Dismembering creepy alien things again? Must be Dead Space 3.
The first two Dead Space games were pretty damn good. They may have been incredibly cliched in their setting, but it was all about the creepy corridors and being made to jump out of your skin, whilst instilling a sense of desperation and hopelessness. When it came to the third installment however, developers Visceral decided to change things up a little by taking Dead Space 3 in what seemed to be a different direction. During the promotion for the game, a lot of coverage was given to the ice planet setting Tau Volantis. Covered with snow, the brightness seemed at odds with the previous Dead Space games. The game also appeared to have shifted genres away from sci-fi survival horror to pure action, which certainly upset many of the Dead Space Die Hards. Expecting more than just a little bit of disappointment, I sat down to play the game without even closing the curtains. But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
As the story kicks off, it seems that our hero Isaac Clarke has just had enough and has quit his Necromorph dissecting ways in favour of feeling sorry for himself and having the occasional “vision”. However, it seems that Isaac is not to know any peace and before long he is strong armed into helping look for Dead Space 2 character Ellie Langford, all the while being hunted by the Necromorph loving Unitologists. This actually leads to the first shock revelation of the game – human enemies and a cover system. This early section of the game, which involved a city shoot out and running along a moving train, could have been taken from any other sci-fi action game, where it not for the occasional Dead Space reminders.
But the fact remained that I still had yet to reach the frozen planet, aside from the short prologue piece that began the game. In fact, it would be a fair while before the game actually let me step onto the snowy landscape, and even once it did, the brightness didn’t depart too far from the classic Dead Space setting. There were still plenty of dark corridors to creep along, and the desolation of the planet added to the atmosphere in a successful way.
It is at this point that I feel compelled to mention how good Dead Space 3 looks. While many of the set pieces do look familiar, there appears to have been a significant improvement, and the new settings look equally impressive. The facial features of the characters have also been improved, helping the player to relate more with their plight.
In Dead Space 3 the player is mostly lead along a story-driven path from one encounter to the next. But there are areas, such as on Tau Volantis, where the player can stray from the path and take on side quests, giving the player a bit more freedom and the chance to find additional parts for the new crafting system.
Workbenches can be found out and about that will allow the player to use parts they have found to create or upgrade weapons, armour and items. This is perhaps the weakest aspect of the game. I get confused easily and the crafting system is surprisingly complex. I am much happier with a system that says “here is a better weapon for you” than one that I could just as easily create something far worse. The system gives the player more choice, while teasing them with suggested weapons that they don’t quite have the right parts for. It is impressive and I am sure many gamers will get a buzz from finding a new blueprint or the much needed part for a super weapon, but for me it added a level of thinking that I just don’t want to use in a game like Dead Space.
As for the scares, there are still plenty to be had in Dead Space 3. The game is certainly leaning more towards the action now than the survival horror, with barely a minute between one combat encounter or another. But there were plenty of occasions where my spectator squealed from shock, and the limited ammo and health still manages to ratchet up the tension making every encounter that little bit more desperate.
The other big inclusion for Dead Space 3 is co-op. Sadly this is not offered locally, which would have been awesome, but the online co-op works really well. The entire game can be played with another player, with the second player taking the role of Carver, one of the men who forces Isaac back into action at the beginning of the game. Carver doesn’t like Isaac, suffers with his own hallucinations and is actually quite a deep character. Playing with a friend is much easier than going solo, even with the increased number of threats, but it is also a lot more fun. Thankfully, despite areas that are closed to the single player, those who do choose to go solo will not miss out on anything that would make the single player game inferior. It is just more fun with friends, that’s all.
For the Dead Space fan, there is quite a lot here to enjoy. Although the game may have moved in a different direction, the story itself moves along at a decent pace and does a great job of expanding the lore of the Dead Space universe. The inclusion of cover and the ability to roll out of harms way may lean more towards action gaming, but come in useful and make the combat more animated. And there is plenty of the old Dead Space dissecting and stasis use to keep the fans happy.
At the end of the day, the changes made to Dead Space 3 over the previous games are not as substantial as they may first seem. Games that stay the same can become stale, and whilst too many changes may destroy a series, Dead Space 3 has got it just right. The game has evolved into something new, but there is plenty to remind players that this is a Dead Space game.