Dead Space 3 Review
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Feb 22, 2013 10:47
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Written by: Ian
Waste of Space?
"Dead Space 3" has been one of my favourite new IPs of the generation. Does the saga of Isaac Clarke end with a bang or a whimper? The game has already had a PR slating prior to release thanks to aggressive microtransactions and the new co-op mode… but does any of that matter when you actually start to play?
I’m one of those people that’s really gotten sucked into the Dead Space fiction. I’ve even watched the DVDs and played the otherwise pretty poor XBLA puzzle game ... and for me, I actually found the story to be perfectly reasonable.
For those of you who prefer shooting though (and judging by the internet reaction, that’s most of you), do be warned that the Markers, Isaac’s love life, and the Unitologists all get more screen time than in the previous games by far. The story is by no means bloated, and for the majority of the middle act there is barely a cut-scene at all- but there is more story, like it or not, and more quasi-religious stuff chucked in throughout.
Two things left me a bit sour though. The ending is ... pretty ‘meh’, neither taking as many liberties as Mass Effect, whilst still managing a fair bit of ridiculousness. The second was the new cast members, especially your crew. They’re all massive jerks, and as a result, you almost feel for the otherwise evil and crazy Danik, excellently voiced by Simon Templeman.
Many people criticised Dead Space 2 for becoming more of a shooter; I didn’t mind so much because it was the combat that made the game so horrifying in the first place. There’s only so many jump scares and monster cupboards that will scare most people anyway, and whilst Dead Space 3 has plenty of them, it’s the sometimes overwhelming odds that really terrified me. Many times you’re genuinely fighting for your life as enemies drop from all around you, taking away all sense of skill and tactics as you fight to stay alive using the tools at your disposal. That core concept still rings true for the most part.
The main problem is that there feels like there is a bit of a lack of imagination- there’s only a couple of new enemy types, and the AI doesn’t really try anything new. There’s also a real problem in some of the level design in the final two acts of the game- endless repetition of the same rooms coupled with plenty of backtracking makes for a game that probably outlives its welcome, despite being a little shorter than the previous 2 games at around 10-12 hours on a first playthrough.
This is a real shame, because when you’re stranded in space on the ship graveyard, the levels, and your progress through them, feels as innovative and well designed as at any point in the series. And there is innovation aplenty in the crafting system as well, which allows you to use the resources to engineer pretty much any gun and series of upgrades that you fancy. This isn’t even ruined by the game’s DLC system (which is, however, unfortunately poorly implemented, advertising itself to you at every opportunity without any good story reason for existing) you’ve heard so much about. By the end of the game I’d crafted a couple of fantastic weapons, and gotten all but 1 of the RIG upgrades. You only need to make reasonable use of your bots to collect more than enough resources (which also have some associated achievements, so you may as well), so DLC is only really there for the lazy. This leaves you with a slightly odd mixed bag- a game that is as refreshing and excellent as you would ever want during the high points, and as derivative and disappointing as the worst cash-in at its lowest.
Thankfully the high points outweigh the low. Out of the 19 chapters, only 3 or 4 involve back-tracking and fighting against human enemies- something which the engine is clearly not comfortable with, whilst ignoring the optional side missions helps avoid much of the feeling of the rooms recycling.
At times, Dead Space 3 makes you wonder why anyone is asking for new consoles. The Zero-G sections are just some of the most magnificent looking parts of a game I’ve ever experienced. The art style and level of detail is just unbelievable. And yet, at the same time, many of the cut-scenes feature stilted animation, and some of the interiors can look plain, with dull textures, long loads, and a lack of real imagination. For every amazing scene, there’s 2-3 of drudgery, which is a real shame, because clearly the engine still has the power to amaze when it wants to.
The increased voice-work in Dead Space 3 generally is excellent, with a decent set of new cast members. In the last couple of chapters, some of the dialogue gets precipitously cheesy, with Danik going beyond insanity, Ellie coming back from the dead, and Carver, your co-op partner getting rather too melodramatic at his previous life choices. Thankfully, the performances just about stop the script from breaking down completely. The music, however, is as great as ever, with chilling pieces of strings that continue to get the hairs up on your back even after three games, whilst the noises the necromorphs make continue to disgust as well – testament to just how rough they are!
The competitive multiplayer from Dead Space 2 has been dropped, in favour of a full co-op campaign. Whilst fans may shirk in horror, playing the game alone is still very much the same experience
Playing in co-op, however, doesn’t really add much as a result, except mounds of frustration. You need to wait for your partner to finish a checkpoint before you can start, which then delays them as you load in (and potentially swap discs, too). Finally, when you get going, your often hamstrung by a system which never allows you to stray far from your partner. There are some extra missions to play, along with some co-op moves and puzzles, but I found the mode rather superfluous really- fine if you like that sort of thing, but not enough to tempt me away from playing the game more traditionally.
"Dead Space 3" is a mixed bag. At its best, it’s never looked or played this well. But at its lowest points, it’s never been this repetitive, ugly, or derivative. It’s also the most hit-and-miss game in the series, with amazing levels in zero-G facing up against by-the-numbers side missions and terrible combat against human enemies the engine was never designed for. Also, whilst you never need it, I also found the prevalence of DLC to be a bit ridiculous, given the poor integration. It just needlessly takes away from the immersion. Otherwise, Dead Space 3 is still a game that’s worth playing, although personally I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have played at least one of the other games in the series. The story just isn’t very well explained otherwise, and whilst the action is still fun, you may as well pick the other games up cheaper first to get the most out of this one.
Don’t believe what you’ve read. As ever, the internet has over-reacted. Despite co-op and micro transactions, Dead Space 3 is a fine game. But it’s not as good as it could or should have been. For me, seeing out the end of the story was reason enough to plough through to the finish, and it was well worth my while. But despite the efforts to bring aboard new players, I’d say that this one is for fans only.
Some genuinely scary moments
+ Beautiful art design above the planet
+ Interesting crafting system
Lots of asset re-use
- Multiplayer waiting about
- Dull side missions