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Dead Space 3 Review

Posted by Peter Nickless On Friday 8 March 2013Comments Off

Available on 360, PS3 and PC l Published by EA l Developed by Visceral Games l Classified MA15+ l Supports 1-2 players

REVIEW IN BRIEF > Visceral Games’ survival horror trilogy comes to an end with a bigger campaign and a new co-op mode. Expect more levels, more missions and more to shoot, but fewer of the trademark scares. Publisher EA clearly wants to promote microtransactions in place of genuine DLC, which can leave a distastefully mercenary impression of the game. While much fun is to be had in this still exciting world, it’s now time for Isaac to have a rest.

REVIEW IN FULL > I have a lot of love for the Dead Space saga. It feels like an improved version of the Resident Evil series – zombies in a haunted space-ship, with limited movement and genuine scares. The themes are more complex however, as humanity declines and the scary Scientologists… I mean Unitologists, spread their creepy message of ‘peace’ throughout the human empire. The necromorphs still creep me out and are some of my favourite enemies in survival horror.

Poor Isaac Clarke. He has suffered so much and achieved so little. He has been captured, tortured, manipulated and haunted by visions of the dreaded Marker. He holds secret knowledge to save mankind but almost everyone he meets wants him dead. And he misses his girlfriend Ellie. Isaac again finds himself at the centre of the latest necromorph outbreak, this time travelling to the ice planet of Tau Volantis to hopefully solve the mystery of the markers once and for all.

Poor Isaac Clarke. He has suffered so much and achieved so little. He has been captured, tortured, manipulated and haunted by visions…

Isaac is joined by a group of scientists and a soldier, John Carver (the co-op character), as well as his beloved Ellie who appears to have moved on. Isaac’s role more than ever is one of Mr. Fixit or Mr. Gopher as he solves everyone else’s problems. I wonder where he gets this magnanimous motivation from. I feel bad for him.

Gameplay still focuses on the excellent ‘shoot the limbs’ mechanic from the previous games. Necromorphs attack from all angles, busting though vents, jumping from overhead and climbing down walls. There are plenty of new enemy types to destroy and dismemberment never gets old. Weapon-wise there is far more variation to be had in this game as James (my co-op brother) explains in the boxout below.

Online co-op mode is a partial success. Taking out necromorphs as a pair is undeniably fun, but the horror and tension are invariably lost. Gun smiths will love the added layer of strategy from finding the perfect combinations for each area and the teamwork in clearing sections of enemies. There are also three co-op exclusive missions focusing on John Carver’s own hallucinations. Much like Isaac’s story, it’s not pretty.

It’s in the solo campaign, though, that Dead Space 3 comes alive. The industry leading sound design, pure isolation of darkened corridors, devious adversaries and slow-firing weapons makes the experience more than memorable. Gameplay variations include zero G sequences and the chance to pilot a doomed ship. Once Tau Volantis is reached, the story slows down and throws in numerous fetch quests. After a while it starts to feel a little like a rip-off of John Carpenter’s The Thing. The last third redeems these padded out levels and provides and epic sense of scale and a necromorph origin story (of sorts).

Notable changes to the formula include the introduction of resource gathering. Gone are separate weapons with specific ammunition, instead enemies drop one-size-fits-all ammo or resources that can be used to make med packs, stasis recharges and more. Unless the hardest difficulty level is selected, there are plenty of resources to be had, except for Tungsten. Tungsten is needed to make new weapons and torque bars to access bonus areas. Why is it the least plentiful resource? That would probably be because it can be purchased with real world money. I know buying coins or Smurf berries works for phone and tablet games, but it stings a bit for a full priced release.

This is best experienced with headphones, but a good sound system will capture it too.

Graphically, Dead Space 3 is a huge step up, providing improved facial animations and a greater variety of level arrangements. There are plenty of superb vistas on the snow planet of Tau Volantis, contrasting nicely with the claustrophobic corridors we all know so well. The enemies are a mixed bag. Although they are more detailed than ever before, their darker colour palette means most of this is lost in shadow and indistinct.

Sound is where the Dead Space series has set itself apart (Peter Molyneux should learn from these guys as they actually deliver on what they promise). So much atmosphere is added by the extra clanking, creeping and banging (whether false or real) that I’m constantly on edge. This is best experienced with headphones, but a good sound system will capture it too.

Dead Space 3 gives closure to Isaac’s journey and should end the trilogy because Isaac deserves a rest. But I just don’t trust those Unitologists…

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