Review: Dead Space 3

Over the years, Dead Space has ignited more than just a few conversations across the gaming landscape. Whether it is positive or negative, there was no denying of the fact that it is one of a kind and succeeds at what it set out to do. It provided you with jump-scares that you didn’t quite know you had inside of you, while the bloodthirsty Necromorphs keep coming at you with unseen ferocity. What first started out on a planet cracking vessel entitled the USG Ishimura, moved on to a more “inhabited” setting, the Titan Station / Sprawl. Still very unnerving, yet with more focus on action in Dead Space 2, the series got hammered down by some for trying to do something different. I, for one, liked both of the first games and still think that they both succeeded very well with what they had to provide us and our many unsoiled pants.

Dead Space, as a series, has been one infused with dementia, lots of suspicious looking corpses, well put together atmosphere coupled with a nerve-wrecking orchestral score alongside sound effects that will have even the most battle-hardened bad-ass whimpering in the nearest dark corner. Paranoia having us question the true motivation of that specific dark corner and the potential of contents of that space. Let us not forget about the different take on the player’s HUD and the crucial dismemberment in combat.

Let us take a look at Dead Space 3 and see how everything stands.

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I strongly advise you to play the first two games–if you haven’t done that already–before you jump into this one. Various plot elements are carried over from the previous games.

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We find Isaac on the New Horizons Lunar Colony three years after the events of the second game. Still not having the best of days, looking at an old photograph of Ellie Langford–a character from the second game–we can begin to see that a romantic history developed while we weren’t watching. Why, Visceral Games, why? Who says we didn’t want to see the romantic part develop in visceral detail…?

Unfortunately for us and them, that romance was broken off by Isaac when Ellie left in search of a way to stop those pesky Markers. (After a certain something that happened in Dead Space 2, Ellie lost an eye, and I’m glad to report my confusion on how Visceral forgot that one part about her losing an eye, but we’re in the future now and Ellie’s eye is repaired. A slight distinction can be seen when looking closely in terms of eye colour.)

Speaking of those bothersome Markers, we’re up to our knees with them this time around, still causing havoc and more so than before.

BUT! He’s still looking at the photograph while on the New Horizons Lunar Colony. His Marker-touched mind still struggling, he hears a noise and when he’s off to inspect it with a Plasma Cutter ready in hand, he gets knocked over the head by our secondary main character, Sergeant John Carver accompanied by a new character, Robert Norton. (One of the few and new totally unlikable characters.)

Ellie manages to gather information on how to stop the Necromorph infection for good and therefore asks Norton to find Isaac at New Horizons. His Marker building and destroying knowledge / abilities much needed in this exact point in time.

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Not before long we meet the game’s primary antagonist and first-grade ass, Jacob Danik, who purposefully unleashed another outbreak of Necromorphs. Searching for a way to increase the outbreak, as well, to his maniacal and desired size. In short, no humans or any life forms left without being one with a Marker source. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this and after I played the game, I’m recommending it even less.

There is so much I want to talk about in regards to story, but eventually I’ll have to linger into spoiler territory, leaving you without any surprises. So, I’ll stop here and not mention anything about Robert Norton and Ellie’s love interest. Seriously, Isaac cannot catch a break without anyone trying to smooch his ex.

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Throughout Dead Space 3, you’ll encounter terrain of various shapes, sizes and scales. At first, you play for a very brief while as a Marine searching for The Codex, which is crucial to the game’s plot, in a snowy and freezing environment. Then, as Isaac, you get knocked over the head as mentioned above, and explore the New Horizons Lunar Colony, trying to escape from Danik and his mercenaries. You’ll go through buildings and alleyways, with dogs barking at you from behind doors, like you’re some sort of pedophilic postman. Not before long, you’re on a ship, receiving your own suit and flying around space in said suit.

You’ll still find yourself in the lonesome and atmospheric corridors with countless enemies gnawing at your calves and stabbing you in your aforementioned face.

Other than that, you’ll explore the vast vistas of Tau Volantis, an ice planet which turns out to be central to the plot. There is another unexpected environment in the final portion of the game which I sincerely want to talk about and elaborate in terms of the story and rather unorthodox change of scenery.

Let’s just say that the end boss battle is relatively large in scale and another environment is also involved. (Cue The X-Files theme.)

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The previous two Dead Space games had some deadly weapons and tools. However, in this Dead Space game, you “build” your weapons. You’ll pick up various weapon parts throughout the game and this increases your destructive pallet.

Different grips means different or multiple weapons attachments. Different attachments mean different effects and usefulness. Different effects add more flavor and less gnawed upon shins.

At the beginning, you’ll have very few weapon modifications and this will hopefully encourage players to explore every dark nook and cranny. Exploration is key to this new system within the game. If you’re not finding new parts for your one or two carried weapons, you’ll find blueprints to weapon parts, entire weapons and weapon attachments.

You may create your own blueprints of already assembled weapons and share them with other players.

