GAME NAME: Dead Space 3
DEVELOPER(S): Visceral Games
PUBLISHER(S): Electronic Arts
PLATFORM(S): PC, Xbox 360, PS3
GENRE(S): Action/ Adventure
RELEASE DATE(S): 8 February 2013
Dead Space 3 is not the Dead Space you have come to know and love or in some cases fear with the terror of a child wracked by nightmares. Dead Space and Dead Space 2 were scary. They could be described as unspeakably terrifying, unlike the garbage that gets filed under the horror film label these days. Dead Space 3 tries to be scary but this is rendered impotent by the changes that Visceral has made to the game.
Dead Space 3 is more of an action-adventure than a survival-horror. The previous games made you work; ammo was specific and in short supply while the weapons were limited and modest in their capabilities. This created tension. You couldn’t go on a rampage, shooting every necromorph you see because you’d run out of ammo and then your troubles would just be starting. Dead Space 3 in comparison has a single type of ammo which is found on every second corpse you stomp. Without this concern over ammo the player is able to just keep tapping the trigger until all of Isaac Clarke’s targets are dead.
Plentiful ammo is not the only problem with this game. Necromorphs are something that the player should fear. The sound of them approaching and the sight of them up close should make the player dive for the Esc key but in Dead Space 3 they don’t and the weapons are to blame. Dead Space 3 introduces weapon crafting to the franchise but weapons can only be crafted at BENCH terminals. On average there are two BENCH terminals per chapter. During the course of the game a player will pick up components that can be used to make a weapon but by the half-way mark the weapons being crafted are so powerful that nothing presents a threat. And that is before you delve into the massive library of weapon blueprints that can be used for construction. Throw a couple of plasma cores onto a heavy frame, add in an electrical charge and you have a weapon that knocks back enemies and electrocutes them. Add in the nigh-limitless ammo and you have a recipe for pounding necromorphs into the ground till their disfigured corpses give up their loot.
The microtransactions that were so well publicised before the game’s release were simply over-hyped. Some resources come in slower than others but this helps to balance the game and not make the player an omnipotent gunslinger but there is no point in the game that you feel obliged to pull out your Credit Card and buy your way to the end. There is a known exploit that allows the player to gain tons of loot by grinding a specific room but EA has said this was intended. So the microtransactions should be seen as an unnecessary crutch to completing the game and there is no handicap for not pulling out your credit card.
In an effort to curb your ability to craft über-elite weapons early on Dead Space 3 limits your supply of ready-made parts. Resources like scrap metal and tungsten can be collected and then used to craft all the parts necessary but because those resources are also needed to upgrade your RIG there is a bit of planning required. Enter the scavenger bot. In the early game you limp along trying to get enough resources to upgrade your suit or craft a powerful weapon but around a third of the way in you get a scavenger bot which goes around collecting resources and then delivering them to the BENCH for the next time you craft a weapon.
So from the get-go Dead Space 3 is easier than the previous two games but this is not a wholly bad idea. As previously mentioned this reviewer found the last two games pants-wettingly scary and thus they were consumed in small doses. But Dead Space 3 is easier to get into; it’s more welcoming and thus great for people who haven’t played the two previous games. The story is covered quickly in the beginning and allows the player to jump into the action without being left with questions about what the hell is going on. The Markers are explained (they are the devices that turn dead people in to Necromorphs) and there is no point in the game where the player is left wondering why he is doing what he is doing. The plot does have a few unnecessary and clichéd parts. A love triangle, a ‘good guy’ that makes a deal with the antagonist who then goes back on his word, a few other B-grade story staples. The cut scenes are not excessively used which limits the exposure to the more contrived parts of the story and you can get back to the shooting and killing.
Besides being an action adventure shooter with a B-grade plot Dead Space 3 also attempts to incorporate a collection of puzzles into its new role as a cover-based shooter. Both of these are ill-advised additions. The puzzles slow down the pace of the game and introduce roadblocks that just irritate rather than challenge. The cover-based shooter component rears its ugly head at the beginning of the game and then later on when the armed forces of the Church of Unitology land on the ice planet Tau Volantis. The joke is that by this point your weapons are so powerful that a single shot will usually kill a human.
Dead Space 3 is a port to the PC and this usually means a slew of issues but for the most part it is a clean port. The graphic options are limited with no options for anti-aliasing or antistrophic filtering and what settings there are is basically a list of on/off toggles related to lighting, post processing and motion blur. It’s limited but because of the wimpiness of current gen consoles there is no reason why even a modest gaming PC won’t be able to play Dead Space 3 with visual settings maxed out. While the Necromorphs are now flaccid shells of something that was once called scary the music still makes your sphincter tense and the hairs on the back of your head rise out of fear. If you turn the lights off with your speakers on loud then having some adult diapers at hand is recommended. On this count Visceral has gone above and beyond their mandate.
The keyboard and mouse controls have been mapped out according to the traditional FPS layout thus helping to ensure that it is easy to dive straight into. But this game, like its predecessors, is ideally suited for a gamepad and this is where the PC needs to take its cue from consoles. This is not the Dead Space we are used to or were expecting.
Hardcore fans will likely be disappointed that Visceral has taken a more direct approach with this game but Dead Space 3 is likely to appeal to more people who might have been put off by the first two games. It’s not perfect but there is no doubt that Dead Space 3 is fun and relatively gripping. Those looking to feel overwhelmed by enemies will need to crank up the difficulty and in this way there is a bit of replayability (like replaying Doom 3 on Nightmare). Those new to the Dead Space franchise should start with this game and, if the story grabs you, then play the first two.