Dead Space 3 PS3 Review

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Much has changed since Isaac Clarke narrowly escaped after destroying his second marker in Dead Space 2, earning him the title of ‘Marker Killer’, and pretty much pinning a giant target on his head for the Unitologists everywhere. However, after the incredible intro to Dead Space 2, Dead Space 3 seems terribly pale.

In Dead Space 2, you start by fleeing through confined areas full of terrifying enemies that get closer with each stride, scrambling for information and a weapon. In Dead Space 3, you start on a snowy mountain, as a guy called Tim, with a machine gun. When the game jumps back to Isaac’s story, before you even start playing, you are thrown a gun; this itself foreshadows the gameplay brilliantly.

Fighting Humans

This time around, after the prelude with Tim, you start off on Earth where your only enemies are Unitologists. That’s right – you are fighting humans, just like every other shooter. If you’ve played another Dead Space game, it will come as a complete surprise that you are now aiming for headshots instead of the usual limb dismemberment techniques. Even though this doesn’t last too long at the beginning, you do start fighting the Unitologists again later in the story. So, to help you with this new threat, you are given several new combat mechanics, a ‘crouch’ and a roll. The crouch is little more than a hunch. It seems Isaac has sustained some spinal injuries from previous encounters, as his crouch really doesn’t do all that much. This means that even when ‘crouched’ in cover, you can still get perfectly shot in the head. Great.

The roll is another completely useless technique that I vainly used the whole game, hoping “this time it will work.” A roll is generally used to dodge or escape close combat, but here it doesn’t do either. When you are surrounded by enemies, which happens fairly often, you can’t roll past them – they act like a wall and you just roll in place against them, not a great tactic. Plus, if you are trying to roll away from an enemy’s attack, it still hits you as an enemy’s attack hit box is very large, which isn’t a bad thing. It just means the roll has no purpose. In short, using either of these new mechanics will get you killed. Instead, you should use the time you’d be trying to escape to blast a few more shots off in hopes of killing your attackers instead of wasting time trying to retreat or take cover. Admittedly, it’s really cheap to kill when you’re clearly trying to duck into cover. It seems they got around this by making the accuracy of the machine gun enemies comically bad. You can stand up and barely take any damage from several gunners for quite some time.

Necromorph

For the most part, fighting the human enemies didn’t bother me at all. It was sometimes nice to be switched between aiming for limbs and head shots, as it mixed the game up a little. What I didn’t like were the human-like necromorphs that grow tentacles when taken down. I felt like I was playing Resident Evil and they’d been infected with the Ouroborus virus. An issue that nobody seems to have mentioned,  but really bothered me, is when you come into contact with both the Unitologists and the necromorphs at the same time. The necromorphs naturally attack anything near to them, including the Unitologists, who in turn fight back. It makes no sense. If the Unitologists want to kill Isaac so that they can all move on to the next step of evolution, becoming a necromorph, why are they killing them? Aren’t they really killing their fallen comrades, reborn as ‘divine’ creatures? You see many of the Unitologists accepting death during in-game cutscenes and even committing suicide so that they can be reborn as these creatures – surely they wouldn’t want to kill them, right?

Probably the most noticeable and discussed change in Dead Space 3 is the tension and ‘survival-horror’ theme. Playing through the game, there were two things that killed the tension almost completely. The first is the battles. Instead of having one or two enemies attack you in a confined area, sealing off your exit and forcing you to fight, you are often thrown a barrage of enemies, even waves at times. Instead of the quiet, suspenseful moments that are suddenly shattered only by a quick movement of an enemy or a disturbing sound, the fights in Dead Space 3 are more like endurance tests. You often fight in big rooms with few obstacles; there’s no need to get scared. You just back up into a corner and shoot away. The few times you do fight in closed up areas still didn’t feel tense when enemies quickly move towards you in packs. I never sat on the edge of my chair, crosshairs jumping around the room looking for enemies so that I couldn’t be surprise attacked. I just blew them away one at a time. You can just shoot and shoot, with little fear of running low on ammo, a huge adjustment from the first two games. This is mainly because of tension killer number two – crafting. Whilst building your own custom weapons and adding your own attachments, buffs and special add-ons, such as ‘automatically pick up nearby ammo’, can be really fun, it also single handedly destroys what makes a survival horror game. By being given the ability to craft ammo and health items, you have no sense of conservation.

