It’s been two years seen we’ve last checked in with Issac Clarke who happens to have a knack at landing himself square in the middle of every Necromorph disaster in the galaxy. This time around you’re sucked in when your former lover and confidant from Dead Space 2 Ellie has gone missing searching for yet another marker and you’re recruited by the last of the Earth Forces, Captain Morgan and crew to help save her. Dead Space 3 is the last installment of the Dead Space trilogy, does this saga end with a bang or a whimper?
At first glance Dead Space 3 will seem very similar to the last two games. You’re presented with the same basic controls and mechanics, you are still going through dark corridors fighting off the Necromorph as well as through most of the first half the game you’re even in a spaceship which happens to have narrow corridors quite reminiscent to those of Dead Space 1. While I just said all of that but the truth of the matter is EA has turned Dead Space 3 into a far different game than what the first two were. The most obvious difference from the last installment was that they jettisoned all the competitive multiplayer modes and instead replaced it with a drop in/out online co-op mode. The multiplayer deathmatch modes while an interesting idea weren’t something that will be terribly missed as they were lackluster to begin with. The new co-op though is the first sign of the more drastic changes that were for this third game. Due to drop-in nature of the campaign’s co-op feature and fact the co-op character will seemingly disappear when there isn’t a second player means having a co-op partner will have little affect on the story besides allowing you to enter the three co-op specifics side-quests of the game and giving you a chance to have a friend play with you. To be perfectly blunt there are better games to play co-op, the lack of a local co-op mode is a turn off and having a friend around makes playing through the campaign much easier so you’re forced to either turn up the difficulty or deal with an easier game.
The co-op is just a symptom though of a much larger problem with Dead Space 3. Certain fundamental design sacrifices had to be made to shoe horn the co-op mode. Both Dead Space 1 and 2 could both be arguably be considered survival horror games, where the first was all about slow pacing with Necromorphs showing up few and far between while the second game was about messing with your head being unsure where or when the next attack will be, sometimes closer together sometimes later on. Both games you were dealing with a short supply of ammo so finding a Bench; the source of weapon upgrades within the Dead Space series was quite critical while hoping you had the cash to buy the ammo and upgrades for your particular gun of choice. Just about all of this was jettisoned from Dead Space 3, which at best can be considered an action game with a small amount of horror tacked on. You never have to worry about ammo, as there is only one type for every type of gun which means it can be collected everywhere and even if you somehow run out you can always buy more with EA’s micro-transaction system (which is quite pricey in real dollars). The micro-transaction system is further forced on you as you are given bots in-game to collect the basic materials for items as well as finding them yourself in the surroundings and all of this barely amounts to anything when designing and creating your guns therefore for full enjoyment you’ll be spending real money to speed things up. To make co-op exciting in a game designed to have few enemies and thrives on creating tension on players the only solution was to jettison the whole basic design, having enemies show up all the time essentially turning it into Gears of War with inferior cover system instead of a psychological game. The story is half-hazardly done with the motives of the people around Isaac making little sense. There is an open-world section where you use your jetpack to travel through the vacuum of space, but there isn’t really much to do after you’ve done your initial exploration and while you do need to collect oxygen to prevent yourself from dying, it’s quite readily available throughout the map.
I can happily say the graphics are up to the standards that I’m used to from the series. I feel as if this late into the console cycle that there’s a certain level of graphics that’s been reached which is the maximum of what the current gen consoles are capable when you’re designing an multi-platform games so unless you’re designing for specific systems there is a plateau. That is to say Dead Space looks like it’s predecessors and sounds like it as well. If Dead Space 3 were this similar to the older games in more than just graphical and sound presentation then I’d have more positive things to say about the game in general.
Dead Space 3 was EA’s attempt to make the series more assessable to the mainstream gamer. By doing this it removed what made Dead Space unique essentially removing it’s soul and leaving a husk. As it stands Dead Space 3 is an average 3rd shooter with a throwaway story, lowering itself from an amazing psychological thriller to simply a run of the mill 3rd person action game with nothing to distinguish itself from the pack.
Dead Space 3 Screenshots: