I wasn’t sold on Dead Space 3. From the moment it was announced, I had absolutely no excitement for the game’s existence. Strange, coming from a big fan of the core Dead Space series, but nothing got me energized about the series’ return. I felt Dead Space 2 left Isaac Clarke on a strong note, having faced his demons and survived. What better way to send a character off than seeing them overcome their issues. Though I personally wasn’t a fan of Dead Space 2 in general, I felt the narrative was not only stronger than the original but it made a great deal more sense as well. The rest of the game felt like a paint by numbers activity- Necromorphs jump out here, doors will seal here etc. It never felt like it revolutionized the franchise and it seemed to lack the atmospheric intensity the original provided.
Funnily enough, Dead Space 2 was at its strongest when it revisited the Ishimura. That sequence alone made my experience more rewarding. It brought back that unpredictability, that intense atmosphere and that ability to make you feel uneasy- something the first two games did exceptionally well.
Let me reiterate that Dead Space 3 was not on my radar. The inclusion of cooperative gameplay, moving the game’s location to a planet structure and even the gameplay showcased before release never grabbed my attention. However, once I played the game in its entirety, not only with a friend but by myself, I realized that Dead Space 3 was a great experience in its own right. Dead Space 3 lacks the original’s horror vibe- to be honest I never felt scared so classifying it as a survival horror is certainly a stretch. But Dead Space 3 brings back the intense atmosphere the original possessed, but also brings its own unique personality to the table. Dead Space 3 also brings with it a sizable main campaign with much to explore, which feels extremely strong when playing with a friend, and a weapon crafting system that can take away hours of your time. Not only that, but Dead Space 3 brought with it the most important aspect a videogame has to offer; fun.
If you are considering Dead Space 3 because you want that survival horror feeling (you want to be scared out of your comfy gaming chair), sadly this rendition of the franchise might not be for you. It actually feels like a fresh take on the Dead Space universe, one that succeeds in providing gamers with a ‘different’ Dead Space experience. Playing side-by-side with one of my best friends, TV-by-TV as we teamed up against the games main campaign is an experience I greatly enjoyed. The cooperative campaign allowed us to handle every room strategically, will we take one side of the room each? Will we go back to back and cover each other? Will we combine our weaponry to make best use of our character’s abilities? These strategical attributes meant the experience during cooperative and single player was totally different, losing your partner’s help means moving through the game’s 19 chapters a new train of thought.
In all honesty, I preferred my cooperative experience over the single player. Playing with a second player may have toned down that intense atmosphere I spoke about earlier, but it definitely made the game an exciting journey. The team mate experience was spent talking about the narrative as we explored the vast array of locations looking for collectibles, comparing our guns after dozens of hours crafting weapons and being shocked at each other’s creations. It provided a superior campaign, actually a cooperative experience that rivaled, if not bettered, Borderlands 2. It was many small, yet smart decisions that helped this method of play excel. When you were looting crates or finding weapon parts, there was no rush to get to them before your team mate, you were both given your own goodies to collect. Simply put, they took away any elements of team mates battling one another and focused entirely on the team work aspect of cooperative play.
Those players who questioned Visceral’s decision to move Dead Space to a planet location have nothing to fear. Barely any of the player’s time is spent in the open snow vistas of Tau Volantis. Instead we are taken to an industrial factory that presents the same eerie and claustrophobic gameplay the series is known for. So don’t expect many treks across the snowy wilderness or any snow mobile rides in your adventure.
During the campaign you can either play as John Carver or the aforementioned Isaac Clarke. Carver’s story is definitely most interesting but it doesn’t seem like they touch upon it as often as they should. We have been with Clarke since Dead Space 1, seen him face and conquer his demons and now he is out to rid the universe of the Markers once and for all. This noble quest plot has been done before, but playing through the cooperative campaign gives you more insight into Carver’s fresh narrative.
Carver is a messed up character with plenty of his own issues to face- these are best experienced in the cooperative side missions. When Carver’s mind cracks from the strain of the Marker’s, these sequences become memorable. Your partner only sees your character struggling from what seems to be the world’s biggest headache. However, when you face Carver’s troubled past on your own, the intensity of having that backup the second player provides ripped away, leaves a desperate fight for survival.
Dead Space 3 has what you would expect from a Dead Space game, over the top death scenes, crazy cults, Necromorphs aplenty and tons of dark hallways. Yet it is the new take on the series which seemed to focalize the games direction, which really made for one of the best experiences in 2013 so far. Survival horror might have taken a back seat in Dead Space 3, but that doesn’t mean what Visceral has to offer is not worthy of the franchise name. Will we see Dead Space ever go back to its survival horror past? Maybe, but that doesn’t make the experience provided suffer.
Dead Space 3 gave me over 20 hours of brilliant gameplay, an in-depth weapon customization system, two great experiences that differentiate from each other, and a journey that my friend and I will always remember. Franchises change and alter over time and Dead Space might be one of these culprits, but before ignoring Isaac’s return, remember, change isn’t always a bad thing in the end.