Dead Space 3
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Genre: Third-person shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Visceral Games
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Despite the emphasis placed on horror in the first Dead Space, the series’ gradual transition to full-blown action gameplay seemed inevitable. After all, in the eyes of corporate big-wigs, gamers don’t want to be scared; they want to blow shit up and dismember aliens, right? As such, even though we all knew Dead Space 3 would focus on action, the change is still startling, and unfortunately disappointing as well.
Set three years after the Sprawl incident of Dead Space 2, the game once again places you in the role of Isaac Clarke, the engineer who has now become quite handy with a gun (and chatty, at that). Isaac is dragged out of his self-made isolation in his rather disgusting apartment on the moon, and he is forced on a mission to help find his ex-girlfriend and her missing team. Once again, he encounters an endless amount of Necromorphs along the way, with the added bonus of also having to fight off Marker-crazed Unitologists (essentially cult soldiers).
The plot is basically more of the same from the Dead Space series, but the game does go in an interesting new direction when Isaac arrives on the snowy planet of Tau Volantis. Being able to play in blizzard-like conditions is a nice change of pace, even if these moments are often interrupted with forays into the familiar dark, gloomy interior settings.
Being able to play on an ice planet is fun, but it can’t mask the fact that the campaign is lacking in any major “wow” moments. The first two games were full of such moments — who could ever forget the introduction of the Necromorphs in DS1, or the eye scene in DS2 (not to mention many others)? After finishing DS3, I have had a hard time remembering much of anything. In fact, by about the 2/3 mark during the campaign, the gameplay grew monotonous to the point of me just wanting it to be over with.
The campaign is longer than before — it took me nearly 15 hours to finish it single player with all optional missions completed — but there is little diversity to keep things fresh. This is a major issue, though it is helped somewhat by the addition of a brand new co-op mode.
Now, games can be dropped in and out of using the online co-op feature. In this, one player is Isaac, and the other is John Carver, an EarthGov Sergeant. They have separate personalities, and there are a handful of co-op exclusive side missions that can explore these differences more in-depth. Being able to play with a friend makes it a little easier to overlook the shortcomings found in the campaign, though it is somewhat infuriating that part of the content is exclusive to co-op.
There has been quite a bit of controversy regarding another new feature in Dead Space 3 — its weapon crafting system. Instead of only being able to acquire a dozen or so weapons, you now have the ability to make your own guns based on different parts you find throughout the environment. There are a ton of possibilities, and if you put in the necessary time, you can make some pretty badass weapons.
The controversy for this feature comes in the form of microtransactions. Basically, EA has given the option for impatient/lazy gamers to spend real money to acquire the materials needed to craft certain weapons. I had no problems whatsoever finding the elements and parts I needed during the course of the campaign, so this feature does not bother me in the slightest. In fact, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. This isn’t something that is forced onto gamers — it’s entirely up to them if they want to dish out any extra cash to change their gameplay experience. Of all the common complaints with DS3, this is the one I don’t get.
And yes, Dead Space 3 does have its fair share of problems, but it is still a competent third-person action game. Fans of the horror aspects of the series will no doubt be disappointed by the reliance on action, but those especially interested in the Dead Space canon will likely still enjoy this. At the very least, the game warrants multiple playthroughs, so there is a good amount of replay value, and it can be fun to kick back with a friend. It’s just a shame that the series has already gone so far away from what made the first two games so great.