This new weapon system does have its ups and downs, though. If you have the right combination of parts all assembled into one overpowered, acid spewing shotgun of death, there is little challenge and the tension is not always as much.

I sometimes felt that I had an underpowered weapon and struggled with quite a few segments on Normal difficulty, even though I had looked around every possible corner for supplies and weapon parts, I sometimes struggled with every known Necromorph and soldier in the immediate vicinity.

Despite everything above, I did enjoy going to the Bench every time I stumbled upon a new weapon part or attachment. It forces you to be creative. Murderous, but still creative.

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Micro-transactions: The thing that made so many headlines, causing the internet to explode with their hatred towards EA.

Let me clarify something about that. It is there, alright. It will ask for real money, where if your heart desires extra supplies and scrap metal you can buy some. I can see why people are upset about it, without a doubt, but I didn’t even notice it until I went to look for it.

It is out of the way, and only available when you’re online. Does this impact the game negatively in any way? No. Does is lower the opinion everyone has of EA? Yes.

My honest opinion; I don’t want micro-transations in my horror game, but I had to go look for it, so that’s a plus in my eyes. At first, I had the general idea in my head that every few minutes a pop-up message will indeed pop-up and ask if I want extra soft diapers alongside the extra supplies, but I can say for certain that, that isn’t even remotely the case.

I actually bought some of those supplies… With Ration Stamps I earned in-game. Where did I receive Ration Stamps? With my little supply-gathering robot pal of course.

Not long into the game, you’ll find your first Supply Bot, and you may carry three of the dependable guys in total. These supply bots can be deployed anywhere in the environment, but if you lend your ear often enough you’ll hear a beeping sound when you’re close to a certain spot and when you deploy this bot in these areas, you’ll receive much more supplies when you return to the nearest Bench.

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When you equip the supply bot and aim with it, you’ll see a mini radar showing the direction and level of the next “supply hotspot”. A cone-like shape indicating the direction and arrows on the side of the little screen, telling you whether it is above or below you, or indeed the level you’re currently on.

I do feel that if more indication were given to these spots, other that the somewhat soft beeping noise, I would be more happy with it, due to the fact that I missed so many supplies during my first playthrough.

Supplies like scrap metal, tungsten and somatic gel can be picked up while playing, in supply stashes and are scattered all over the area. Enemies may also drop supplies instead of ammunition and med kits, so if you miss one, it’s not a total train wreck. Ammunition is being handled differently this time around. Instead of having separate ammo for every weapon, your ammo will work universally for all weapons. This does, however, decrease the tension somewhat.

When you have enough Ration stamps, it can be redeemed for extra supplies via the “Downloadable Content” option when interacting at the Bench. No extra money needs to be given out for extra supplies when using Ration Stamps, but you need to be connected online, which is genuinely unfair to those without a constantly connected internet connection.

You don’t use credits in this installment of Dead Space, but rather crafting items with the much needed aforesaid supplies. There isn’t a shop anymore, just the Bench where you craft your goods and upgrade weapons and the Suit Kiosks, where you may try on your latest acquired suit or switch between suits.

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If you’re not familiar with Dead Space’s gameplay, I once again, strongly recommend that you play the previous two games before diving in with the third title.

The gameplay is still the same as the previous two games, with differences here and there. It is still third-person shooting from a over the shoulder perspective.

The HUD is still brilliantly incorporated into Isaac’s suit while doing a great deal for immersion.

One new feature for a Dead Space game is the Optional Missions. I admit that I was a bit weirded out by the inclusion of side mission in a game like Dead Space, but when I first played it and see how it was all put together it made much more sense than the picture I had in my mind. Usually it is a radio signal being picked up by you or one of the people working alongside you in this endeavor. A supply stash can be found if you venture into these areas and it fitted in quite nicely with the rest, feeling like you’re doing it for extra help or much needed supplies, instead of what I initially thought; kill nine and a half pukers in this area. You don’t have to do them, but you’ll be missing out on some rather interesting situations. Once again, I’d like to elaborate, but spoilers.

The aiming reticule can be changed from normal to classic, I preferred classic, because it is like the previous Dead Space games, instead of a reticule like other shooters.

Speaking of shooters, lots of people complained about the series taking a more action orientated route in Dead Space 2, and while it had more action, it still had amazing moments and brutally spectacular set pieces. Not everyone appreciated this, and I’m afraid to say that those people will still be disappointed with Dead Space 3, if not more disappointed. The reason for this is that it is a lot more action orientated. I, for one, still enjoyed the game despite it taking a somewhat different direction. Let’s be honest, shooting human blokes feels really weird at first, but it is in the minority and the main focus is still on the freaky-ass Necromorphs and their new pals.

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Sometimes there is just too many enemies at once, causing frustration instead of tension. It is probably my biggest gripe with this game; it doesn’t feel as balanced as the previous two. Crank that up to “Classic” difficulty where you’re limited to the weapons in the previous games, with resources extra scarce, and it’s even more frustrating. It was always just enough enemies to get the adrenaline pumping, but when you’re bombarded with a crap-ton of Necro-blokes, it gets a bit old and frustrating after a while. Especially when they’re much faster than before.

