catching. While you may not be too inclined to stop by a window after surviving a room full of blood-thirsty Necromophs to take a look outside into space, I highly recommend it. The juxtaposition of ship wreckage floating around in the otherwise serene endless space creates a very special and unique sensation. The franchise has always been about immersing the player in the world, connecting you to Isaac, trying to make you feel like you are Isaac, and this kind of environmental touch only adds to that.
The game handles and controls just like the previous Dead Space entries, only this time you’re able to crouch down behind cover. While some people cried out that being able to take cover was going to change the dynamics of how you fight enemies, these people are very wrong. How exactly is crouching behind a crate or chunk of cement going to help save you from a Necromorph that’s rushing at you, or his friend that’s running up behind you? The only time crouching is even remotely relevant is while fighting human enemies with guns. They will crouch behind cover while facing off against you, but they will also lob grenades and some enemies will run at you with grenades, killing themselves in an attempt to kill you. Is crouching going to really going to help in those scenarios either? No, but the developers wanted to allow the player to at least have the option of doing so since the human AI takes cover and it would seem out of place for Isaac not to be able to do so as well. Personally, I often forgot all about the ability to crouch or perform a rolling dodge. The roll does not move you terribly far, it is more of a last ditch effort to avoid an attack from a Necromorph that’s about to impale you with its arm, but fans of the Dead Space franchise are far more likely to simply start using the melee attack to fend them off out of habit. The aiming, movement, and shortcut buttons for healing, restoring stasis, etc, have all remained as tight and responsive as previous entries, the only difference in controls being the inclusion of these optional movements.
Some new features in Dead Space 3 are using benches to craft weapons and items, collecting resources for this crafting rather than money, the ability to remove weapon upgrades and apply them to other weapons, being able to dismantle weapons, save blueprints, autosave, and co-op. However, the most appreciated and enjoyable feature is how a save file is handled. The first thing you do once you press the Start button at the title screen is choose your save file. From there you can choose whether to continue your solo story, play co-op (which you can start from any chapter you’ve already reached), start a New Game+ after completing the game once, or go to the chapter select menu. Throughout all of these options, your inventory, weapons, suit, and upgrades will remain completely intact. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the last chapter in a solo game and you go back to chapter 3, or jump into a co-op game starting from the Prologue, your character’s gear will all be there. Sure, this can create a bit of an imbalance in terms of the power of your weapon vs the enemies, but keep in mind you also have the option of starting a new save file. There are plenty of save files available, so you don’t need to worry about overwriting your master one in the event of wanting to start fresh again. This is a very welcome feature as it doesn’t feel like all of the effort you’ve put into your file goes to waste if you jump into a co-op game or if you want to go back to a previous chapter to pick up some missed collectibles.
As I briefly mentioned, in Dead Space 3 you can remove the upgrades you apply to your weapons. While in the first two games any upgrades you applied were permanent, the developers opted to make the upgrade circuits you apply to be removable to allow for players to be able to switch between weapons. This allows you to feel more open to creating and playing with various weapons, rather than upgrading one or two and feeling like they now need to constantly carry that weapon because of how much they’ve invested in it. While on the topic of weapons, the weapon crafting mechanic seemed a little out of place at first but as I got further into the game and used it more, I found myself warming up to it and really enjoying it. At first you don’t have many resources, so the quality of weapons you can create is fairly low. However, as you progress through the game and accumulate more materials, your creations are almost limitless. When you’re fighting for your life through hordes of Necromorphs, you want the craziest, most destructive weapons you can possibly get your hands on. Some of the weapons I thoroughly enjoyed creating and wielding were a Ripper that shot electrified saw blades with a secondary shot that simply shot bolts of electricity almost as quickly as I could press the button, and a two-handed gun that shot acid-coated electric bolas, had a semi-automatic attachment on the bottom that shot acid-coated bolts, and had a scope. One of our other editors, George, jokingly made the comment, “Overkill much?” when I described those weapons, and maybe it’s a little overkill, but considering how the enemies get increasingly stronger, bigger, faster, and harder to kill as the game progresses, you want as much firepower as you can get your hands on.