Carver and Isaac with Helmets

In previous Dead Space instalments, the player must always be careful about their shots and should keep a close eye on their health bars. It was more about accuracy and timing than blasting away mindlessly at your enemies. In Dead Space 3, there are many more enemies to fight at once and you are given all the ammo and health items you need. I only crafted health and ammo packs near the end of the game – it would have felt like cheating earlier in the game, like I would be taking the easy way out. Due to this, nearing the final hours I died a considerable amount until I finally gave in. I realised that crafting was there for a reason, and I needed to take advantage to survive the endgame. I ran back to the nearest crafting bench to forge what ammo and health packs I could. That’s when it came to my attention just how many of each I could make. I thought they would consume a fair amount of resources and should only be used in a dire emergencies, but when I did finally need them, I noticed I could have made way more than necessary. I could have been crafting these items often throughout the whole game, and though this might have ruined the experience, it shows just how easy the game could have been, which isn’t the point of a survival horror.

When you reach the first RIG station and start upgrading your suit, you will be begging for Tungsten, one of the resources needed for many of the upgrades, but it will come rarely and in small amounts, until you get your scavenger bots. The scavenger bots are really a mini game you play whilst progressing through the game. They have little trackers on them that point where to stand and once in the place you can release the bot. In 10 minutes time they can be redeemed at any crafting bench along with all the resources they have collected. Once you get this process flowing, you will be piling in the resources.

Space Flying

Throughout the campaign there are a number of logs, video messages and artefacts to find scattered about the chapters, each one opening more of the story. Sometimes, finding objects like these can open up optional missions, which I highly recommend. I found the game to last around 12/13 hours, and the optional missions definitely make up a fair amount of that time. They can be as long as full chapters, are some of the most fun parts of the game and reward you with a big box of loot.  I always played any optional missions as soon as I unlocked them and it never once felt like it was disturbing the story. There are also several Co-Operative only optional missions you can find scattered around, but you’ll need to head online to play through those.

Carver, who is the second player in the co-operative campaign is worth mentioning here. Even though he seems cold and can be annoying at times, especially around the beginning of the game, he grows into a convincing character and I found myself really enjoying his personality and dialog, unlike many others. His black and white sense of morality is questioned and you are always left wondering how his story is going to play out with Isaac. I actually preferred him over Isaac this game, who seemed a bit arrogant and and unbelievable at times.

Carver and Isaac

Throughout the story, the player is moved between the halls of spaceships, to the snowy mountains and inside stations based around the planet. With the exception of the cliffs, this isn’t news to Dead Space fans as the design of most areas are familiar and repetitive. During the final hours, I was impressed by some incredible design that was immersive and wondrous, which continued until the credits began to roll. There are some great landscapes, puzzles and a few new enemies thrown your way and I enjoyed every second of it. The very ending was probably my favourite of the trilogy and I was left feeling satisfied with the epic ending that the franchise certainly deserves.

By completing the game a number of New Game + modes are unlocked, most of which cause the game to revert back to the style of being resourceful with your ammo and health. It would be nice to be able to play like that, but after seeing the amount of enemies you face and how you fight them, I don’t think these two styles agree very well. They’ve given you more things to shoot, and the ammo, health and weapons to do so. The gameplay has evolved from it’s survival roots and has moved along with the story, and it makes sense to have done so; it’s just a shame that we’ll never get another classic Dead Space game. Scored as a trilogy and compared to the first two titles, the game scores lower than the previous two. But this isn’t the same style of gameplay and we weren’t lied to about it being changed. It’s a different type of game and should be played like one.

7/10

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Dead space 3 - box

Version tested: PS3

Also available on: Xbox 360, PC

Developer: Visceral Games

Publisher: EA

Genre: Action Horror