Video Game Review: Dead Space 3 [Xbox 360]

Dead Space 3 [Xbox 360]

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).

Dead Space 3 [Xbox 360]

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.

Dead Space 3 [Xbox 360]

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.

Dead Space 3 [Xbox 360]

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.

7/10

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Video Game Review: Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]
Dead Space 2
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Genre: Survival Horror, Third-Person Shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Visceral Games
Release Date: January 25, 2011

There is a popular comparison going around that Dead Space 2 is to Dead Space what the film Aliens is to Alien. This is surprisingly accurate.

The original Dead Space was a brutal survival horror adventure that placed gamers in the role of a silent protaganist named Isaac Clarke, who was investigating an abandoned ship with unknown enemies. With Dead Space 2, Clarke is back, but this time he is well-spoken and knows what he is up against. No longer an inexperienced combatant, Clarke is a grizzled veteran who kicks a whole lot of alien ass, not unlike Ellen Ripley from Aliens.

Dead Space 2 takes place three years after the original, with Isaac waking up in the Sprawl, a metropolis built on one of Saturn’s moons. He has no memory of the last few years, and he is still haunted by visions of his long-dead girlfriend. The man has lost his mind, and his disturbing hallucinations impede his progress to stop the latest Necromorph outbreak. In a way, it’s more of the same, but this time Isaac feels better suited to take care of the mess.

Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

The gameplay is more action-oriented, and there are now new weapons to help deal with the catastrophic alien mess. The old, trusty weapons from before are still available, such as the always reliable plasma cutter, but it’s fun to play with new toys such as the Detonator, a proximity mine launcher. Enemies are still defeated by slicing off their limbs, creating gruesome and gory bloodbaths.

The wonderful kinesis/stasis functions are back as well, and they are crucial to the gameplay since weapon ammo seems a little scarce to come by this time. The same weapon upgrade system is in place to help build up Clarke’s skills and abilities.

While the combat is very well-executed, Dead Space 2 really shines with its atmosphere. The game succeeds at creating undeniable tension, and there is always a sense of dread while wandering around the Sprawl. Even locations such as a nursery or a shopping mall are creepy to wander about since you never know what will be around the corner. This overall creepiness is aided by little things here and there to make you jump, such as lights flickering randomly or an alarm clock going off unprovoked, or even just hearing something crawling around in the walls. With the lights out and the volume turned up, this game can be pretty damn scary.

Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

Dead Space 2’s campaign lasts about 8-10 hours, but its “New Game+” feature warrants multiple playthroughs. My first thought after finishing the game was to start a new one, this time using my powered-up weapons from before.

A multiplayer option is unnecessarily tacked-on as well. It offers similar gameplay to Left 4 Dead, as it pits humans versus monsters, alternately switching sides after every round. It is a decent enough feature, but it is pretty basic and the online community barely has a pulse anymore.

Dead Space 2 does everything a good sequel should: it builds upon all that made the original so great, then expands upon that in all facets. The atmosphere is even more tense despite the beefed up weapons, and the core gameplay is damn near perfect. It doesn’t hurt that the game is simply stunning to look at, and gore fans will really get a kick out of some of the new death animations. EA has a great franchise on their hands, and I can’t wait to see where they go next.

9/10