In terms of the story, the narrative is just as strong as the previous Dead Space games, with a ton of optional text and audio logs laying around for curious minds to find. There are also little artifacts to collect this time though which serve as extra insight towards the Necromorphs, scientists, military, or religious groups. The dialogue and interactions feel completely fluid and natural, each character is very distinct, there are very clear and logical reasons as to why you’re going to your current objective, and while sometimes you may be able to predict what will happen next (since if something can go wrong in Dead Space, it usually will), you will almost never be able to predict how it will happen. The action sequences are fast and explosive, it instills a sense of panic in the player, and keeps them on the edge of their seat even while they aren’t in direct control of Isaac. There are the occasional quick-time events, but they’re not common enough to detract from the game or the experience in any way. If you’re expecting the game to be about as long as Dead Space 2, you’ll find yourself wondering when the game will ever end, because it is substantially longer and bigger than either of the first two games. There is a lot of this game to explore and discover, and people who obsessively try to locate each and every item will find themselves having to weigh potential death against potential items. This weighing of pros and cons only becomes harder as you chase potential items more frequently and begin to run low on ammo or health. There were multiple times while playing that I found myself wanting to go in the opposite direction of where the objective was in the name of finding loot, but my fear of what kind of ambush I may find myself in was trying to convince me to head straight to the objective. Significant numbers of enemies swarming you is one thing you should come to expect in this game, and with the wrong weapons equipped, can lead to lots of panic and death. Oh, and for those of you who are curious, there are actual boss fights again. None of the anticlimactic final boss business from Dead Space 2.
When I said that this game was bigger than the other two games, I meant it. On top of the traditional game where you simply pick a difficulty (casual, normal, hard, or impossible), you also unlock various other game modes by completing certain difficulties. Those of you who truly want a challenge will love some of the variations made in game modes by Visceral. Classic mode limits you to the weapons of Dead Space 1 (I hope you like the Plasma Cutter!), while some of the tougher modes will prevent you from finding any items laying around and force you to make all of your ammo, med packs, weapons, and upgrades out of resources at benches. Does that sound tough to you? How about a game mode that’s packs a punch in difficulty but punishes you for dying by making you start the campaign from the beginning again? Yes folks, that is a game mode in Dead Space 3. You can make it all the way to Chapter 19 and be in the middle of fighting the final boss, but if you die, you have to begin that mode from the very start again. Try playing that mode and saying that you’re not scared of what may be waiting around the corner.
Finally, allow me to touch on the one aspect that everybody seemed to focus on leading up to this game’s release: the co-op! As many of you know, in co-op one of you will control Isaac like in the solo campaign, while the other will control Carver. Prior to release, Visceral explained that Carver had his own demons to face throughout the campaign and if you strictly play the solo campaign, you’ll see glimpses of it, but not to the extent you will if you play as him. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just tell you that it’s worth trying out the co-op as Carver. There are several optional missions that are strictly for co-op that will flesh out Carver’s personality a little bit and it allows him to fit perfectly in the game. The biggest drawback to having co-op in a game like this is that it does make the game easier and seem less intense. Having two of you to fight the Necromorphs rather than just one is far less intimidating, especially if you have the revive option turned on, but you don’t need to activate that option, and if you find it too easy, just turn up the difficulty. If you don’t know anybody that has the game, there’s also the option for finding a random partner for co-op. Visceral has made finding a partner incredibly simple and straightforward while providing you with enough options to provide you with the type of game you’re looking for. You can choose which chapter you’re looking to play, what difficulty level, revival on or off, a “good” connection or any connection at all, and whether you want to join a game where the host is simply waiting in the lobby for a partner or whether you want to join a game in progress. Considering a number of online co-op games will have a very simplistic or convoluted matchmaking system, it was incredibly refreshing to experience this one.
For those of you crying out about the 11 pieces of day one DLC that were released for this title, they consist of various weapon packs, resources, and upgrades for your scavenger bot that are in no way mandatory, required, or detract from your experience by not having them. They’re simply options for the gamers who are too lazy to find all of the blueprints or resources, or who don’t have the patience to earn them over time. These are no different than the stat boosting DLC packs available on day one of many sports games so everyone crying foul over them should just take a few deep breaths and calm down. If you have no problem earning your stuff the way the game intends, don’t buy them, don’t look at them, don’t even think about them.
All in all, Dead Space 3 was an incredible experience and it definitely retained the horror survival from the first two games. It maintains the same features that made gamers fall in love with the series, it continues to expand on the story of the previous two titles, it’s just as fluid as ever, the visuals are crisp, and the audio is magnificent. There were multiple times while playing where I was almost afraid to continue because I had no idea what was waiting for me in the next room. It doesn’t matter how fast your trigger finger is, you’ll find yourself becoming increasingly paranoid at every sound that pierces the silence. If you liked the first two games in the series or you’re a fan of horror survival games and are saddened by their decline in the past decade or so, Dead Space 3 is sure to deliver.
- Same great quality and polish from the previous titles
- Relentless enemies
- Almost 20 hour campaign
- Wide variety of game modes
- Plenty of tension
- Back-tracking can seem excessive at times
- Weapon crafting may seem discouraging at first
- Low number of boss fights
Eric felt a little safer holding a ton of firepower in his arms while trying to save Earth, but that didn’t stop him from feeling scared for his safety while playing Dead Space 3. He is also an editor for Analog Addiction where you can find all the latest gaming news, previews, reviews, and everything else that rhymes with those words. ‘Like’ Analog Addiction on Facebook to receive all of the updates as they’re posted.