Dead Space 3′s (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) action-packed cutscenes, joystick-testing waves of deformed space mutants and fully-realized environments is about excess. The game shows that, even as many of us look towards the next generation, developers are still finding new ways to push your PS3 or Xbox 360′s envelope. But that ridiculousness hinders the experience at times: obstructing the level of quality seen in the series’ previous entries.
First off, Dead Space 3′s action sequences are a f*cking blast. The developers play the smart route by realizing the combat system needs few significant changes. Series-defining moments like being backed in a flickering corner, staring down a fresh wave of undead, looking at less than a full clip of ammunition and realizing that every single shot has to count still feel as exciting as ever. The aforementioned sense of panic translates well thanks to a tight, precise combat system. If the core of these games is mowing down space zombies – and it is – EA continues to hit home runs when they are most needed.
In addition to a killer combat system, the entire game is absolutely incredible to take in. Voice acting and sound bites are top-notch, and the graphics are breathtaking, offering enough variety especially on snow-covered Tau Volantis, where you’ll spend a large chunk of time – to make the DS formula feel fresh and fun. And happily borrowing from the Uncharted book of “let’s make this video game feel like a movie,” the amount of semi-playable level transitions really make this feel like something greater than a game.
The much publicized co-op feature doesn’t redefine multiplayer gaming by any means but offers some nice variety many will enjoy. Potential players looking for other modes of play will be disappointed; single player and the accompanying co-op mode are all that DS3 has to offer.
As far as plot movement goes, the new playable character adds little to the story other than Gears of War-style bro-bonding. Most of the co-op only levels aren’t essential to the plot. Mowing down hoards of space zombies with a friend is downright gratifying. However EA’s decision to make this tasty feature online-only boggles the mind. Split-screen co-op is what late night video game benders with your nerdy friends are made of: a fact Visceral Games completely ignores here.
All the promise within Dead Space 3 falters as the story struggles to pull its weight. The game picks up a few years after Dead Space 2 left off. Series fans will recognize familiar faces in their quest to rid the universe of the Necromporphs However the plot is a disappointment for the first time in the franchise’s run. It’s nothing more than an excuse for players to hop from one beautifully-rendered location to another.
Considering the dearth of the Dead Space canon, a color-by-numbers story like this (shady government dealings! Ancient alien artifacts! An illuminati-like cult! Love triangles!) will leave fans with their heads hung low. The ending… without giving much away, let’s just say that first person shooter fans have seen this before.
So on that sour note, it’s too bad the incredible combat system oftentimes takes a back seat to “chore” missions – find X amount of data disks to open this door; deliver relic Y to receptor Z. These tasks, call them (poorly thought out) puzzles if you like, aren’t so much of a distraction that you’ll put your controller down. Nevertheless, points have to be docked when a game comes off as uninspired as Dead Space does during these tedious segments.
So. should you, dear reader, buy the latest Dead Space? In a market packed with worthy action titles, the third chapter in the series stands out because of its incredible polish and intense gameplay. It is one of the best survival horror games to drop in recent years and, if you’re the kind of gamer who likes his thrills to come with a side of screams, Dead Space 3 is a great choice. Even if it doesn’t get everything right on top of touting a weak story, there’s enough thrilling gameplay elsewhere to deem Isaac Clark’s latest adventure a deserving purchase.