You’re walking down a dimly lit hallway. The lights flicker on and off in a pattern that seems controlled, yet is completely random. The whirr of a machine in some back room sets the baseline for the sounds you call “normal” in your head. “Everything is fine, it’s all normal” you keep telling yourself as you slowly lumber down the corridor in search of a missing component needed to build a piece of your escape ship. As your eyes follow the laser sight of your modified plasma cutter you notice a few bodies piled against the wall. “Still normal, as long as they’re actually dead” you mutter. Just as you go to step over the legs of one of the bodies you realize your grave mistake. You forgot to make sure they were dead. Suddenly the entire room explodes with noise. The body you are inches away from grabs your leg. At the same time three vents explode open and necromorphs jump into view. This is not Call of Duty, this is no straight-up action game, this is Dead Space.
Dead Space 1 was a surprise hit and new IP coming out of EA Redwood Shores (now known as Visceral Games) back in 2008. The survival horror genre had been ruled by games like Resident Evil (Biohazard to those in Japan) and Silent Hill for years, and even those once-great franchises had begun to stale. Visceral followed up the first game with Dead Space 2 in early 2011 to even greater success. The game merged better combat with the classic survival horror Dead Space fans craved and mopped up a very nice 90 review score average.
When Dead Space 3 was announced at E3 2012 fans were extremely excited to see the conclusion to the story arc the studio created in the first two games. Over the next months excitement would dip after Visceral and EA debuted gameplay showcasing co-op functionality and a greater focus on action. After playing through Dead Space 3 I can honestly say that dip in excitement was not all necessary. The game holds true (for the most part) to its predecessors and the inclusion of co-op takes nothing away from those playing alone, yet adds a magnitude of depth for those playing with friends. The co-op lets the second player play as John Carver, who fits seamlessly into the story and cutscenes (as seamlessly as he disappears from them when playing alone) and gives those less into the horror genre another player to quell the never-ending flow of necromorphs.
The atmosphere and combat have always been core to the Dead Space “feel.” Being able to move and shoot is one of the many ways the series differentiates itself from others in the genre, and it makes the games flow better overall while in combat. The atmosphere in DS3 is still that claustrophobic, creaky, scurrying atmosphere fans are used to albeit with a few bigger set pieces peppered in for effect. The combat has also been improved. Building on the upgrades in Dead Space 2, you now have the ability to find pieces and craft entire guns from scratch. Searching levels thoroughly will net you new upgrades and pieces. The act of shooting feels just as solid as ever and aiming for legs and arms has never felt so satisfying when done using a gun you built to your exact desires.
The story continues to follow Isaac Clarke on his seemingly never-ending mission to get rid of all necromorphs and markers. Campaign begins with Isaac being whisked away by Carver to find former Dead Space 2 interest Ellie Langford and the team ends up on the icy planet Tau Volantis, where much of the game is set. Over the next handful of hours you and the team attempt to retrieve a codex that is imperative to finishing the fight. The overall plot is fine, but nothing entirely memorable. The voice acting is superb and the cutscenes well done, but the ending leaves you a bit less than satisfied.
Overall Dead Space 3 fits right in with its initial two counterparts, if only falling a bit in plot and story development. The game hasn’t turned into a shoot-em-up action game like some were predicting, but it’s not entirely “alone in the corridors” like Dead Space 1 was. I found it to be a great hybrid of both with a bit more weight on the survival horror side than the action side. The gunplay is fantastic and the new weapon crafting system is a vast upgrade to the simple power nodes from games past. The co-op is so well done that I can’t fault Visceral for including it and I hope to see it return in the future. I would have liked to see a bit more resolution and depth to the story, but something tells me we have yet to see the last of this franchise. Dead Space 3 may not surpass Dead Space 2 overall, but it’s no slouch and is a great game if you’re a fan of the series or new to survival horror entirely. Grab a friend or play by yourself, but watch out for those “dead” bodies.
Dead Space 3 Launch Trailer
Dead Space 3 Gameplay Commentary
Dead Space 3 Co-Op Gameplay