The game still features quite a few jump scares, I admit that with zero shame, but it still doesn’t have that same amount of tension to be had as in the original game. It doesn’t bring down the game’s quality, make no mistake, it’s polished and you can see that a lot of work went into this game.

You must remember that there will always be someone happy and someone sad when a new direction is taken anywhere in life. If your product stays the same, people will encourage you to try something new. If you try something new, some people are not happy with that, because they like the original formula. Either way, there will always be people that like / appreciate the new direction and some people that dislike the living hell out of it. Taste differs, we have to accept that.

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Another aspect new to Dead Space 3 is cooperative gameplay.

I was skeptic beyond all measure about this when it was originally announced, don’t be mistaken. After playing about three quarters of the game in cooperative mode alongside Marko, both he and I will attest to the fact that there is nothing to worry about.

We had tremendous amounts of fun with this game’s co-op and we made peace with the fact that what little tension remained, got thrown out the window when playing this in co-op. That was the case, originally. Until the co-op missions were introduced…

The co-op missions are superb in terms of immersion and atmosphere. All trash talking and kidding around went out the nearest vent when the creepy shit started happening in these co-op missions. Immediately we were taken from joyous fooling around to actually being creeped out. We owe this to John Carver’s back story. The second player plays from the perspective of John Carver.

What made this so unique and damn engaging was that Isaac was not seeing what John was seeing and while one player being creeped by what he is actually seeing, the other player will be creeped out what he isn’t seeing. Let me explain.

Marko played as Isaac Clarke and I played as John Carver. Carver’s wife and son are dead and something about them and his troubled past comes through every now and then. As we progress though these co-op missions, more and more get revealed, adding to the atmosphere. Carver continuously witness a “Nutcracker” doll throughout these co-op missions while Marko, playing from Isaac’s perspective, only have my word for what I am indeed seeing. I so desperately want to tell you more, but it is better left unspoiled. Let’s just say that there was a single moment where both players can see what Carver is seeing, causing both myself and Marko to simultaneously burst asunder with goosebumps all over. Holy shit, that was certainly something else.

I sincerely wished that the single player could have as much back story for Carver, because it fits with the Dead Space name so much; it’s a darn shame that players who only played single player will miss that, and that from a game that started out purely single player.

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There is so much here to love and so much for some people to dislike. The quality of set pieces are astounding, the one specific macabre puzzle made me like the main menu even more, the environments boast interesting traits and the one boss fight at the end have probably the most ironic way for you to weaken it. Not for every Dead Space fan out there, but change isn’t always bad, right?

  • wolftrap01

    nice review Mr.Wolf. and I commend your nerves of steel. I would be hiding behind my sofa after 5 minutes of gameplay.

    • Unknown Soldier

      True

  • Yashaar Mall

    *Insert raging reply on how awful the game is* by Tody

    • http://egamer.co.za/ Azhar Amien

      If it were the old days :P Kidding. I upgraded my software. I’m more of a professional hitman now.

    • http://www.facebook.com/MGTHABO Marko Thabo Swanepoel

      Reply? Expect another 4000 word column my fine sir.

  • GJ Ram

    I was never a Deadspace fan.. Now since the review says the soundtrack is awesome i may consider playing.. But first thing.. i’m going to listen to them!! Thanks for a nice and detailed review Rudolf..

    P.S – Instead of giving Gandalf title award u guys can give Rudolf title award from next week :P

  • Trebzz

    Great review dude and yeah i am not a fan of Dead Space so i don’t think i will be playing this game anytime in the future. So did he die like Shepard? Also in 2 years watch how they announce another Dead Space so yeah screw this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MGTHABO Marko Thabo Swanepoel

    I was his co-op partner and I just want to add to his statement. I’m a wacky person to have as a co-op partner because I always say comedic stuff and do random acts of stupidness when I can. Like Rudolf said,all tension went out the window when we started to “stomp the yard” everytime we were waiting for an elevator or door to open up. I was also teabagging consistently.

    But those co-op optional missions really took us by surprise. It was an unique experience to have your partner scream in horror and you have absolutely no idea what is going on. When we played those missions, we both went into this sort of melancholic state and I kept my mouth shut and focused on the mission. It was probably the best co-op experience I had in a long while.

    And I just want to confirm that I did indeed scream like a little girl and got freaked the fuck out. You have no idea.

  • http://egamer.co.za/author/cavie Caveshen “CaViE” Rajman

    When I first saw footage of this game I was so bleak. I’m glad that they held back on most of the cover-shooter, human-enemy elements and put in some proper horror. Fuck the haters, I enjoy the action elements. They’re fun to play through. But this is a case of expecting the worst and getting something okay. I just wonder what others were expecting from it, to call themselves disappointed now.

    That said, they were fucked out of their heads for adding co-operative. It’s a horror title. There is no horror in co-op.