Also On: PS3, PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Visceral Games
Online: Yes (co-op)
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into space, the Necromorphs return. It’s once again up to Isaac Clarke to uncover the mysteries of how they came to be, and this time he has discovered the source of the outbreak and the origins of the markers. These clues lead him from the deepest and coldest reaches of space to a subzero planet called Tau Volantis to finally put an end to the terror forever and prevent the extinction of mankind once and for all.
I've always thought Dead Space took a page from one of my favorite horror films, Event Horizon, with all the psychological mind messing imagery and hellish horrors found in space. Now in Dead Space 3 they have taken two of my favorites and combined the ideas with Event Horizon and The Thing, thanks to Tau Volantis’ subzero frozen wasteland. For those who have loved the series, much like any good trilogy (God of War, Uncharted, Mass Effect, Gears of War, etc.) the developers did not stray away from what made the series great, they just find ways to improve features, while the core game remains faithfully intact. Like the old cliché, if it ain't broke don’t fix it. What Dead Space 3 does so well is that they provide some great new ideas such as weapon crafting, taking away bad ideas like multiplayer (although 2 player story co-co exists), yet still holding on the scares, creative enemies, and horrifying areas of exploration that make this adventure true and faithful to the series.
Visually Dead Space 3 outdoes the previous games in the series as you will see larger environments, climatic quick time moments, and thanks to the purpose of finding the origins of the markers, you travel to a huge ice wasteland of a planet. This planet, Tau Volantis, takes the game away from the traditional outer space to a location that forces you to take on blizzard like situations creating snow blindness, freezing temperatures (that if not prepped in the right suit could cause you to freeze to death), and of course the horrific Necromorphs that inhabit this planet. Dead Space 3 also creates a deeper sense of story immersion with cut scenes that provide not only vital information, but give gamers a better look at what is happening to the characters and the world around them.
Audio in the game is just as intense as ever before and of course it is always best when playing alone in the dark. Not only does the team at Visceral provide a riveting and moody score that keeps you on edge, but the weapon effects are as impressive as ever, the creaks and pops of the environments always tease that element of danger just ahead, and let us never forget the cheap, yet effective jump scares that catch you off guard at any moment. Top it all off with some decent voice acting that clues you in on the emotion of the story, and you have yourself a nicely wrapped up package to satisfy any fickle ear drum.
Where Dead Space matches it’s successors, even if it doesn't reinvent itself is the game play that is just as intense as the previous two games while still adding a few new twists to the series. While a vast majority of the game drops you into familiar surroundings and game play offerings such as upgrading suits and weapons, cutting off the limbs first, and learning your limits on things such as oxygen, health, and stasis, new ideas have come to pass such as a new workbench to allow you to create weapons, and to find those vital parts you can use a scavenger bot to bring back some nifty items you couldn't find on your own. While some may or may not like this new crafting bench idea, I personally think it’s an ingenious one as it brings us back to the fold on Isaac himself as he starting off an engineer and it’s nice to see him back to a more vulnerable self rather than a beefed up bad ass as it seemed he may have been becoming after Dead Space 2. I like the idea of the nerdy and normally background character like Norman Freeman from Half Life or Isaac Clarke getting the spotlight and kicking some ass for a change.
Another intriguing element is the new way of adding online to the gamer’s journey. Instead of an arena based, bland multiplayer experience as seen in Dead Space 2, the developer decided to wisely scrap that idea in favor of adding a wonderful 2 player co-op mode. While I am sad to see this mode is online only and that two friends can’t play this mode on one couch, the idea that it is present is satisfying. What’s more, this addition isn't just a way to get two people to enjoy the game together, but actually unwrap some more of the mystery and dig deeper into the game itself as one player joins as Sergeant John Carver, a merciless solider who lost his wife and child in the wake of the Necromorph outbreak. This drop in drop out mode will allow gamers a second way to play the game as Carver who has his own cut scenes, added dialogue, and even side missions that only he can explore. This mode alone will add an additional 5 to 10 hours more game play on top of the 12 to 15 hour story mode found in single player.
The Xbox 360 version also features Kinect usage that can be experienced in single player and co-op multiplayer as well. While it doesn’t provide much more than voice commands, it is a nice feature that will be one less button combination you have to worry about when things get hectic. Providing you ways to not only do small things like reloading and switching your weapon, you can use voice command to give health and stasis to the other player, ask for help from the other player, and even reset your course to find a suit station, bench, or access your inventory.
In the sense of good taste I have tried to keep this review as spoiler free as possible as there are many new elements to Issac’s journey I could mention, but then that would be taking away some of the fun and spontaneity of these moments, I will say that more will be revealed to you and things will become clearer by the time the conclusion rolls around. Dead Space 3 does exactly the things a sequel should. It’s bigger, badder, and in most ways better than the previous entries. Dead Space 3 introduces new ways to play, without letting valuable features go. Most importantly, it provides us with a game meant to be played by the fans first and not just a cash cow. Sure Dead Space 3 is familiar, but fans wouldn't have it any other way. If you have been in love since the first entry, then you already probably own this game and don’t need my opinion. On the other hand, if you have played the previous two and weren't sold, there’s nothing that is going to change your mind here to make you a convert, unless of course there’s a marker nearby…