*Authors Note* Dead Space 3 is a direct sequel to 2011s Dead Space 2 and has been released on PS3, Xbox360 and PC. The PS3 version was played for the purposes of this review.
The Dead Space franchise has been one of the surprise new hits of this console generation. The original Dead Space set a new standard for scares in the Survival Horror genre and when Dead Space 2 released in 2011 the bar was lifted even higher. Naturally you would expect Dead Space 3 to continue the franchises fine form, and despite some poor story and occasional design choices the game generally lives up to its own lofty standards, but should these hiccups put you off one of 2013s most anticipated Survival Horror Games? Read on and see
In Dead Space 3 you will once again be playing the role of series protagonist Isaac Clarke. With the Necromorph threat becoming greater Isaac as been dragged back into the affair as Ellie (Isaac’s Ex-Girlfriend) and her allies from the Marker Team from debris surrounding the planet of Tau Volantis, a planet where it is believed that someone had managed to successfully curb the threat of a Necromorph breakout on the icy tundra planet. Isaac, Ellie and the rest of the Marker Team travel to Tau Volantis with the goal of ending the Marker and Necromoph threats forever. Whilst this general premise is quite interesting, and exploring the lore of the Dead Space franchise continues to engage, it is the side-plots such as the love triangle between Isaac, Ellie and her new partner Norton that is a poorly executed distraction to what really matters in the narrative.
If you have played past games in the franchise you will be quite used to how the mechanics of Dead Space 3 work, functioning just like most other third person shooters, however the stasis and kinesis skills have become more necessary than ever before to control the waves of Necromorphs. The game has become more of a conventional third person shooter, with more waves of Necromorphs attacking, which has the unfortunate side-effect of lessening the scare factor that these monstrosities have. What has also been added is the ability to construct and customise your own weapons, which can be accomplished at any bench assuming you have collected the necessary resources first, these resources are found when you kill Necromorphs, smash open crates and when bots deliver them to you. Resources can also be collected with the aid of OPTIONAL micro-transactions. Components from these resources can be used to construct new weapons and upgrades for existing weapons, this makes the shooting experience more diverse and engaging. Visceral have added a dodging and cover taking ability which makes managing large bosses of massive waves of Necromorphs a lot easier. There are some situations where you will be forced into shoot outs with Unitologists and these are some of the lower points in the game that removes you from the scares of the series past. From a scares perspective the new setting of Tau Volantis does not make the frequency of horrifying moments any less, but in fact they are more surprising than ever as you slowly push through the snow only to have a Necromorph burst from the blizzard in front of you.
In Dead Space 2 the game featured a competitive multiplayer mode which despite being adequate, never really kicked off with the fans, so for Dead Space 3 the mode has been axed, but in replacement, a co-operative mode has been included. This mode sees John Carver, a key character, but NPC in the Single Player campaign, featuring more prominently in the campaign as he is played by a friend online. One would think that by adding an extra player the game loses a lot of its scare value, but thankfully Visceral put a lot of care into this addition by ensuring that both characters have very different gameplay experiences, for example both of you might be in the same room however one will suddenly spot necromorphs in the room and start shooting, the other player will not see this… showing that the first player is having hallucinations. Other scenarios will arise that force the players to have individual experiences despite the co-op environment and both will get additional story details mechanics, only possible through the co-op playthrough.
From a visual standpoint the technology behind Dead Space 3 has not expanded a great deal since the franchises past entry, however a great deal of care has clearly gone into the artistic design showing some sensational vistas and other sights as you scour through abandoned space vessels and the frozen summits of Tau Volantis. At times the sights you will see are truly awe-inspiring and prove that the risk taken to move from abandoned space-craft in the past games was well and truly worth it. The audio has always been a feature of the Dead Space franchise and the various sound effects used to scare you are just as prominent as ever, but unfortunately some sub-par voice-acting coinciding with some of the poor side-story choices removes you from the experience somewhat, which is a massive shame considering how enthralling past entries into the franchise have been and how much potential this iteration had.
Dead Space 3 retains many of the features that made past entries so engaging yet horrifying, and while it suffers from a few issues regarding poor delivery of narrative and an aging graphics engine, and a more mainstream third person experience that reduces the scares, prevent the game from reaching the heights of Dead Space 1 and 2, all in all the game is one that must be experienced for anyone who is a fan of the Survival Horror genre.