Isaac Clarke just can’t seem to catch a break. He’s been to hell and back, and here he is again in Dead Space 3, being tasked once more with unfathomable responsibility. After all, who else can be trusted with saving the universe against the power of the Markers? Visceral Games has made some pretty serious changes this time around, most of them bad ones. Rumors have flown that there won’t be a Dead Space 4, and just yesterday, EA announced that Dead Space 3 didn’t sell enough copies to be considered “successful.” Keeping all of that in mind, are those rumors justified?
Platforms: PC, PS3 (Version Played), Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Visceral Games
Third-Person Dismemberer Third-Person Shooter
Release Date: February 5, 2013
ESRB Rating: Mature
I’m coming at this review as a huge fan of the Dead Space franchise. I thought the first game was great, and the second was my vote for the best game of 2011. I even enjoyed Extraction and Ignition, and I’ve consumed as much of the other media as I’ve been able to get my hands on. But with Dead Space 3, my dread started when I first played the demo, in which you fight against humans and utilize something Isaac’s never had to have a mechanic for: cover.
The whole idea behind Dead Space is that you’re fighting against Necromorphs, horrible monsters that can only be killed if you dismember them. But in Dead Space 3, your initial enemies are humans, which changes the entire feeling of the game. You’re not playing a survival horror game anymore; all of a sudden, you’re playing a plain old third-person shooter. There’s nothing wrong with third-person shooters, mind you. But being in the boots of Isaac Clarke is about precision dismemberment and jumping out of your skin, not dudes tossing grenades at you and catching you in their sights.
Speaking of sights, did I mention that some Necromorphs now have guns? Some reanimated corpses just spray gunfire everywhere. I was disappointed when I had to fight humans; I was downright disgusted when corpses started shooting at me.
The game – which is 19 chapters long – has a lot of painful moments in it. The voice acting is not the best, the story itself jumps all over the place, the new climbing mechanic made me want to throw my controller, and there’s something terrible going on with the audio – often I would trigger an event with Necromorphs but, if I didn’t walk completely into the area, the sound would be coming from all over – no matter which direction I walked in, the menacing snarls would be equally loud in every direction. And if I ran through a battle – something obviously not intended – the dialogue would be completely drowned out in the next area, because the hostile music would still be going. It was a complete mess.
Oh, and crafting weapons and items? While I understand the appeal, it’s just a boring added mechanic to me. As someone who used only the Plasma Cutter in the first game (yes, OK, it was to get a trophy), I have a hard time getting into the other guns. In the second game, I used every gun available, but these guns are all way too complicated, and some of them take too long to warm up. In fact, I would say having a gun I need to warm up in a game where things leap out of nowhere is a really terrible idea.
Co-op – while also well-intended – isn’t a great addition, either. If there was couch co-op, I would be all for it. But the fact that I have to depend on the game pairing me up with a stranger, or finding a friend who bought the game (of which there were not many, I’m not surprised to say), was difficult. When I did finally get into co-op matches, they were almost always for levels I hated (see climbing mechanic above). Sure, I could set it to a specific chapter and only play that, but I guess the point was that I didn’t feel the need to have a buddy to fight those levels. In a game like F.E.A.R. 3, in which the two playable characters have vastly different powers, adding co-op doesn’t just make sense, it’s a lot of fun. Here it’s just more of the same, and more of the same in this case is not good.
Optional missions? Snore.
So I guess the real question here is, did Dead Space 3 get anything right? For the first 15 chapters, I was at a complete loss. Where was the series I loved so much? It was excruciating getting through those first ten hours. But then something beautiful happened – I got past chapter 15, and I finished the rest of the game in one night. Everything about the last few chapters is completely perfect – the pacing, the fights, the amped mechanics, and best of all, the fantastic end boss. After all those hours, I felt like I was finally playing a Dead Space game again.
Is the game worth actually making it that far? I have to admit, now that I’ve finished it, I can say that it is, but only for the most die-hard fans. Anyone who isn’t invested in Isaac Clarke or this universe will either feel that this game is a rip-off (I’ve heard it called “Gears of Dead Space”) or won’t understand the appeal of the series, especially if they’re starting here. And even if you’re looking for another Dead Space 2, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. But if you’re really into these games, and you want to find out what happens in the next chapter of Clarke’s story, and you want to possibly subject yourself to some real pain – then you obviously need this game. Personally, I would like to see a Dead Space 4, especially if Visceral takes the series back to its roots and really makes it for the fans… but I’m not going to hold my breath.
Review Disclosure: A retail copy of Dead Space 3 was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.