It feels like it was much longer, but it was just two years ago that we got our hands on Dead Space 2, the sequel to the surprise hit. With shocking twists, scary as hell scenery, and top-notch survival horror gameplay, it was definitely one of the best games of the year. Ending on somewhat of a cliffhanger, we figured a third one would be coming.
Dead Space 3 tends to spice it up and depart from previous ventures in the series. While that may throw some off, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You still get plenty of scares and creepy corridors, sure. But you also now get a really solid action game that’s blended with the series’ trademark horror element.
This time around, the game opens with a bit of a prologue. It gets you accustomed to the snow planet known as Tau Volantis that you will eventually find yourself on. While the plot will be for you to uncover, you eventually play as Isaac. The campaign is rather lengthy and broken up into two distinct parts. Part one finds you in space with the ability to visit different ships and travel in open space. Not only is it graphically breathtaking whenever you’re floating around but is also a really fun little side element to the first part of the game.
Dead Space 3 also brings in side quests. They’re totally optional but I found myself always wanting to do them. There’s nothing creepier than entering a space ship for a side quest knowing that is has been abandoned and what horrifying things await you inside.
Part two (the longer of the two parts) finds you on Tau Volantis itself. While I would’ve preferred to keep doing creepy things in space, it was kind of nice to have a change of scenery. On Tau Volantis, you do all sorts of missions to help out your AI buddies who are usually in some kind of safe room while you do all the bitch work. This makes the game feel less like a Dead Space game and more like the first Jurassic Park movie. Not that that’s a bad thing.
Venturing through this unknown planet still brought me scares and general lack of comfortably playing the game. Necromorphs still pop out at you be it through one of the vents you’ll always walk by with hesitation or just from under the mounds of freakin’ snow everywhere. This is an abandoned military installation after all, so while you’re not in space, you’re still in plenty of small quarters when not in the freezing landscape. One thing that I finally noticed is throughout every Dead Space game, there is nothing more unpleasant than getting into an elevator and going down. For some reason, it always makes me go, “Damn. Here we go.” Just like the man you’re playing as, you’re always just waiting to do what you have to do and get back on it for the ascent as quickly as possible. Visceral knows players hate this and did a great job of placing descending elevators to make you terrified throughout the game. And yes, sometimes you’re not even safe in the elevators.
Gameplay for the most part is the same. You’re able to aim very quickly at all the various creatures (and now humans toting guns) to take them out. The great use of Kinesis to pick up limbs and use them as spears has only been improved as well as dismembering your targets to stop them from coming at you so fast. A new feature that I liked is there is only one universal type of ammo now. No more collecting bullets for specific guns. While that worked in the previous games, the amount of giant, terrifying enemies in this one has been upped a bit. The return of the Isaac Clarke foot stomp shines through with every disgusting smush of an enemy’s limb.
New to the franchise is a very well done crafting system. Your inventory now limits you to only two guns. But at each bench you come across, you have the ability to upgrade them and change everything about them to your liking. From the handle to the rail on top to the barrel of both your top weapon and bottom (the alternate fire), you can swap out pieces and make all kinds of crazy guns. Because you essentially have two guns per weapon, it doesn’t feel like the game has handicapped you.
Using a new scavenger system to collect resources via pick ups or deploying scavenger robots to resource-heavy areas, you use these to upgrade your rig as well as your guns. Collecting blueprints will automatically build specialized guns as long as you have the resources to finish the model. By the end of the game I was rocking a three round burst that shot acid bullets and fired frag grenades along with a carbine that fired three metal bolts at once and shot saw blades under it. The combinations are essentially endless and entirely up to you and how you want to play through the game. After a while I found a nice balance that could one-shot the smaller enemies (you’ll need this as they come in large packs) and could slice a limb off in a second, allowing me to stomp an enemy out or finish it off without needing to rush.
While it is fun to battle against the foes we have battled for four years now, the addition of psychopathic religious extremists made for an interesting side plot but were not too fun to battle. The mechanic itself is fine, you can crouch now for cover, but it took a bit of Dead Space out of the game. I like feeling outnumbered by creepy aliens that make terrifying noises and can’t die, not dudes I can one-shot until they stop coming.
Visceral has also implemented co-op into the campaign. The alternate player suits up as EarthGov Sergeant John Carver. While it’s kind of cool to have a buddy play with you and conquer all sorts of co-op only tasks, it’s just not as heart pounding of an experience knowing there’s somebody with you to watch your back.
By taking the player through a journey from the scariest parts of space to a completely foreign planet, Dead Space 3 shines through. The haunting atmosphere is both pleasing to the eye and ear, even if it does make you a bit freaked out. While this one leans more towards adventure, it is still very much a Dead Space game. Offering somewhat challenging puzzles that got me killed a few times, a new crafting system, and great gameplay, Dead Space 3 is definitely a game you should play although I would recommend playing the series in order.